Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Swan, 7 June 1788

From James Swan

Havre de Grace 7th. June 1788.


I had the honor of writing the Marquis de la Fayette two days since, with proposals for furnishing a quantity of Salt beef, Pork and Butter, and live Sheep and Oxen for the use of the Kings Army and Navy in Europe, and the Islands. The present is only to request that so far as you shall find it for the advantage of America, you would promote the Contract. I am sure that to reflect upon the issue of such a business, the Minister can not long hesitate in accepting the offer. You will observe by the proposals, a Copy of which I have enclosed, that I propose taking 15per Cent in Merchandise and Manufactures the first year: but if it should be an object, and would promote or effect the Contract, and it was made an absolute condition, I would increase it to 25per Cent. Any step which Mr. Parker may have taken in an affair of the same nature this cannot interfere with, as we shall join in one Contract, or manage it in such a manner as not to have the two effected.

Should it be an objection that I have proposed no term of Credit and that one is required, I will comply with that also. To point out to you, who have thorough knowledge of the resources and capabilities of the United States and of every individual state, the benefit that would arise to New England in having this Contract, or a supply equal to it, effected, must be idle. It would give health and spirits to the sinking industry of the Farmer, who finding no just market for the produce of his labour is really so despondent thousands in consequence are deserting the old and finding new Settlements.

When necessary to attend that I may obviate any objections and respond to questions which may be made, I shall go to Paris. In the meantime and always I shall remain very respectfully with which I have the honor to be Sir Your mo. obedient & very humble Servt.,

James Swan

Mr. Mangon la Forest & Co. here or M. Quesnel, Comy. of Marine at Rouen [will] forward any Letters for me.

RC (DLC). Enclosure (DLC): A two-page document, in French, dated at Le Havre, 29 May 1788, and signed “Jam. Swan de Boston,” submitting propositions to furnish to the government of France a quantity of salt pork and beef, livestock, and butter of New England for the royal army and navy in Europe as well as in the French West Indies, as follows: (1) 10 or 20,000 barrels of beef of the same quality and weight as that of Ireland, to be delivered in any port of France or of the islands after having been inspected and approved by an officer appointed to receive it, the part destined for the islands to be 5% cheaper than Irish beef; (2) 4,000 barrels of pork at the same price as that of Ireland, but of a quality very superior to it, “nos Porcs étant engraissés avec du Blee sauvage ou Maïs, ce qui leur rend la chair très excellente et très saine,” to be delivered subject to inspection and approval as in the case of the beef; (3) cattle and sheep to be furnished royal troops and vessels in the islands in such quantity as is agreed upon and at a price lower than customary, in acceptable condition, except that, as the passage is long, the contractor will be allowed reasonable indemnity for any unusual loss of stock due to accidents of the sea, &c.; (4) 400,000 pounds of butter, delivered, inspected, and approved as in the case of Pork: “Le Beurre en Amérique est supérieur en odeur et en qualité a celui d’Europe, à cause des pasturages qui y croissant sur un terrain neuf ont plus de suavité et de Goût” (5) these items to be delivered at stated periods; (6) on notification by the contractor to the French consul of shipment made from New England, he must be authorized to pay half immediately, either in specie or in bills of exchange on Paris at 90 days’ sight, the remaining half to be paid after, and at the place of, delivery in the islands or in France, except that, on being paid for supplies delivered in France, the contractors will be obliged to take 15% of their payment in French merchandise or produce the first year and to have this amount augmented by 2½% each year up to the end of the contract, the supplies being augmented always in the same proportion; (7) ships carrying supplies to the islands will have the right to take on molasses or other permissive merchandise from the port in which they have unladed; (8) this contract to be valid only during time of peace, though, if the government demands it, the contractors obligate themselves to furnish the same quantities in time of war at a just and acceptable augmentation in price; and (9) in order to guarantee the execution of the contract on their part, the contractors will give “une caution françois de toute Solidité.”

For a note on Swan, see Swan to TJ, 31 Jan. 1788. For TJ’s response and possible influence on this contract, see TJ to Swan, 19 June 1788; and Swan to TJ, 7 July 1788; and the altered proposals under 19 July 1788.

Index Entries