Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Proposal by Daniel Parker for Packets, 20 November 1788

Proposal by Daniel Parker for Packets


Les Paquet Boat, établi par le Gouvernement pour le Transport des Lettres de France à l’Amérique et de retour, ayant été suprimés vû leur grande depenses, et le Commerce entre les deux Nations, ce trouvant presque detruit faute d’une Communication réguliere le Soussigné, Américain, qui à l’honneur d’être connu de Son Excellence M. Jefferson du Marquis de La Fayette, et de M. Le Couteulx soumet la proposition suivante pour rétablir les Paquet Boat, meme à une depence moins que la Somme que le Bureau de la Poste a consenti de payer pour un transport.1

1. Le Soussigné, pourvoyra Six Batiments pour Paquet Boat, construit sur un Modele convenable, du port de 120 a 200 Tonneaux2 completement equipés pour le trajet de France à L’Amerique.

2. Un de ces Batiments, sera pret à partir du Havre pour Boston, et également un de Boston pour le Havre le 1r. Jour de chaque mois, auquel jour, la Malle sera livré au Capitaine au Havre, qui la remettra à Son arriveé à Boston, au Consul de Sa Majesté, au dit lieu.3

3. Le Gouvernement Sera tenû de payer pour le transport de chaque Malle à Boston ou au Havre, quatre mille huit cent livres Tournois, sans être Sujet à aucune autre demande, pourvû que les Bâtiments soyent exempt de tous fraix de Port et que de plus, l’huile de Baleine qui pourra être chargé à Boston dans les dits Bâtiments pour la France, soit exempt de tous Droits et Impots, étant dessigné pour l’encouragement d’une nouvelle Manufacture établi à Rouen ou l’huile Sera rafiné.4 Paris Nov. 20. 1788.

Danl. Parker

MS (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., Vol. xxxiii; Tr in DLC); at head of text: “Envoyé copie à M. d’Ogny le 11 Xbre. 1788.” Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 40: 6785); in French, undated; in an unidentified clerk’s hand (though it is to be noted that it is the same hand as that of the document discussed in notes to enclosure in TJ to Madison, 18 Nov. 1788). While described as Dft for purposes of identification in the notes below, this is actually an earlier form of the proposal, possibly drawn up for TJ’s use as an aide mémoire; the significant differences are pointed out in the notes.

The brevity of the above text (and that of Dft, its prototype) may very well be due to discussions of this proposal among TJ, Lafayette, and Parker. An earlier and longer form of Parker’s proposal exists in both English and French and bears date of 8 May 1788. The English text reads in part as follows: “Being a Citizen of the united States of America and anxious to encourage and extend the Commerce between them and this Country, he has employd himself to find a regular and certain Sale for the American Whale Oil, that would produce to the northern Parts of the United States the means of Payment for such of the products and Manufactures of france, as they Desire annually to purchase. From his inquiries he has found that those Oils may be refin’d and so manufactured in france, as to command a constant and regular Sale of more than One thousand Tons per Annum. The knowledge of refining and manufacturing those Oils is yet unknown in this Kingdom and when introduced will be a new and extensive Branch of useful Manufacture and Industry. The Expence necessary for erecting a Work of such magnitude will be very considerable, and the advantage which this Kingdom will derive from such an Establishment is sufficient to merit its Support and patronage. From these Considerations the undersignd takes the liberty to request that Government will encourage the establishment of this Manufacture by granting a bounty on all the Whale Oils, which shall be manufactured therein, and that such bounty may be equal to the duties which are now paid on the Whale Oil imported from America. This will enable him to make the Establishment with Certainty and to prosecute it with success.—Granting a bounty on the Oil to be manufactured by the undersign’d cannot be consider’d by Government as an Expence, or as Diminishing the Revenue, for unless such encouragement is given, the Oils will not be imported into france. Consequently by establishing the Manufacture and importing the Oils, he augments the Revenue to the full Amount of the Bounty he sollicits.—The Importation of Oils from America necessary for such an establishment will require the constant employ of four or six Vessels in passing from America to france. This Circumstance has induc’d the undersign’d to propose through Messrs Le Couteulx & Cie. Bankers in Paris to transport the Mails from france to America.—The terms, which are contain’d in that proposal are four thousand eight hundred livres perMail. The Post Office has hitherto paid five thousand livres per Mail exclusive of the Charges of fitting the Packets, which has amounted to near fifteen thousand livres perVoyage. By accepting the Proposal the undersign’d then made, Government will be relieved from the Expence of fifteen thousand Livres perVoyage, and the Post Office after paying the whole Expence of transporting the Mails will save two hundred Livres.” (DLC: TJ Papers, 39: 6675–6; signed by Parker and dated at Paris, 8 May 1788; French and English texts in parallel columns.)

It is obvious why this form of the proposal came to rest among TJ’s private papers and was never submitted to the French government: it was primarily a scheme to help Parker get his whale-oil refinery established, with the reestablishment of the mail service and savings to the government being employed only as inducements. This might have appealed to the postal authorities, but it would scarcely have met with support from the farmers-general, with whom TJ was experiencing considerable difficulty over the subject of duty on whale-oil at the very time that Parker drew up the plan in this early form. The obstacle was plainly in view, and its influence on the development of the proposal is suggested in the variant phraseology of Dft, the intermediate stage of the scheme (see note 4, especially). The plan that TJ finally presented officially was one that emphasized reestablishment of the mail service and substantial savings to the government as the primary aim; the exemption of duty was subordinated and for the encouragement of a refinery that Parker indicated was already in existence (yet there was also an actual increase in his demand in the sense that he now requested exemption for his ships from all port charges).

This metamorphosis of the plan, drawing attention away from private objectives and focusing them on the public aim of improving communication between the two nations and of effecting useful economies for the French government, was adroit diplomacy. It is difficult to believe that TJ, who understood both the intransigence of the farmers-general and the necessities of the French government, did not exert some influence on this evolution of the proposal; both the brevity of the document and the nature of its change are typical of his method. Furthermore, being at this time engaged in an effort to obtain an exemption of duty for all American whaleoil, and, preferring always the presentation of a general over a particular case, he would naturally have counselled Parker to adopt such a modification.

Adroit or not, the effort was unsuccessful. Moustier, Crèvecoeur, De la Forest, and other French officials in America had deplored the interruption of communication with America in the spring of 1788 when the packet boats were suppressed, and shortly before TJ transmitted Parker’s proposals, Baron d’Ogny, Intendant Général des Postes, had sent to Montmorin a résumé of plans that had been suggested by French officials in America. That of De la Forest was favored by D’Ogny: it proposed that a commercial firm be engaged to establish regular packet boats directly from L’Orient to Norfolk, “où se fait la majeure partie du Commerce de France” and where French wines and brandies were most in demand and tobacco for France could be procured most readily. Montmorin thought that this arrangement would be useful and necessary, and on 31 Oct. 1788 wrote D’Ogny: “J’aprendrai avec beaucoup de plaisir que vous êtes parvenu à le faire d’après les bazes que vous avez bien voulu me communiquer.” However, on 11 Dec. 1788 Montmorin sent to D’Ogny TJ’s letter and Parker’s proposal, saying: “Vous y verrez la proposition que fait un Americain d’establir des paquebots pour la Communication reciproque entre la France et Les Etats Unis, aux conditions énouncées dans Son Memoire. Je vous prie, M. de m’en dire votre Sentiment et de me mettre en état de faire une réponse à M. Jefferson.” A week later D’Ogny transmitted to Montmorin the proposal of a Bordeaux merchant who offered to make six voyages a year at 10,000 livres per voyage each way in time of peace or a total of 120,000 livres per year, double that in time of war: a sum “trés modique et impossible de pouvoir le faire à meilleur marché.” But D’Ogny admitted that the proposal of “Mr. d’Anparker Ameriquain … recommandé à Mr. le Cte de Montmorin par Mr. Jefferson,” though amounting to almost an equal cost, had certain advantages: “1. Douze départs au lieu de 6. donneront plus d’activité à la Correspondance, et pourront accélérer les Progrès de nos liaisons Commerciales avec les Etats Unis, et nous mettroient en mesure avec l’Angleterre qui depuis peu a augmenté le Nombre de ses Paquebots pour les Etats Unis.—2. L’Introduction en France des huiles de Baleine et leur Rafinement au Havre, nous donneroit une Manufacture nouvelle qui pourroit devenir utile au Commerce, sans diminuer le produit des Droits du Roi, puisque jusqu’à présent nous n’avons pas tiré des huiles de Baleine de Boston faute de Savoir l’art de les Rafiner.” D’Ogny thought, however, that these advantages were balanced by the fact that packet boats departing from Bordeaux and alternating between Norfolk and New York would produce a correspondence “plus générale et plus facile”; he left it to Montmorin to decide which of the two proposals to accept, but pointed out that, if Parker’s were adopted, it would be necessary to confer with Luzerne and Necker for decision as to exemptions from duty asked by Parker. The last necessity may have been a determining factor, for the arrêt of 7 Dec. 1788, granted at TJ’s insistence and balking Luzerne’s manoeuvre in the matter of whale oil, had just been issued. In the end neither Rucker nor Parker received the contract: it was awarded to a ship-owner of St. Malo, Benjamin Dubois, who agreed to make six voyages a year between Bordeaux and Norfolk, touching at New York, for only 36,000 livres per year, a bargain rate that produced a result pleasing to no one. TJ declined using the service, and apparently the highest tribute it received was from Moustier, who could only say that it was better than nothing at all. If Luzerne was the real reason for the failure of Parker’s plan, his compensatory victory was a niggardly one. (See D’Ogny to Montmorin, 11 Oct. 1788, with résumé of proposals from De la Forest and others; Montmorin to D’Ogny, 31 Oct. 1788; Moustier to Montmorin, 18 Nov. 1788, particularly regretting the suspension of the packet boats because, since his arrival in America, he had witnessed “une revolution dans le Gouvernement des Etats Unis, qui change entièrement les raports sous lesquels on a pû les envisager jusqu’à present” and he required new instructions; Montmorin to D’Ogny, 11 Dec. 1788; D’Ogny to Montmorin, 19 Dec. 1788, enclosing the proposals of Rucker and also an analysis of Rucker’s and Parker’s plans; D’Ogny to Montmorin, 25 Feb. 1789; Montmorin to [Oster], Feb. 1789; Luzerne to Montmorin, 15 Mch. 1789; Tempié to Montmorin, 24 Mch. 1789;Dubois to Montmorin, 25 Apr. 1789, protesting that he had not been paid according to contract; Montmorin to D’Ogny, 7 May 1789; D’Ogny to Montmorin, 9 May 1789; all of the foregoing in Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.—U., xxxiii-xxxiv; Tr in DLC. See also Julia Post Mitchell, St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, New York, 1916, p. 175–216.)

1Instead of this paragraph, Dft merely states that Parker proposes to carry the mail between Boston and Le Havre for a period of seven years.

2Dft reads: “Il fera construire Six Paquet Boats par le celébré Peck, construit sur le meilleur modele pour ce Service, du port de 102 a 150 Tonneaux.”

3Dft reads: “… le premier de chaque mois avec le messager du Roi, que sera chargé de la malle.”

4Dft reads: “…pourvu, que toute l’huile de Baleine chargé à Boston dans les Paquets Boat, pour la manufacture que le S. Parker a proposé d’établir à Rouen sera libre de droits. [in note keyed to this point by asterisk: “sil se trouve quelque objection a la proposition de rendre l’huile libre de droit, le dit Sieur sera egallement satisfait en recevant une gratification sur l’huile qu’il raffinera a sa manufacture.”] Le dit Sieur donnera une cautionement sufisante qu’il remplira son Engagement.”

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