Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Ledyard, 16 August 1786

From John Ledyard

London August 16th 1786


Whenever I have occasion to write to you I shall not want to say so much on the score of Gratitude, that if I do not tire you with the Repetition of my thanks, I shall at least do injustice to the other Parts of my Letters unless you will be so good as to accept of a single honest heartfelt Thank You for the whole. In that case I shall always proceed to plain narration.

The same Sir James Hall that made me the remarkable visit at St. Germains is my friend here. I have arrived most opportunely indeed. An English Ship sails in three days for Nootka Sound. I am introduced by Sir James Hall to the Merchants who welcome me to a passage there and as one of them goes himself thank me for my comp[any.] I shall go on board to morrow. An Officer of Capt. Cooks goes also. He is highly pleased at my accompanying them. Sir J. Hall presented me with twenty Guineas Pro Bono Publico.—I bought two great Dogs, an Indian pipe and a hatchet. My want of time as well as more money will prevent my going otherwise than indifferently equipped for such an Enterprise; but it is certain I shall be more in want before I see Virginia. Why should I repine? You know how much I owe the aimiable La Fayette, will you do me the honor to present my most grateful thanks to him?—If I find in my Travels a mountain as much above the Mountains as he is above ordinary men I will name it La Fayette.—I beg the honor also of my compliments to Mr. Short who has also been my friend and like the good Widow in Scripture cast in not only his mite but more than he was able, to my assistance. Adieu.

I have the honor to be Sir your most grateful and most Obedt huml Servt.,

John Ledyard

Tr (Mrs. Jane Ledyard Remington, Cazenovia, N.Y., 1951). Noted in SJL as received 3 Oct. 1786.

In a letter written to a friend, dated at St. Germain 8 Aug. 1786, Ledyard gave an account of an incident involving the same Sir James Hall: “About a fortnight ago, Sir James Hall, an English gentleman, on his way from Paris to Cherbourg, stopped his coach at our door, and came up to my chamber. I was in bed at six o’clock in the morning, but having flung on my robe de chambre, I met him at the door of the antechamber. I was glad to see him, but surprised. He observed, that he had endeavored to make up his opinion of me, with as much exactness as possible, and concluded that no kind of visit whatever would surprise me‥‥ In walking across the chamber, he laughingly put his hand on a six livre piece and a louis d’or, that lay on my table, and with a half stifled blush, asked me how I was in the money way. Blushes commonly beget blushes, and I blushed partly because he did, and partly on other accounts. ‘If fifteen guineas,’ said he, interrupting the answer he had demanded, ‘will be of any service to you, there they are,’ and he put them on the table. ‘I am a traveller myself, and though I have some fortune to support my travels, yet I have been so situated as to want money, which you ought not to do. You have my address in London.’” (quoted in Sparks, Life of John Ledyard, p. 168–9). Sir James was almost a total stranger, but Ledyard accepted the money “without any hesitation, and told him I would be as complaisant to him, if ever occasion offered.” TJ, though in a more conventional manner, was also among the “vice-consuls, consuls, ministers, and plenipotentiaries” who, according to Ledyard, had been “tributary to” him (same, p. 167). On 15 Feb. 1786, according to his Account Book, TJ “lent Ledyard 48f”; on the 20th of that month he received of “M. de la Fayette to be paid to Ledyard on account of Empress of Russia 600 f”; on 4 Aug. he “gave Ledyard 132f”; and again on 7 Aug. he “gave Ledyard 96f”—both of the last being, according to Ledyard’s own account, within a fortnight after he had received fifteen guineas from Sir James Hall.

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