Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Patience Wright, 15 December 1785

From Patience Wright

London Decemb. 15th. 1785

Hondrd Sir

In Mr. Smiths absence the politicall afairs of Irelands traid with America was transacted with great suckssess wonderfuly brott forward by gentlemen who from principl have acted with the same spirit which first brot forward the Independence of the America States and all other Revolutions in Church and States of all Nations. You will see by their letters to me and other Circumstances of prudence that they are perfectly well acquanted with mankind and the true and only way to accomplish so grand and extensive a plann of usefull traid for a new Empire—and to take Miss Ireland under their Cear. She has now Court paid to her traid by her mother England but afraid of her being free and Independent to Run off with a frenchman. When we see them We believe Truths that at a Distance is incredeble to human Reason. Experenc maks men wise, practice maks perfect. As I been 8 years faithfully Employd in doing all the good I can, I have the pleasure to lay in your way to forward to where you best can serve your Contry and mankind. I have the honor to be with due Respect your old faithfull

P. Wright

RC (DLC); on verso is a note reading “T. Jefferson Esqr. Ambassoudr from America with some Letters to forward to New York per French packet”; addressed: “T. Jefferson Esqr. per favor of Mr. Gifford.” This is probably the letter from Mrs. Wright which TJ recorded in SJL without date as received 4 Jan. 1786. The following papers (DLC) were probably enclosed: (1) Copy of Henry Bowles to Mrs. Wright, 12 Dec. 1785, explaining the associations of Irish merchants and their plans to contravene desperate British measures to prevent trade with America and Europe; they hope that Emperor Joseph II will support them and permit Ostend to be designated the port of exchange; even the British people feel “very sensibly the grievances under which they labour—and beholding with detestation the conduct of an abandon’d ministry whose Malice would urge them to measures prejudicial to their own Country, if thereby they could injure others,” certain British patriotic societies “seem inclined to take up the matter, and some have given orders on their own account for quantities of Tobacco from America” (addressed to her at “Cockspur Street Charingcross”). (2) Copy of a letter from John Bourne to John Adams, Dec. 1785, setting forth the wish of “a Society of Merchant now in London who are Gentlemen of Impartial principles and of Universall benevolent Spirit [and who] wishe to have an amacable Traid Joynd in Intrest with the Emperor of Germany Joseph—and also the Emperor of Morioco—to have a Recepricall traid with Each, Founded upon the Basses of true Pollicy, and wish to lay before America &c. and they wish Mr. Jefferson the American Ambassador would forward their Request from paris as Early as posable to each of the great Princes that traid may find its way onc more to Ostend” (in Mrs. Wright’s hand; at head of text: “A Copy of a Litter from the honorable Society for Traid ordred to be forwarded to America to Germany, &ca per Sectry. and the agents in London Decemb. 4th. 6th. 1785”). (3) John Keys, 9 Dec. 1785, reading: “The Venerable Founder of the Constitutional Whigs Grand Lodge of England wishes to have a Hogshead of Tobaco from America for the sole use of the Officers and Members of that Laudable Institution” (at foot of text: “To be forwarded by Mrs. Wright”; on verso there is a rough pen and ink sketch of a man, full length (see illustration), drawn by Mrs. Wright as a secret symbol or password; DLC: TJ Papers, 16: 2828 v.). (4) An undated memorandum in Mrs. Wright’s hand, reading as follows: “Some Respectable gentlmen who have been great Sufferers by the American War have aplyed to Mr. Adams for leve to traid to and from all the Contending powers. P.W. is Requested to Inform Micajah that Report says a Nother War with America and prays him to Direct his answer. P.W. Mr. Gifford sits of for paris and will take with him any Letters or parcells. … I here W S Smith returnd pray let him See these letters directed to me or Every thing sent to Deborah is proper for him to Counter Act the Fooly of Witehiall [Whitehall?] Council.”

It is clear from the enclosures that eccentric and talented Mrs. Wright had enjoyed her war-time role as a spy in England too much to give up the fascinations of secret conspiracy and international intrigue during peace. Micajah and Deborah have not been identified; but see Seward to TJ, 25 Oct. 1785.

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