Part I, Understanding the Jefferson Diplomatic Gifts: A Response to Dr. Andrew Fagal
7 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 14, 2019
This paper is a response to Andrew Fagal, Thomas Jefferson and the Arabian Stallion: A Research Note on the Third President and the Foreign Emoluments Clause, 1(4) LAW AND HIST. REVIEW: THE DOCKET (Dec. 2018).
Closing: In answering this question, i.e., Does the Foreign Emoluments/Gifts Clause apply to presidents?, my own prior research had examined the Mandan gifts and the Tsar’s gift. I did so because a president’s receiving, accepting, and keeping a diplomatic gift is some evidence that he believes his conduct in this regard is legal, i.e., compliant with the Constitution. Where the president accepts the diplomatic gift in full public view absent complaint by the public (or objections raised by later commentators), then such conduct carries a presumption that he and the contemporaneous public believed the president’s conduct was legal. Finally, where the public is in the know, where it does not complain, and where a significant element of that public is composed of the president’s opponents in Congress, in the press, and in the country at large, then that is some further and significant substantial indication that the public agrees that the president’s conduct is legal. In regard to the Mandan gifts and the Tsar’s gift, Jefferson did not clearly speak to any constitutional provision controlling his conduct; rather, to the extent he spoke at all, he reported a personal rule of conduct—a rule which he was, on occasion, willing to bend, if not waive. All told, that is some evidence, albeit not conclusive evidence, that in Jefferson’s day, the Foreign Emoluments/Gifts Clause was not understood as applying to the president (and, by implication, to other elected federal officials).
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