Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 21 June 1787

To John Jay

Paris June 21. 1787.


I had the honour of addressing you in a letter of May 4. from Marseilles which was to have gone by the last packet; but it arrived a few hours too late for that conveiance, and has been committed to a private one passing thro’ England, with a promise that it should go thro’ no post office.

I was desirous, while at the seaports, to obtain a list of the American vessels which have come to them since the peace, in order to estimate their comparative importance to us, as well as the general amount of our commerce with this country, so far as carried on in our own bottoms. At Marseilles I found there had been 32. since that period; at Cette not a single one; at Bayonne, one of our free ports, only one. This last article I learnt from other information, not having visited that place; as it would have been a deviation, from my route, too considerable for the importance of the object. At Bordeaux, Nantes and Lorient I could not obtain lists in the moment, but am in hopes I shall be able to get them ere long. Tho’ more important to us, they will probably be more imperfect than that of Marseilles. At Nantes I began with Mr. Dobrée an arrangement of his claims. I visited the military stores which have been detained there so long, opened some boxes of each kind, and found the state of their contents much better than had been represented. An exact list of the articles is to be sent me. In the mean time the following is near the truth.

  • 24. casks of gunlocks
  • 6. cases of gun barrels
  • 65. cases of old bayonets

locks and furniture of 3100 fire arms of various kinds taken from the peasants of Bordeaux when they were deprived of the droit de chasse, and purchased by Mr. Dean. The above are broken, eaten up with rust and worth nothing.

  • 15,000 peices of walnut for gun stocks, very good.
  • 30. cases of muskets from Holland; about 27. in each chest: say about 700 muskets with their bayonets: good of their form but not of the best form. In such condition that they will need only such a cleaning as the souldier himself can give.
  • 21. cases of sabres from Holland, about 63. in each case. Say about 1300 in good condition.
  • 18. hogsheads of gunflints.
  • 10. anchors weighing in the whole about 21,500 lb.

But we must deduct about a fifth from the muskets and sabres; because there are in the warehouse five tier of cases, the bottom one of which having been partly under water during an inundation of the Loire, that whole tier may be considered as lost. Another deduction will be warehouse rent 600℔ a year from the year 1782. Still they remain an object of too much value to be abandoned, if they can be withdrawn by mutual consent, without any notice of their having been in the hands of justice. Mr. Dobrée appears to be so reasonable that I am in hopes this may be done. The importations into Lorient of other fish oils, besides those of the whale, brought to my notice there a defect in the letter of Monsieur de Calonnes of Oct. 22. which letter was formerly communicated to you. In that whale oil only was named. The other fish oils therefore have continued to pay the old duties. In a conference with Monsr. de Villedeuil, the present Comptroller general, since my return, I proposed the extending the exemption to all fish-oils, according to the letter of the Hanseatic treaty, which had formed the basis of the regulations respecting us. I think this will be agreed to. The delays of office first, then the illness of M. de Calonnes, and lastly his removal and the throng of business occasioned by the assemblée des Notables, have prevented the reducing the substance of the letter into the form of an Arret as yet; tho’ I continued solliciting it as much as circumstances would bear. I am now promised that it shall be done immediately, and that it shall be so far retrospective to the date of the letter as that all duties paid since that shall be refunded.

Tho’ we are too little interested in the proceedings of the Assemblées des Notables to render minute details of them desireable to Congress, yet I suppose a general view, now that the assembly is closed and their measures fixed, may be acceptable.

The deficiency of the public revenues, compared with the public expences was become so considerable, that it was evident some of the wheels of government must stop, unless they could be relieved. Continual borrowings, in time of profound peace, could not be proposed and a new tax under the same circumstances might crush the minister, unless he could procure a powerful support. He proposed therefore the calling an assemblée des Notables. He proffered them an universal redress of grievances; laid open those grievances fully, pointed out sound remedies, and covering his canvas with objects of this magnitude, the demand of money became a little accessory scarcely attracting attention. The persons chosen were the most able and independant characters in the kingdom; and their support, if it could be obtained, would be enough for him. They improved the occasion of redressing their grievances, and agreed that the public wants should be relieved; but went into an examination of the causes of them. It is supposed Monsr. de Calonnes was conscious his accounts could not bear examination; and it is said and believed that he asked of the king to send 4. members to the bastile, of whom the M. de la Fayette was one, to banish 20. others, and two of his ministers. The king found it shorter to banish him. His successor went on in full concert with the assembly. The result has been an augmentation in the revenue, a promise of oeconomies in it’s expenditure; of an annual settlement of the public accounts, before a council, which the Comptroller, having been heretofore obliged to settle only with the king in person, of course never settled at all; of the abolition of the Corvées; reformation of the Gabelles; suppression of the interior custom houses; free commerce of grain internal and external; and the establishment of Provincial assemblies: which, all together, constitute a vast mass of improvement in the condition of this nation. The establishment of the Provincial assemblies is a fundamental improvement. They will be of the choice of the people; one third renewed every year; in those provinces where there are no states, that is to say, over about three fourths of the kingdom. They will be partly an Executive themselves, partly an executive Council to the Intendant to whom the Executive power in his province has been heretofore entirely delegated. Chosen by the people, they will soften the execution of hard laws: and, having a right of representation to the king, they will censure bad laws, suggest good ones, expose abuses; and their representations, when united, will command respect. To the other advantages may be added the precedent itself of calling the assembly of Notables, which may perhaps grow into habit. The hope is that the improvements thus promised will be carried into effect, that they will be maintained during the present reign; and that that will be long enough for them to take some root in the constitution, so that they may come to be considered as a part of that, and be protected by time and the attachment of the nation. The new accessions to the ministry are valued here. Good is hoped from the Archbishop of Toulouse who succeeds the Count de Vergennes as Chef du conseil de finance. Monsieur de Ville-deuil the Comptroller general has been approved by the public in the offices he has heretofore exercised. The Duke de Nivernois, called to the Council, is reckoned a good and able man: and Monsieur de Malesherbes, called also to the council, is unquestionably the first character in the kingdom for integrity, patriotism, knowlege, and experience in business. There is a fear that the Marechal de Castries is disposed to retire.

The face of things in Europe is a little turbid at present: but probably all will subside. The Empress of Russia, it is supposed, will not push her pretensions against the Turks to actual war. Weighing the fondness of the Emperor for innovation against his want of perseverance, it is difficult to calculate what he will do with his discontented subjects in Brabant and Flanders. If those provinces alone were concerned, he would probably give back: but this would induce an opposition to his plans in all his other dominions. Perhaps he may be able to find a compromise. The cause of the Patriots in Holland is a little clouded at present. England and Prussia seem disposed to interpose effectually. The former has actually ordered a fleet of 6. sail of the line, Northwardly, under Gore; and the latter threatens to put his troops into motion. The danger of losing such a weight in their scale, as that of Prussia, would occasion this court to prefer conciliation to war. Add to this the distress of their finances, and perhaps not so warm a zeal in the new ministry for the innovations in Holland. I hardly believe they will think it worth while to purchase the change of constitution proposed there at the expence of a war. But of these things you will recieve more particular and more certain details from Mr. Dumas, to whom they belong.

Mr. Eden is appointed Ambassador from England to Madrid. To the hatred borne us by his court and country, is added a recollection of the circumstances of the unsuccesful embassy to America, of which he made a part. So that I think he will carry to Madrid dispositions to do us all the ill he can.

The late change in the ministry is very favorable to the prospects of the Chevalier de la Luzerne. The Count de Montmorin, Monsr. de Malesherbes, and Monsr. de Lamoignon the garde des sceaux, are his near relations. Probably something will be done for him, and without delay. The promise of the former administration to the Count de Moutier to succeed to this vacancy, should it take place, will probably be performed by the present one.

Mr. Barclay has probably informed you of his having been arrested in Bordeaux for a debt contracted in the way of his commerce. He immediately applied to the parliament of that place who ordered his discharge. This took place after five days actual imprisonment. I arrived at Bordeaux a few days after his liberation. As the Procureur general of the king had interested himself to obtain it with uncommon zeal, and that too on public principles, I thought it my duty to wait on him and return him my thanks. I did the same to the President of the parliament for the body over which he presided, what would have been an insult in America being an indispensable duty here. You will see by the inclosed printed paper on what grounds the Procureur insisted on Mr. Barclay’s liberation. Those on which the parliament ordered it are not expressed. On my arrival here I spoke with the Minister on the subject. He observed that the character of Consul is no protection in this country against process for debt: that as to the character with which Mr. Barclay had been invested at the court of Marocco, [it was ques]tionable whether it could be placed on the diplomatic line, as it had not been derived immediately from Congress; that if it were, it would have covered him to Paris only, where he had received his commission, had he proceeded directly thither, but that his long stay at Bordeaux must be considered as terminating it there. I observed to him that Mr. Barclay had been arrested almost immediately on his arrival at Bordeaux. But sais he the arrest was made void by the parliament, and still he has continued there several weeks. True, I replied, but his adversaries declared they would arrest him again the moment he should be out of the jurisdiction of the parliament of Bourdeaux, and have actually engaged the Marechaussée on the road to do it. This seemed to impress him. He [said] he could obtain a letter of sauf conduit which would protect him to Paris, but that immediately on his arrival here he would be liable to arrest. I asked him if such a letter could not be obtained to protect him to Paris, and back to Bordeaux and even to America? He said that for that, the consent of the greater part of his creditors would be necessary, and even with this it was very doubtful whether it could be obtained. Still if I would furnish him with that consent, he would do what should depend on him. I am persuaded he will, and have written to Mr. Barclay to obtain the consent of his creditors. This is the footing on which this matter stands at present. I have stated it thus particularly that you may know the truth, which will probably be misrepresented in the English papers, to the prejudice of Mr. Barclay. This matter has been a great affliction to him, but no dishonour where it’s true state is known. Indeed he is incapable of doing any thing not strictly honourable.

In a letter of Aug. 30. 1785. I had the honour of mentioning to you what had past here on the subject of a convention for the regulation of the two post offices. I now inclose you a letter from the Baron D’Ogny who is at the head of that department, which shews that he still expects some arrangement. I have heard it said that M. de Creve-coeur is authorized to treat on this subject. You doubtless know if this be true. The articles may certainly be better adjusted there than here. This letter from the Baron d’Ogny was in consequence of an application from a servant of mine during my absence, which would not have been made had I been here. Nor will it be repeated; it being my opinion and practice to pay small sums of money rather than to ask favors.

I have the honor to inclose you also copies of a letter and papers from the Marechal de Castries on the claim of an individual against the state of South Carolina for services performed on board the Indian; and the petition of another on a like claim. Also copies of letters received from Obryan at Algiers, and from Mr. Lambe. A letter of the 26th. of May from Mr. Montgomery at Alicant informs me that, by a vessel arrived at Carthagena from Algiers, they learn the death of the Dey of that republic. Yet as we hear nothing of it thro’ any other channel it may be doubted. It escaped me at the time of my departure to Aix to make arrangements for sending you the gazettes regularly by the packets. The whole are now sent, tho’ a great part of them are so old as to be not worth perusal. Your favor of April 24. has been duly received. I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem & respect, Sir, your most obedient & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); one page of MS faded; illegible words in brackets (supplied) are drawn from Tr. (DNA: PCC, No. 107, ii). Enclosures: (1) Printed copy of the order of 19 May 1787 of the court of the parliament of Bordeaux ending the imprisonment of Thomas Barclay (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; Tr in DLC; another in DNA: PCC, No. 107, ii). (2) D’Ogny to TJ, 6 Apr. 1787. (3) Castries to TJ, 19 Apr. 1787, and its enclosure. (4) Mayeux to TJ, 9 Apr. 1787. (5) O’Bryen to TJ, 28 Apr. 1787. (6) Lamb to TJ, 20 May 1787.

The incident of Barclay’s arrest, imprisonment, release, and flight from Bordeaux deserves particular comment for several reasons: in this and other instances he has been confused with another who bore the same name; his plight was due, in some measure at least, to the fact that his country was inexcusably dilatory in rendering him compensation for services performed; and this episode involved TJ in discussions with Montmorin concerning the question of diplomatic immunity under the law of nations.

Thomas Barclay of Philadelphia (1728–1793), who negotiated the treaty with Morocco, is at times confused with the much younger Thomas Barclay of New York (1753–1830), who became a Loyalist, served in the British army, and later became consul-general for Great Britain in the northeastern part of the United States (a sketch of the latter, but not of the former, is in DAB description begins Dictionary of American Biography description ends ; see Sowerby, description begins Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, compiled with annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby, Washington, 1952–53 description ends No. 2305, note). Thomas Barclay of Philadelphia was a merchant and an active patriot during the Revolution. He was a member of the Committee of Correspondence of Philadelphia, 1774–1775, and it is possible that TJ met him while attending the second Continental Congress. Barclay’s country seat, “Somerset,” stood in a grove of pines on a bluff opposite Trenton, New Jersey, and it was there that Generals Stirling and Wayne had their headquarters in 1781 when the two British spies, John Mason and James Ogden, were handed over by the Board of Sergeants of the mutinied Pennsylvania Line and were tried and executed (PMHB description begins The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography description ends , xxxviii [1914], 47, note; Carl Van Doren, Mutiny in January, New York, 1943, p. 152, 154–6). Shortly after this, Barclay’s commercial activities carried him to France. According to the memorial presented to Congress by his widow some two decades after the Bordeaux incident—it was drafted by TJ himself while president—and the report of the committee of claims of the House of Representatives to whom the memorial had been referred, Barclay performed between 1781 and 1787 “a variety of necessary and important services for the United States” in Europe and Africa. He was appointed vice-consul in France on 26 June 1781 at a salary of $1,000 per annum, and on 5 Oct. 1781 he was appointed consul. On 18 Nov. 1782 Congress designated him as commissioner with full powers to settle the accounts of the United States in Europe; his commission stated that Congress would “hereafter make adequate provision for the said commission, according to the nature and extent of the services performed” (American State Papers, ix, Claims, p. 347–54). On 31 Mch. 1791 he was appointed consul for Morocco by TJ, a fact which manifests the latter’s continuing confidence in Barclay’s probity. Barclay departed to assume these new duties, but died suddenly at Lisbon on 19 Jan. 1793. Some time afterwards his house in Philadelphia was destroyed by fire and all of his papers and effects were lost (PMHB description begins The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography description ends , xxxviii [1914], 47, note; Robert Barclay to TJ, 28 July 1806; TJ to Robert Barclay, 4 Nov. 1806).

“I have no more Doubts of the Justice of Congress than I have of my Existence,” wrote the aging and troubled Barclay on his way to Morocco (Barclay to TJ, 24 Jan. 1786). His confidence was justified, but the promise by Congress in 1782 to compensate him “hereafter” carried no time limit. Such an adventurer as Steuben, vigorously pressing his claims for compensation and basing them upon flimsy if not fraudulent grounds, met with fairly speedy attention through the assistance of Alexander Hamilton and others (see Vol. 7:100–1); indeed, in the opinion of some, generosity was added to promptness, for though the Baron had “received little money, and less Flattery” in Europe, Congress had “added bounty to the exact Justice and possessed him of real monies exceeding in amount the life aggregate of the revenues of a prince of the German Empire” (Rufus King to Elbridge Gerry, 5 Nov. 1786; Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , viii, No. 539). This was exaggerated, but the treatment given by Congress to the flamboyant, pushing, and not wholly trustworthy Steuben stands in marked contrast to that accorded the more diffident, more faithful, and more deserving Barclay. The salary that might have enabled him to adjust his affairs properly was never granted during his lifetime. Fifteen years after his death, Congress came to the relief of his widow by compensating her for his services between 1781 and 1787 at the rate of $1,000 per annum for his duties as vice-consul and $3,333 ⅓ per annum for his offices of consul, commissioner of accounts, and agent (report of committee of claims, 8 Jan. 1808; American State Papers, ix, Claims, p. 347–54). This was, of course, exclusive of his expenses. On setting out on the Moroccan mission Barclay had been given a letter of credit not to exceed $20,000 and against this he had issued drafts totalling £4,545 (or 109,080livre tournois). The balance was against him when he settled the accounts for the mission at L’Orient on 12 July 1787: “Upon this Account,” he wrote TJ and Adams, “I shall remain Indebted to the United States, (untill I make a Settlement with them, and untill I know what I am to charge for my Voyage) 13901livre tournois 10s.” (see Vol. 8:614, 622–3; Barclay to Commissioners, 13 July 1787). But this was a small debit compared with the amount of salary due for more than six years’ services. To this neglect must be added another injury: Virginia funds that were to be drawn upon by Barclay in his capacity as agent for that state in the purchase of arms had necessarily been used by TJ to replenish the dwindling reserves of the United States in Paris. In consequence, Barclay’s draft on Grand had been protested at the very moment of his incarceration at Bordeaux (see Grand to TJ, 19 and 23 May 1787; TJ to Governor of Virginia, 3 Aug. 1787).

TJ had long known about the involved state of Barclay’s commercial transactions. These had evidently embarrassed both men at the very outset of the Moroccan mission. In 1785 TJ, writing to Vergennes to inform him of the missions of Lamb and Barclay, had asked the minister for “Letters of protection for their persons, effects, vessels and attendants during their passage to and from Africa,” and these, along with passports, had been granted promptly (TJ to Vergennes, 12 Oct. 1785; Vergennes to TJ, 27 Oct. 1785). He had applied to the Spanish ambassador, Count d’Aranda, for similar protection for Barclay. At that point TJ expected that Barclay would set out from Paris at once and that Lamb would follow, but, soon after D’Aranda replied that he was not authorized to grant such protection and that application would have to be made to the court at Madrid, TJ wrote Carmichael that “an important matter detains Mr. Barclay some days longer” (TJ to D’Aranda, 22 Oct. 1785; D’Aranda to TJ, 22 Oct. 1785; TJ to Carmichael, 4 Nov. 1785). It is very likely that this important matter was a promissory note for 10,000livre tournois given early in 1785 by Barclay to John van Heukelom & Son that fell due about the time that Barclay was scheduled to depart and “was not Paid, Without great difficulty” (Van Heukelom & Son to TJ, 1 Mch. 1786). TJ was well aware that the public interest had been seriously affected by the claims of importunate creditors during the Revolution—a considerable amount of arms and military stores belonging to the United States had been detained at Nantes by judicial decree on a claim of Schweighauser & Dobrée that Franklin had refused as unfounded—and he certainly would have taken every precaution against a similar injury to the public interest when Barclay, harassed by creditors, was travelling abroad with about a thousand guineas worth of gold watches, snuff boxes, and other valuable property; it is significant that he had asked for a Spanish passport for Barclay but not for Lamb, though he stated that the latter carried no presents of value. It may also be significant that Barclay took a circuitous route to Madrid. An interruption of his mission did occur at that city when another creditor, Veuve Samuel Joly of St. Quentin, caused him to be confined to the limits of the capital until he had discharged his indebtedness, which he did with a draft that was protested—an incident that TJ evidently learned about neither from Barclay nor from Carmichael, but from the French commissionaire du commerce (Boyetet to TJ, 24 July 1786; TJ to Boyetet, 28 July 1786). But these embarrassments, though disturbing, never affected TJ’s belief in Barclay’s honesty. To Jay, TJ wrote that Barclay was “incapable of doing any thing not strictly honourable” and to Madison he declared: “an honester man cannot be found, nor a slower nor more indecisive one” (TJ to Jay, 21 June 1787; TJ to Madison, 20 June 1787; on Barclay’s slowness, it may be noted that he had taken seven months to reach Morocco and even longer to return). Over the years TJ demonstrated his belief that Barclay was “perfectly amiable and honest,” but in 1787 he knew, as he reported confidentially to Madison (not to Jay), that Barclay’s affairs had become “so embarrassed and desperate that the public reputation is every moment in danger of being compromitted with him” (TJ to Madison, 20 June 1787). Though feelings of friendship and a desire for justice entered into the balance, the controlling factor in TJ’s vigorous interposition in the Bordeaux incident was his deep concern for the reputation of the United States. Barclay may have been perfectly honest, he may have been injured by the dilatoriness of Congress, and he may have suffered at the hands of his partner Moylan, but TJ could scarcely succeed in his great object of promoting the growth of cordial commercial relations between the two countries if American public agents, for whatever cause, aroused hostile feelings within the business community in France.

Barclay arrived in Bordeaux on 5 May 1787 and called that night on his creditors, French & Nephew. He found them cordially disposed, as they had been when in correspondence with him in Madrid some fourteen months earlier; ten days later he was, on their complaint, “arrested by five Ruffians” (Barclay to TJ, 29 June and ca. 3 July 1787). Four days after this he was released through the energetic action of Dudon fils, Procureur Général du Roi. Dudon rested his argument on Barclay’s petition for release squarely on the law of nations: “quand le droit des gens est intéressé, ce n’est pas par les formes consacrées pour les actions civiles, et purement judiciaires, qu’il peut être défendu et vengé.” Barclay, he pointed out, was clothed in the dual character of consul-general of the United States and “de leur Agent extraordinaire auprès de l’Empereur de Maroc.” “Il vient de remplir en cette qualité la mission dont il étoit chargé par sa République,” Dudon declared; “il a joui chez cette nation, si récemment sortie des ténebres de la barbarie, de la plénitude du droit des gens. Il revenoit en France, joignant à la foi des traités, les passeports particuliers de sa majesté, et il a été emprisonné à Bordeaux à la requête des sieurs French Neveu & Compagnie, en vertu d’une condamnation obtenue contre lui devant les juges et Consuls de Paris.” Dudon declined to discuss the nature of the debt or the commercial operations which produced it. Instead, he addressed himself to what he considered a “violation la plus révoltante du droit des Nations.” The publicists were unanimous in their view of the sanctity of the persons of envoys from one nation to another “sous quelque titre que ce puisse être; et l’histoire venant a l’appui de leurs principes, nous voyons d’âge en âge jusque dans les siecles les plus reculés, ce caractere d’Ambassadeur, d’Envoyé ou de Représentant, respecté chez tous les peuples, des flots de sang répandus pour venger l’injure faite a quelqu’un de ces hommes revêtus d’un ministere national.” Grotius, Bodin, Montesquieu, and Vattel were appealed to in support of the view that the ambassador, representing his sovereign in a foreign state, must be free; that to injure him would be to injure his master and his nation; that to arrest him or do him violence would be to wound “le droit d’Ambassade, qui appartient à tous les souverains.” Dudon then cited an instance in which this principle was violated: “L’Angleterre, absorbée par l’esprit de commerce, osa s’écarter un instant de ces principes de droit public. L’Ambassadeur de Pierre-le-Grand fut arrêté, pour dettes, dans les rues de Londres; mais, l’Europe entiere réclama, et le Parlement d’Angleterre fit un acte, par lequel la capture de l’Ambassadeur fut déclarée contraire au droit des gens, en vertu duquel les personnes des Ambassadeurs et autres ministres publics, ont toujours été considerées comme des personnes sacrées.” Barclay, he pointed out, had been arrested and “tous les papiers relatifs à sa mission, sequestrés par un Huissier, avec eux tous les titres qui peuvent justifier de son caractere et de ses droits”—an act that might justify penalties for the guard and for the complainant. “Mais,” he concluded, "“une nation nouvelle, qui doit son existence à la protection de sa majesté et au puissant secours des armes francaises, éprouvant en France, dans la personne de son Representant, un genre d’outrage dont toutes les puissances sont solidairement intéressées à se plaindre, a droit d’attendre de vous une satisfaction éclatante.” He therefore urged that Barclay’s arrest and imprisonment be annulled; that the papers and effects that had been seized to his prejudice be restored to him; and that an Arrêt to this effect be printed and published. President de Pichard of the parliament of Bordeaux signed the Arrêt on 19 May 1787 (Arrêt de la Cour de Parlement, qui casse l’emprisonnement de sieur Thomas Barklai [Bordeaux, 1787]; Sowerby, description begins Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, compiled with annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby, Washington, 1952–53 description ends No. 2305; Tr of the Arrêt is in DNA: PCC, No. 107, ii, 26–31; printed text in Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii). Dudon’s effort was indeed carried out with uncommon zeal, and that too on public principles. Aside from resting his case on the law of nations, Dudon seems to have been inspired by friendship for the United States and also for Barclay. Had he not pressed the argument so vigorously, the Barclay affair might very well have endangered Franco-American relations in much the same way as had the Marbois affair of 1784 (see Vol. 7:306–8; also, Alfred Rosenthal, “The Marbois-Longchamps Affair,” PMHB description begins The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography description ends , lxiii [1939], 294–301). Charles Thomson had suspected that the attack on Marbois by Longchamps, who may have been a British spy during the Revolution, was a premeditated incident planned by those who sought to disturb American relations with France; it is conceivable, particularly in the light of the British ambassador’s intervention in the case (see below) and of the suddenness and violence of French & Nephew’s effort to avenge themselves, that the Barclay incident was in part the result of a similar motivation. Perhaps it was with this in mind that TJ, performing an act which in America would have been an insult, called on Dudon and also on the President of the Parliament (Pichard) to express his gratitude when he arrived in Bordeaux five days after Barclay’s release.

Dudon evidently thought French & Nephew would try to have the Arrêt annulled, for he sent a copy of it to Montmorin as soon as it was printed, asking for approval. The assumption was well founded, for the Bordeaux merchants brought pressure to bear upon Montmorin from all sides. They wrote to him on 26 May appealing for protection against Barclay, who, they said, “invoque le Droit des Gens qu’il a violé lui même de la maniere la plus formelle.” They stated that a purchase of goods had been made by them in 1783 for the account of Barclay, Moylan, and Company of L’Orient to the extent of 67,206livre tournois 5s. 11d. which that firm had promised to pay out of a consignment of 500 hhds. of tobacco already shipped to Louis Alexandre of Bordeaux; that, after more than two years of vexatious delays and protested drafts from Barclay, they had obtained judgment against him; and that, if the king protected the representative of another nation, such an envoy should not be permitted to vex his subjects. They therefore requested orders to the commandant of Bordeaux to compel Barclay to discharge his debt. This statement of their case French & Nephew sent under cover to G. Woulfe, a Paris banker, who, in forwarding it to Montmorin, described them as “des braves et honnetes gens, et des Citoyens distingués et utiles” who had been tricked out of a great part of their fortune by the “conduite insidieuse et malhonnête” of Barclay. The Bordeaux merchants sent similar statements to Breteuil, to Lamoignon, and to Fumel, who in turn forwarded them to Montmorin. On 15 June the minister wrote to Dudon formally approving the position that he had taken; on the same day he wrote to Fumel, stating that Barclay’s rank as consul offered him no protection, but that he had gone to Morocco in the character of minister of the United States to negotiate a treaty; that the king had both recognized him in this character and had furnished him with passports; and that the immunity thus provided would cease only “à l’instant ou ce Caractère s’est evanoui par son retour aux fonctions de Consul general ou par sa rentrée dans la classe des simples Particuliers.” Thus Barclay had not been legitimately arrested. “Mais,” Montmorin advised Fumel, “vous verrés aussi d’un côté que rien n’empeche les Sr. French de reprendre leurs poursuites contre lui par devant les juges de la Capitale, qu’aucune raison tirée du code des Nations ne pourra plus le soustraire aux condamnations que ces juges ont prononcées, ou qu’ils prononceront encore contre lui, et que si le Sr. Barclay quittoit Paris dans ce moment cy rien ne les empecheroit de le faire arreter par tout ou ils pourroient l’aprehender.” Furthermore, French & Nephew would have had the same right at Bordeaux, despite the immunity attached to Barclay in his character as minister, if he had attempted to return to America, “parce que ces franchises n’ont eu pour objet que de le mettre en etat de vaquer aux fonctions publiques que ses souverains lui avoient commises et que ces fonctions auroient cessé à notre egard au moment ou il se seroit preparé a quitter le Royaume.” Montmorin sent copies of this letter to Breteuil and replied to Woulfe and French & Nephew. But scarcely had these letters been despatched before he had cause to regret the position that he had taken, for the next day Lord Dorset took the matter up with the minister (Dudon fils to Montmorin, 22 May 1787; French & Nephew to Montmorin, 26 May 1787; G. Woulfe to Montmorin, 2 June 1787; Montmorin to Fumel, 15 June 1787; Lamoignon to Montmorin, 15 June 1787; Montmorin to Breteuil, 15 June 1787; Montmorin to French & Nephew, 19 June 1787; Montmorin to Woulfe, 19 June 1787; Breteuil to Montmorin, 20 June 1787, acknowledging Montmorin’s letter to Fumel and stating: “Je la trouve parfaitement conforme aux vraix principes du droit des gens”; all in Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; Tr in DLC; see Barclay to TJ, 29 June 1787, for his account of the shipment of tobacco that he was accused of diverting from its promised object).

It is not clear what motives lay back of Dorset’s intervention, but the fact that he did so indicates the powerful influences set in motion by Barclay’s determined creditors. It is also certain that Dorset’s interest was decisive in causing Montmorin to reverse himself. The British ambassador was in full possession of the facts of the case as stated by French & Nephew; he also suggested that some of Barclay’s debts had been incurred before he became consul and were accompanied by fraudulent circumstances. He hinted that there might be doubt as to whether Barclay really was clothed with the pretended character of “agent extraordinaire.” Without pursuing this last, Dorset declared however: “il est notoire qu’il est parti de Maroc depuis plusieurs mois, qu’il a resté quelque temps à Cadiz; on m’assure qu’il a même été ici a Paris, le lieu de son prétendu domicile; et l’on voit qu’actuellement il demeure à Bordeaux et nullement comme un voyageur qui se rend au lieu de sa demeure.—Sur ces faits je m’en rapporte à Votre Excellence pour prendre telles mesures que vous jugerez convenables, soit en ordonnant la cassation immédiate de l’arrêt qui met le Sr. Barklay en liberté de refuser le payement de sa dette, ou en l’obligeant de donner les suretés necessaires pour que les Sr. French & Nephew ne Soient point abusivement frustrés du payement d’une dette legitime” (Dorset to Montmorin, 16 June 1787; same). It is not certain who reported so accurately on Barclay’s movements, but TJ believed that French & Nephew had interested Eden in their behalf (TJ to Barclay, 19 June 1787). It is possible that this was the case: Eden’s long connection with the British intelligence service would have made it easy for him to find out all about Barclay’s slow journey to and from Morocco. It is also significant that TJ esteemed the mild and urbane Dorset, but that he believed Eden was disposed to do us all the ill he can. Whether Dorset’s extraordinary interposition was undertaken on his own initiative or at Eden’s suggestion is not known, but, on its surface, the Bordeaux incident would appear to have been of no concern to the British ambassador or to his nation, except in the general question of diplomatic immunity.

On the day following Dorset’s appeal, TJ called at the Foreign Office to request the safe conduct that Barclay had asked for. Montmorin’s responses voiced the opinions that Dorset had expressed—the hint of duplicity on Barclay’s part, the doubt of his diplomatic rank since he had not been deputed by Congress, the tardiness of his journey, &c. This differed materially from what Montmorin had given Fumel and Dudon two days earlier, but TJ was scarcely in a position to argue that Barclay was anything more than an agent. In his letter of commendation to Barclay of 3 Aug. 1787 he referred to him as “minister to … Marocco,” but this was written after the Bordeaux incident: when he had applied for a passport in 1785 it was for “Thomas Barclay, Esqr., agent to the court of Morocco” (Commissioners to Vergennes, 1–11 Oct. 1785) and Vergennes had issued it as such. Though he could not have known it, TJ was on still shakier ground when he asked if a safe conduct could be issued to enable Barclay to go to America, for Montmorin’s position as expressed to Fumel had already ruled out any possibility of immunity for Barclay, even as minister, if he showed any inclination to depart for America. Thus Montmorin could only reply to this inquiry that it was “doubtful” (TJ to Barclay, 19 June 1787). He promised to do what he could. There can scarcely be any doubt that, as TJ reported to Barclay on 4 July, Montmorin was cordially disposed, but he was also sorely troubled. (A rough, undated aide-mémoire of TJ’s request, probably made by Rayneval, is in Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; Tr in DLC.)

On the very day that TJ reported to Barclay about his interview at the Foreign Office, Montmorin wrote to Dudon reversing the position that he had taken on 15 June: “j’étois dans la ferme persuasion,” he declared, “que ce Consul général revenoit directement du Havre, et qu’il n’etait que de passage à Bordeaux pour retourner à son domicile qui est à Paris. Comme je suis informé du contraire, et comme la qualité de Consul Général dont est revetu le Sr Barklay ne le soustrait pas a la jurisdiction ordinaire surtout pour des faits de commerce, rien ne sauroit empêcher les Srs French de le poursuivre par toutes les voyes de droit pour recouvrement de la créance qu’ils ont sur lui. Je m’impresse, M[onsieur], de vous faire part de ces principes, afin de rectifier ce qu’une erreur de fait m’avoit engagé a vous mander. Je suis persuadé d’avance … que vous ne ferez pas intervenir votre Ministere pour mettre obstacle aux nouvelles poursuites des Srs. French.” Montmorin forwarded a copy of this letter to President de Pichard; the drafts for both letters were prepared by Rayneval (Montmorin to Dudon, 19 June 1787; Montmorin to Pichard, 21 June 1787; Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; Tr in DLC).

Dudon, who must have received this letter around 25 June, did not reply until Saturday the 30th, when he entered a vigorous protest. The “Protecteurs des Sieurs French,” he declared, had somehow obtained copies of Montmorin’s letter and had made it public. He thought, nevertheless, that it was not too late to bring before Montmorin “quelques reflections que votre justice, et votre profonde Sagesse approuveront Certainement.” The application of the principles of the law of nations to Barclay’s case was not so erroneous as his adversaries had tried to persuade the minister: Barclay was indeed on his way through Bordeaux to Paris to complete his mission, as Dudon thought he could prove by information he had obtained from “un portefeuille contenant en original le traité d’entre l’empereur de Maroc et les etats unis de l’Amerique, et une lettre de l’empereur a ces memes Etats. J’ai eu trois jours ce portefeuille en mon pouvoir. Plusieurs Magistrats ont vu avec moi ces pieces authentiques.” Dudon concluded from this that the mission of an ambassador or an envoy could be considered at an end only when he had delivered up to the power he represented the letters and treaties that he had been authorized to negotiate. These documents, he reported, had not been introduced in evidence before the parliament when the Arrêt was issued; Barclay had only shown his passports at that time, since his papers had been seized at the moment of his arrest. But the first use Barclay had made of his liberty was to justify his public character by showing the treaty of which he was the bearer. “Sans doute,” Dudon declared, “si le Sieur Barklai n’etoit que Consul Général, il Seroit soumis a touttes les Loix du Commerce qu’il exerce mais jugés vous meme Monsieur le Comte d’après l’exposé que j’ai l’honneur de vous faire, s’il n’est pas encore Aujourdhuy revetu d’un Caractere national, qui le met sous la Sauvegarde du droit Public. Je ne dois pas d’ailleurs oublier de vous dire que M. de Jefferson passant à Bordeaux est venu lui meme chez moi, attester par les remerciements qu’il m’a faits, la qualite qu’il reconnoissoit dans la personne du Sieur Barklay.—Les Sieurs French meritent … toutte votre protection pour leur procurer le payement d’une dette aussi legitime que Considérable. Je me permettrai meme de vous dire qu’il semble que les Etats unis ne pourroient mieux reconnoitre les egards que l’on a eu pour leur délégué, qu’en assurant l’acquittement de cette dette: mais que je m’egare ou non, je vous demande votre protection en faveur des Sieurs French pour l’epoque a laquelle leur debiteur cessera d’etre sous la protection du droit des gens. Dans ce moment ci je vous supplie Monsieur le Comte, de vous tenir en garde contre des sollicitations que peuvent facilement se procurer des Negotiants qui achettent beaucoup de vin dans un pays ou les personnages les plus Considérables n’ont d’autre fortune que cette espèce de denrée, qui met tous les Etats presque a la merci du Commerce” (Dudon to Montmorin, 30 June 1787; same). The Procureur du Roi was not only steadfast in support of the public principles that he had originally argued so zealously, but he also pointedly described the means by which those who opposed his position were able to bring influence to bear on the minister. The chief difficulty with his new evidence was that the “originals” of the Treaty with Morocco had been sent to America some months earlier and TJ himself had already told Barclay: “If you should find it more eligible to proceed from Bourdeaux to Congress directly, I know of nothing relative to your office which need prevent it” (TJ to Barclay, 19 June 1787; italics supplied).

Dudon may have realized that his appeal was too late. The matter was to be taken up by the Parliament of Bordeaux on Monday, 2 July, and Barclay was almost certain to undergo another arrest, with the danger of years of imprisonment. What Dudon did in the face of this threat was to send a secret messenger to Barclay, warn him of his danger, and thus give Bondfield time to engage the boat that spirited the “cruelly agitated” Barclay and his partner Loreilhe away from Bordeaux on Sunday night (Bondfield to TJ, 3 July 1787). Two days later Dudon wrote Montmorin that French & Nephew had requested of the parliament that Barclay be arrested again and that “votre facon de penser sur l’etendue et le terme des privileges attaches a la mission dont cet Etranger Etoit chargé” would determine the outcome. Dudon had reason to voice this opinion; on the same day he declared before the parliament: “Vu la requête, ensemble les pieces. Vu aussi la Lettre écrite, par Monsieur le Comte de Montmorin, aux Supplians, le 19 Juin dernier; et autre Lettre, à nous adressée par le même Ministre, portant que ledit Barklay n’est plus revêtu d’aucun caractere public.—Requérons; attendu ce qui resulte desdites Lettres, que la Commission dud. Sr. Barklay a pris fin, faisant droit de l’opposition que nous déclarons formée envers l’Arrêt de la Cour, dud. jour 19 Mai der., remettre les Parties au même et semblable état qu’elles étoient auparavant; en conséquence, être permis aux Supplians de faire de nouveau arrêter ledit Barklay, en vertu des condamnations, portant contre lui contrainte par corps; moyenant ce, être déclaré n’y avoir lieu de prononcer sur l’opposition formée, par les Supplians, envers l’Arrêt de la Cour du 19 Mai dernier, ni sur les autres conclusions de la présente Requête.” Accordingly, on 4 July 1787, the Arrêt of 19 May was revoked and a new one, calling for Barclay’s arrest and declaring that he was no longer clothed with a public character, was issued. French & Nephew, expressing their great gratitude to Montmorin for his part in this new turn in the affair, nevertheless had reason to complain: “mais notre debiteur en a été averti à tems et il a disparu.” Protesting against their great loss, they declared: “C’est donc à vous, Monseigneur, que nous en devons toute la reconnaissance et nous Solicitons de Votre grandeur de Nouveau de representer notre Situation on ne peut plus malheureuse auprès du Congrès ou auprès de Mr. Jefferson leur representant à Paris et de les obliger a nous Cautionner du Moins en France afin d’Eviter des poursuites Ulterieures de notre part Contre le Sieur Barclay à Paris. Il est d’ailleurs de toute Justice puisque notre debiteur a eté Enlargi des prisons par Egard au Congrès.” Montmorin, who had not replied to Lamoignon’s appeal of 15 June in behalf of French & Nephew and who evidently did not reply to Dudon’s letter of 3 July, closed the matter by informing Lamoignon that the creditors were armed with new powers, but that he had been informed Barclay had departed for America (Dudon to Montmorin, 3 July 1787; French & Nephew to Montmorin, 21 July 1787; Montmorin to Lamoignon, 6 Aug. 1787; all in Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxii; Tr. in DLC; the Arrêt of 4 July 1787 is in Journal de Guienne, 17 July 1787, enclosed in Bondfield to TJ, 17 July 1787, q.v.; see also TJ to Jay, 6 Aug. 1787).

Thus Barclay had escaped the very real danger of a long, harrowing, and disgraceful imprisonment; the consequent threat to Franco-American relations was avoided; Dudon had maintained his “public principles” steadfastly in the face of the minister’s about-face; French & Nephew had received all of the legal weapons that would be needed against their adversary once he reentered French jurisdiction; TJ was no longer obliged to press for a safe conduct at the very moment when he was bending every effort to have the regulations favoring American commerce enforced; and Montmorin was released from the mounting pressures that had troubled him so greatly in this affair. In view of this practical denouement, it is difficult to avoid the surmise that the person in “high office” who was ultimately responsible for the secret warning sent to Barclay on Sunday, 1 July, may have been one occupying a much higher office than that of Procureur Général du Roi for Bordeaux. Such a surmise may be unfounded, and may even be unjust, but so effective a solution to the problem posed by a small incident that had potential influence on much larger issues would not very likely have escaped the notice of so skilled and so cordially disposed a diplomat as Montmorin.

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