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Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The

Natural subjects owe allegiance


I

have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem, Gentlemen,

your most obedient

and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson.

LETTER CLVI.--TO JOHN ADAMS, February 7, 1786

TO JOHN ADAMS.

Paris, February 7, 1786.

Dear Sir,

I am honored with yours of January the 19th. Mine of January the 12th, had not, I suppose, at that time got to your hands, as the receipt of it is unacknowledged. I shall be anxious till I receive your answer to it.

I was perfectly satisfied before I received your letter, that your opinion had been misunderstood or misrepresented in the case of the Chevalier de Mezieres. Your letter, however, will enable me to say so with authority. It is proper it should be known, that you had not given the opinion imputed to you, though, as to the main question, it is become useless; Monsieur de Reyneval having assured me, that what I had written on that subject had perfectly satisfied the Count de Vergennes and himself, that this case could never come under the treaty. To evince, still further, the impropriety of taking up subjects gravely, on such imperfect information as this court had, I have this moment received

a copy of an act of the Georgia Assembly, placing the subjects of France, as to real estates, on the footing of natural citizens, and expressly recognising the treaty. Would you think any thing could be added, after this, to put this question still further out of doors? A gentleman of Georgia assured me, General Oglethorpe did not own a foot of land in the State. I do not know whether there has been any American determination on the question, whether American citizens and British subjects, born before the Revolution, can be aliens to one another. I know there is an opinion of Lord Coke's, in Colvin's case, that if England and Scotland should, in a course of descent, pass to separate Kings, those born under the same sovereign during the union, would remain natural subjects and not aliens. Common sense urges some considerations against this. Natural subjects owe allegiance; but we owe none. Aliens are the subjects of a foreign power; we are subjects of a foreign power. The King, by the treaty, acknowledges our independence; how then can we remain natural subjects? The King's power is, by the constitution, competent to the making peace, war, and treaties. He had, therefore, authority to relinquish our allegiance by treaty. But if an act of parliament had been necessary, the parliament passed an act to confirm the treaty. So that it appears to me, that in this question, fictions of law alone are opposed to sound sense.

I am in hopes Congress will send a minister to Lisbon. I know no country, with which we are likely to cultivate a more useful commerce. I have pressed this in my private letters.

It is difficult to learn any thing certain here, about the French and English treaty. Yet, in general, little is expected to be done between them. I am glad to hear that the Delegates of Virginia had made the vote relative to English commerce, though they afterwards repealed it. I hope they will come to again. When my last letters came away, they were engaged in passing the revisal of their laws, with some small alterations. The bearer of this, Mr. Lyons, is a sensible, worthy young physician, son of one of our judges, and on his return to Virginia. Remember me with affection to Mrs. and Miss Adams, Colonels Smith and Humphreys, and be assured of the esteem with which I am, Dear Sir,


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