From Tobias Lear1
United States 8 Febry. 1793.
By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to transmit to the Secretary of the Treasury, a letter from the Minister of France to the Secretary of State, requesting to be furnished with a certain sum by the Government of the United States; on account of the Debt owing to France, to be laid out for provisions in the United States to be sent to France; and to desire that the Secretary will, tomorrow morning, give the President his opinion on the practicability of complying with the Minister’s request.2
S. P. U. S.
LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Lear was George Washington’s secretary.
2. Early in February, 1793, Jean Baptiste de Ternant, the French Minister to the United States, received instructions dated September 19, 1792, from Pierre Henri Hélène Marie Lebrun-Tondu, French Minister for Foreign Affairs, ordering him to negotiate with the United States Government for supplies for France. Ternant was instructed to obtain three million livres applicable to the debt owed France by the United States for the purchase of supplies of grain, flour, and salted beef to alleviate the serious shortage of these commodities in France (Ternant to Lebrun, February 13, 1793 [Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., “Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903 (Washington, 1904), II. description ends 170–76]). On February 8, 1793, Ternant relayed these instructions to Thomas Jefferson, requested the three million livres, and stressed that this “mode of payment would procure to America a vent for superfluous commodities, useful to it’s commerce as well as to it’s agriculture & at the same time, an occasion of keeping up practical offices of friendship between two nations which the cause of liberty first united” (translation, letterpress copy, in the handwriting of Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). According to JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , on February 9 “The Secretary of the Treasury waited upon the President, this morning, agreeably to desire, and informed him that the practicability of complying with the request of the Minister of France could not be determined upon until the appropriation bill, now before the Senate, should be passed, which it was expected would be acted upon this day. The Secretary of State was therefore desired to inform the Minister of France, that an answer should be given in a few days on the subject of his letter” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 37).
While waiting for a decision on his request for three million livres, Ternant asked for an emergency advance of one hundred thousand dollars from the United States Treasury so that immediate shipments of supplies for France could be arranged (Ternant to Lebrun, February 13, 1793 [Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., “Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903 (Washington, 1904), II. description ends 170–76]). On February 14 Jefferson informed Ternant: “It will require some few days yet to estimate the probable calls which may come on the treasury, and the means of answering them; till which is done a final answer can not be given to your application for the three millions of livres but in the mean time that your purchases of provision may be begun, arrangements may be made with the Secretary of the Treasury for the immediate payment of one hundred thousand dollars on account of our debt to France” (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).