To M. Tallyrand [September 1797]

To M. Tallyrand [September 1797]

Rue theatre francais No. 4,

CITIZEN MINISTER:

I promised you some observations on the state of things between France and America. I divide the case into two parts. First, with respect to some method that shall effectually put an end to all interruptions of the American commerce. Secondly, with respect to settlement for the captures that have been made on that commerce.

As to the first case (the interruptions of the American commerce by France) it has its foundation in the British Treaty, and it is the continuance of that treaty that renders the remedy difficult. Besides, the American administration has blundered so much in the business of treaty making that it is probable it will blunder again in making another with France. There is however one method left, and there is but one, that I can see, that will be effectual. It is a non-importation convention: that America agrees not to import from any nation in Europe who shall interrupt her commerce on the seas, any goods, wares, or merchandise whatever, and that all her ports shall be cut against the nation that gives offense. This will draw America out of her difficulties with respect to her treaty with England.

But it would be far better if this non-importation were to be a general convention of nations acting as a whole. It would give better protection to neutral commerce than the armed neutrality could do. I would rather be a neutral nation under the protection of such a convention, which costs nothing to make it, than be under the protection of a navy equal to that of Britain. France should be the patron of such a convention and sign it. It would be giving both her consent and her protection to the Rights of neutral nations. If England refuse[s] to sign it, she will nevertheless be obliged to respect it or lose all her commerce.

I enclose you a plan I drew up about four months ago when there was expectation that Mr. Madison would come to France. It has lain by me ever since.

Of the second part, that of settlement for the captures, I will make the subject of a future correspondence.

Salut et Respect

THOMAS PAINE.