TRANSCRIPT GLC 3273
George Washington. Autograph letter signed: Mount Vernon,
to the Count de Moustier, 1788 Aug. 17. 8 p.
Mount Vernon Augt. 17 1788.
In the letter which I did myself the honor to address to
your Excellency on the 26th of last March, I intimated that
as soon as I should have obtained more particular information
concerning the commercial intercourse between France and the
United States, I would most willingly communicate the result.
Ill prepared as I still am to treat of a subject, so complicated
in its nature and so extensive in its consequences, I will
now hazard a few facts and general observations; without confining
myself strictly to your questions, to which, however, you
may find there will be constant allusion.
Respecting the utility or hurtfulness of the Tobacco-Contract
between Mr. Morris and the Farmers General, I have  heard
so many specious arguments, on the one side and the other,
that I find my self embarrassed in making a fair judgment.
In ordinary cases I know that all exclusive previledges[sic]
and even partial monopolies are pernicious. How far in this
instance, the Contract has been only a transferrence of the
business from the foreign agents (English or Scottish) who
used to conduct it, into other hands, and whether the same
exportation, in quantity, would have been made directly to
France through more advantageous channels; I cannot pretend
to determine. A free competition in the purchase of that article
here, as well as in the sale at the place of market, it seems
reasonable to conclude, would be mutually beneficial to both
Nations, however, it might be inconvenient to Individuals.
Though the present contract will soon expire of course, and
leave an equal field of speculation on this side of the Atlantic;
I have been taught to believe that the Farmers General will
not so readily give up their share in the Monopoly, on the
other. So the business must, in all probability, revert to
its original channel. 
In reply to your second, third and fourth questions, I would
only briefly observe, that we are yet scarcely sufficiently
acquainted with the coarse French woolens and their lowest
price, to determine how far they can come in rivalship with
those of Britain. The prevailing opinion is in favor of the
latter: but I see no reason why the former, when calculated
for the particular purpose, may not be made equally cheap
and good. As to other articles of importation, directly from
France, they might consist in, superfine Broad cloths (particularly
blue, which can be afforded cheaper and better than from England)
Glass, Gloves, Ribbons, Silks, Cambricks, Plain Lawns, Linnens,
Printed Goods, Wine, Brandy, Oyl, Fruit, and in general every
thing necessary for carrying on the Indian Trade: from the
Islands, Sugar and Coffee, in addition to the Molasses &
Rum w[hi]ch alone are permitted to be exported to the United
States at present. Our produce in return to Europe might comprehend,
Tobacco (as the staple from this State) and from the States
agregately [sic], Wheat, Rice, other Grains, Bread, Flour,
Fish, Fish Oyl, Pot ashes, Pearl  ashes, Skins, Furs, Peltry,
Indigo, Madder, different dying Woods, Lumber, Naval Stores,
Iron, Coals, and ships ready built: to the Islands, Lumbur,
Bar iron, Coals, Live -stock, and Provisions of all kinds.
It may be mentioned here as a firm Principle for extending
the intercourse, and as a theory which will be found incontestably
true in experiment: that in proportion as France shall encrease
[sic] the facility of our making remittance, in the same ratio
shall we encrease the consumption of her produce and manufactures.
Common sense & sound policy speak thus on our part: “we
can furnish raw materials of great value and our ability to
do it will augment with our population every day: we want
no money for them and we desire no credit may be given to
us: we cannot manufacture fine articles so cheaply as we can
import them and must while we continue an agricultural People
be supplied from some other quarter: we offer you the preferrence
& will take in different Goods to the amount of whatever
sum you shall consent to receive from us in our Staple Commodities”
 This Doctrine has been already verified so far as opportunity
has been afforded to observe the effect. The use of French
Brandy, in common Taverns as well as private House, has been
substituted, for two or three years past, very much in the
room of Jamaica Rum, probably not less than 24,000 [inserted:
gallons] have been imported into this State, in one year.
The consumption of French Wines is also much greater than
it has formerly been; and may by a moderate calculation amount
to between one half & one third of all that is imported.
The demand for both these articles might still be extended
with the means of making remittance.
Not much French Salt is made use of for curing provisions
in Virginia. The opinion is, that it is not so clean as that
imported from other parts of Europe. If it was properly purified
it might & certainly would be brought out as ballast in
great quantities, and find a ready market.
About half the exports from Virginia are carried in American
bottoms, the remainder principally in British bottoms. There
are, however, a numb[e]r of other foreign Vessels employ’d
in the trade.
 I know not of any other equivalents, than those to be
derived by France from the extension of her commerce, which
we can give for any new favors in your Islands. Under the
present rigorous restrictions it is thought that trade is
unprofitable for us & will decay or be disused as soon
as other avenues for receiving our produce shall be gradually
opened. The Maritime Genius of this Country is now steering
our vessels in every Ocean; to the East Indies, the North-west
Coasts of America & the extremity of the Globe. I have
the best evidence that the Scale of commerce, so long against
us, is beginning to turn in our favor, and that (as a new
thing in our New World) the amount of exports from one State,
last year, exceeded that of the imports more than £230,000.
What change in systems and amelioration in the general complexion
of our affairs, are likely to be produced in consequence of
the national government, which is on the eve of being established,
I will not undertake to predict. I hope and trust the ties
which connect this Nation with France will be strengthened
and made durable by it.
 In the meantime, there are three things, which I flatter
myself will counterbalance on the side of the French commerce
the three advantages, of which I conceived the British Merchants
to be possessed. The circumstances to which I allude are –
First – The encreasing prejudices of this Country against
a commercial intercourse with England, occasioned by provocations
and augmented by impositions on her part. – Secondly
– The facility given in many instances by the French
government for our remittances in the Staple commodities of
this Country: and thirdly – The change of taste in favor
of articles, produced or manufactured in France, which may
indeed in a great degree be attributed to the affection and
gratitude still felt for her generous interposition in our
I should be truly happy to learn that this Country &
Inhabitants have become agreeable to your Excellency by acquaintance.
For you may be assured, Sir, no one can be more zealous than
myself in promoting a friendly connection between our two
Nations, or in rendering  your situation perfectly satisfactory,
while the United States shall enjoy the benefit of your residence
With the highest sentiments of
consideration & respect –
I have the honor to be
Most Obed[ien]t & Most H[um]ble Ser[vant]
The Count de Moustier &c.
Notes: Published with variations in Fitzpatrick’s Writings
of Washington, 30: 43-47. Count de Moustier was a French minister
to the United States from 1787 to 1789. Washington was invited
to France to discuss the possibilities of increased trade