Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Carmichael, 29 May 1788

From William Carmichael

Aranjuez 29 May 1788

My Dear Sir

I forwarded last week by Mr. Symons the paper mentioned in my last. I have received no letters from America since, but have seen a Philadelphia paper of the 7th of April, in which there is published an extract of a letter from General Washington expressive of his opinion that the Constitution would be adopted by the State of Virginia. Here1 the attention of our politicians have of late been much engaged by the armaments made in Sweden. The Russian minister attributes them to England which court he asserts is intriguing every where to embarrass the imperial courts. He thinks or is led by his resentiment to suppose that so far from promoting the ends proposed their present measures will finally bring about an alliance which finally will prevent them from disturbing others from a desire of regaining their former superiority: I find that he has [had] a long conversation with the minister of state on this subject who wishes to prevent the war from becoming general, but at present apprehends that it will be impracticable if Great Britain persists in pursuing it’s underhand Policy. I find from the same quarter that the count of Florida Blanca hath spoken to Mr. Eden seriously on the tendency of this kind of Policy, citing their intrigues with the court of Sweden and the Assistance afforded by them to the Turks, contrary to their assurances of neutrality. In the last mentioned instance he alluded to a ship of 800 and 50 tons from England to Gi[braltar] which lately sailed from thence to Constantinople with warlike stores. This ship was formerly the L’Oiseau,2 a French frigate captured last war. He told the Abovementioned person that Mr. [Eden] had little to reply to his discourse and in the course [of] the conversation said that if Spain was forced into a war He would go up to the neck into it, but that he wished peace and intreated the other not to aigrir sa court3 by his letter to Petersburg. Such is the substance of what I have learnt. Please to compare it with what you have heard on these points and favor me with your Sentiments thereon. The Russian adds that he expected shortly to know the sum furnished to [Sweden, and how].4 I must be allowed to add for your government that he and the one at Paris are great enemies.

The only representation made against the order which I inclosed you lately that I have heard of is by the Chargè des Affaires of Holland. I shall transmit to you it and the answer in my next if the person who has promised me the copies, keeps his word. Mr. Lardizabal often asks for you and desires me to present his respects to you. I suppose the Squadron mentioned in my former letters is by this time on its return to Port. I have seen a letter from the Missisippi which mentions some preparations made to oppose any Attempt that might be made to enter on the Territory of Spain in that part of the World by the People whom some Englishmen have been endeavouring to excite to hostility on the waters of the Missisippi. These preparations are made I suppose in Consequence of the information given by Congress to Mr. Gardoqui on this subject. Whenever an opportunity presents I beg you to mention me to the Ct. de Montmorin. You will shortly have the Dutchess of Vauguion and a part of the Family with you. The Ambassador accompanies his Lady as far as Bourdeaux. I have the honor to be with great respect & Esteem Your Excys. Obliged & Hble. Sert.,

Wm. Carmichael

RC (DLC); partly in code.

The Russian Minister at Madrid was Stefan Zinovieff, and the One at Paris, for whom he felt such enmity that Carmichael thought it necessary to put TJ on guard, was Ivan-Matvevitch Simoline. William Eden noted in his journal on 1 June 1788 that the wife of the French Ambassador, “The Duchess de la Vauguyon, and her daughters, went away this morning on a leave of absence, and we suspect that they never mean to come back. They have been well liked here, and their absence will make a gap in the society” (Journal and Correspondence of William, Lord Auckland, London, 1860–2, ii, 38). The order against which the Charge des affaires of Holland made a representation was enclosed in Carmichael to TJ, 14 Apr. 1788, and, as promised, Carmichael reported further on the matter in his of 5 June 1788.

1This and subsequent words in italics are written in code and were decoded interlineally—and with difficulty—by TJ; his decoding has been verified where possible by the Editors, employing a partially reconstructed key to Code No. 11. Carmichael not only possessed a faulty code, and used it erratically at times, but he also apparently inserted from time to time a superfluous symbol for additional security (see TJ to Carmichael, 3 June 1788, and also note 4, below). Matter in brackets (supplied) was not encoded by Carmichael and has been editorially inserted. Some of Carmichael’s garbled encoding is conjecturally explained in the following notes.

2Carmichael erred in encoding the name of this frigate; of the four symbols employed by Carmichael, TJ decoded only three—“l,” “sea,” and “w.” (the last being interchangeable with “u”).

3The preceding three words are TJ’s decoding. It is not clear whether Carmichael was consciously attempting to use French or merely erred in encoding. TJ evidently thought Carmichael meant to say aigrir sa cour, for he interlined the decoding thus in spite of the fact that the correct symbol for “ai” was “317,” not, as Carmichael wrote, “1204.” It is likely that Carmichael intended to make the passage read in the following sense: “… in the course of the conversation [Floridablanca] said … that he wished peace and intreated the other [Zinovieff] not to aigrir sa court by his letter [letters?] to Petersburg.”

4Carmichael wrote “146. 1140. 329.” and TJ correctly decoded this as “President and now.” It is possible that the last two symbols were intended to be superfluous, and it is almost certain that Carmichael meant to write, instead of the first symbol, “140.”—the symbol for Sweden, a mistake he had already made in this letter in the phrase Intrigues with the court of Sweden, where “146.” was given by Carmichael and was interlineally decoded by TJ as “Sweden”; the fact that TJ did not bother to correct the earlier misuse of “146.” indicates that he allowed the context to suggest the correct reading without looking up the number in his cipher key. Carmichael clearly intended a new sentence to begin with the statement I must be allowed to add, &c., so that the concluding words of the previous sentence, and how, must be regarded either as intentionally superfluous or as an error made in encoding. If the latter is the case, then Carmichael may have intended to say: “The Russian adds that he expected shortly to know the sum furnished to Sweden, and how.” It is impossible to determine which of these is the correct solution, but the Editors have accepted the latter as seeming to them to have a slightly higher degree of plausibility.

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