Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Bondfield, 19 April 1785

From John Bondfield

Bordeaux, 19th. April 1785


I have to acknowledge the honor of your favors of 19th. Decr. and 10 Instt. I deferd replying sooner to your favor of the 19 Decr. hoping a change of weather would have admitted my forwarding the wine you Commissiond. Within this four Days the weather is become moderate. I have in consequence forward[ed] to you four Cases containing thirty six Bottles each of our first Growth per the messagerie. I have also shipt on board the Brig fanny Capt. Smith, who will sail the 23 Inst. for Falmouth in Virginia recomended to the particular care of a Young Man who goes passenger in the said Brig to be forwarded to Mr. Eppes at his arrival four Cases of the said wine. I shall write Mr. Eppes by the said conveyance and inclose him a Bill of Loading for the same. Inclosed you have the Invoice for the said eight Cases for which I shall draw on you at my convenience.

I am much obliged to you for your information regarding Land Warrants. I propose to let mine lay dormant til occation serves either to sell or Improve.

There are two Vessels bound to Virginia that will sail in this week. We have not any other at present loading for the American States. It is probable some will offer in the month of May. If any I shall advise you.

The merchants at this and the other Sea Ports have used their utmost exertions to obtain the repeal of the Arret de Conceil that admits foreign Nations to resort to the french Islands under limitted restrictions. The minister to this has appear[ed] deaf to the representations and it is generally thought will support the Arret as favoring the plantations become to[o] Powerful to be longer retaind under Prohibitive restrictions. The last Cargoe arrived of Tobacco from Virginia sold at 15 livres. It is a good Price and will support the Cost and charges. With respect I have the Honor to be Sir Your most Obed Hum Ser,

John Bondfield

RC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as received 24 Apr. 1785. Enclosure missing, but in MHi there is a printed form from Bondfield & Gireaudeau to R. Durand & Cie., directing them to receive, “A la garde de Dieu et conduite de Revore de Blois,” each of the four cases containing 36 bottles of wine, to be delivered to TJ within 24 days. This form contains on its face the marks given on the cases, the rate of transportation (to be paid by TJ to the carrier), and TJ’s former address as “Hotel d’Orlean, rue des Augustins.” On its verso is recorded the total of costs involved in the shipment, which tallies with TJ’s statement in Account Book under 13 May 1785: “portage and duties on wine Bourdeaux 90-1-3.” Documents supporting these charges are also in MHi: (1) Receipt for payment of customs at Monlieu, 22 Apr. (2) Same for Ruffec, 26 Apr., endorsed by TJ on verso: “Bonfeild. 12. doz. bott. wine recd. May 8. 1785.” (3) A receipt for charges paid a “Notaire Royal” at Angerville-la-Gaste, covering the entire shipment in the conveyance, including “quatre caisses pour Mr. Javerson,” 7 May. (4) Receipt to TJ for duties paid, 10 May.

This sheaf of documents, representing as it did something unknown in the American colonial experience under the mercantile system and only lately cropping up in the form of retaliatory imposts among some of the states, must have impressed TJ at this particular moment when he was engaged in promoting the idea that nations were “wealthy and populous nearly in proportion to the freedom of their commerce; and … were it perfectly free, they would probably attain the highest points of wealth and population of which their circumstances would admit” (Commissioners to De Thulemeier, 14 Mch. 1785). An otherwise trivial shipment of wine became a matter of significance in the larger diplomatic task and in a comparative view of the French and American states when it was observed that internal duties accounted for almost as much of the total as actual transportation expenses did (the costs for the “voiture” and “Comission” amounted to only 481. 12s. of the total of 901. 1s. 3d.). This was an experience new to an American but long suffered by the French, and represented, as TJ must have later observed, one of the striking differences between the roots of revolution in the two nations. It is in light of such a personal experience as this mere shipment of wine, too, that one must view TJ’s reply to James Monroe’s letter of 12 Apr. 1785 in which he was as pleased as Monroe was fearful of the proposal to vest in Congress control over trade between the states—an opinion quite different from that he had expressed several years earlier (TJ to Monroe, 17 June 1785; TJ to John Adams, 17 Dec. 1777).

The bill of loading [sic] that Bondfield promised to send to Eppes also came to rest in TJ’s papers (MHi) and is dated 25 Apr. 1785.

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