Thomas Jefferson Papers

Franklin and Jefferson to John Adams, 15 June 1785

Franklin and Jefferson to John Adams

Passy June 15, 1785.


Among the instructions given to the Ministers of the United States for treating with foreign powers, was one of the 11th. of May 1784. relative to an individual of the name of John Baptist Pecquet. It contains an acknowlegement on the part of Congress of his merits and sufferings by friendly services rendered to great numbers of American seamen carried prisoners into Lisbon, and refers to us the delivering him these acknowlegements in honourable terms and the making him such gratification as may indemnify his losses and properly reward his zeal. This person is now in Paris and asks whatever return is intended for him. Being in immediate want of money he has been furnished with ten guineas. He expressed desires of some appointment either for himself or son at Lisbon, but has been told that none such are in our gift, and that nothing more could be done for him in that line than to mention to Congress that his services will merit their recollection, if they should make any appointment there analogous to his talents. He sais his expences in the relief of our prisoners have been upwards of fifty Moidores. Supposing that, as he is poor, a pecuniary gratification will be most useful to him, we propose, in addition to what he has received, to give him a hundred and fifty guineas or perhaps 4000. livres, and to write a joint letter to him expressing the sense Congress entertain of his services. We pray you to give us your sentiments on this subject by return of the first post, as he is waiting here, and we wish the aid of your [coun]sels therein. We are to acknowlege the receipt of your letter of June 3. 1785 informing us of your reception at the court of London.

PrC (DLC); in TJ’s hand, lacking complimentary close and signatures. Recorded in SJL under this date; a notation opposite the entries for letters of 17 June reads: “letters of 14. 16. 17. and 19. went by Mr. Otto.” Since, however, TJ recorded under 14 June only letters received, “14.” must actually apply to those listed as written 15 June. Entry in SJPL reads: “Adams John. Pecquet’s case.”

In DLC: TJ Papers, 53: 9018–9, endorsed by TJ and obviously written from Lisbon, there is a 3-page memorial from Pecquet, without date or addressee but clearly submitted to the American minister to France, declaring that Pecquet, “Agent interprete de la Nation francaise à Lisbonne, a l’honneur d’exposer à Votre Excellence qu’il a été assez heureux pour rendre, depuis le commencement de la rupture entre les Etats unis de L’Amérique et l’Angleterre, des Services essentiels aux différens matelots américains, que les hazards de la Guerre ont amenés dans ce Port, principalement avant que la France se fut déclaré en faveur de l’Amérique, et bien avant que le Congrès eut dans cette Ville une personne [Arnold H. Dohrman] pour pourvoir a leurs besoins.” This activity, the memorial asserts, was carried on from 1775 until the time Pecquet learned that Dohrman was appointed agent at Lisbon by Congress (21 June 1780; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xvii, 541). It exposed him to danger and expense and caused him to be ordered to leave Portugal for having violated her neutrality. This order was revoked, however, and Pecquet entered with renewed vigor on the task of aiding American prisoners. He concluded: “La liberté même qu’il eut de le faire peu de tems après au nom de la France, en ecartant tous les risques et dangers, ne fit que redoubler son ardeur, son attachement et son zèle pour les Américains.” This memorial, together with certificates from the French and Spanish ambassadors to Portugal and the French vice consulgeneral, evidently was transmitted to Vergennes and by him to the American minister. The document in DLC: TJ Papers is catalogued as having been addressed to TJ and bears on its face, in a later hand, the date “1789.” It seems clear from the foregoing, however, that this must be a copy of the memorial that Franklin received through Vergennes and transmitted to Congress in his letter of 13 Sep. 1783 (Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., vi, 698), on the basis of which Congress included among the instructions given to the ministers of the United States … one relating to Pecquet (see Vol. 6: 400).

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