Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Charles Pinckney, 21 September 1789

To Charles Pinckney

Paris Sep. 21. 1789.


I have duly received the honor of your Excellency’s letter of April 4. inclosing the several papers relative to the creditors of S. Carolina in Europe, and undertake with great pleasure to execute your commands on that subject. I wrote immediately to Mr. Strackeiser of Bordeaux to inform him of the measures taken by the government of S. Carolina for the paiment of their foreign debts. I have received no answer from him: but Mr. Cutting, who delivered him the letter, tells me he was not disposed to alter the nature of his credit on the state. I have received from the house of Nicholas & Jacob Van Staphorst Commodore Gillon’s original bond for 69,795 florins 15 sous currt. and one hundred and fifty other original bonds of his for one thousand gilders each, for which I inclose certificates in the form prescribed in your Excellency’s letter, and have given them two sets of triplicate receipts corresponding with the certificates. In fact they are in the same words. Being to sail for America in the course of the present week, I will take these originals with me, and be very happy to receive at New York your Excellency’s permission to deposit them in the hands of your delegates there, or in such other hands as you please. I have the honor to be with sentiments of the most profound respect & esteem, your Excellency’s most obedt. & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC). Enclosure: A copy of one of the certificates acknowledging receipt from N. & J. Van Staphorst for 150 bonds, numbered 1 to 150, issued by Alexander Gillon in Jan. 1781 as agent for South Carolina “for One Thousand Guilders Holland Currency each Bond reimbursable to Bearer in January 1787” and attesting that the firm would accept in exchange funds provided by the ordinance of 13 Mch. 1789 (clerk’s copy, signed by TJ, dated at Paris, 21 Sep. 1789, in CtY). TJ evidently enclosed also a copy of the certificates issued in acknowledgment of receipt of Gillon’s original bond, but no copy has been found save that signed by William Short on 9 Nov. 1789, which, with a translation of Gillon’s bond of 17 July 1778, is in DLC: Short Papers.

At the time that TJ received the bonds and delivered the certificates to Jacob van Staphorst, the latter executed and handed over to TJ on behalf of the firm of N. & J. van Staphorst an acknowledgment that they had agreed to settle the account with South Carolina conformably to the ordinance of 13 Mch. 1789, and that they possessed TJ’s receipt for the bonds (dated at Paris, 21 Sep. 1789; this acknowledgment quotes TJ’s receipt in substance and contains on verso a list of European creditors of South Carolina, with amounts and such comments by Van Staphorst as “has an Indent,” “Open account I believe,” “A Gillon’s bond,” “Settled by the Legislature,” &c.: DLC: TJ Papers, 52: 8839–40). The Amsterdam firm at first had been disinclined to turn over the original bonds, but at last consented. The present exchange, however, was only one incident in the long drawn out affair: TJ had previously drafted the form of a receipt, whereupon the following “Abstract of a letter of Mess. Van Staphorst & Hubbard of Amsterdam, dated 31st. Augt. 1789” and presumably addressed to Jacob van Staphorst in Paris, was handed to TJ: “On a minute examination of the Receipt given by Mr. Jefferson for the Carolina Bond, we have remarked that the Translation from the Low-dutch is defective; but was this otherwise the Translation already adopted by the State must be preferable. The expression of your having assured Mr. Jefferson of your willingness to accept the funds provided by the Funding Ordinance implies no more than a mere verbal promise, instead of the engagement you delivered him to accept the Entry of the Amount to your Credit as the full discharge of the Bond and liquidation of your Claim, in which engagement is expressed that you gave it at foot of the Bond, whereas you appear to have given it on a separate paper. But we are of opinion it is highly necessary to be given at the foot of the Bond, to avoid the objection that might be urged of the bonds not being discharged, which all such Effects not to bearer ought to be, and was a reason why the Engagement was framed with such a care and attention, as to Include a complete settlement of the business on the Transfer being made. In this view it likewise contained a receipt for the £495.5.9 received by Mr. Cutting, which is probably in diminution of the claim of the audited Account and not of the bond as your receipt expresses. Wherefore, to put this affair in perfect order, please to annul the said receipt for £495.5.9 by Scraping it out from the Obligation and give the Engagement at foot of obligation as was intended and is expressed; afterwards deliver up to Mr. Jefferson the two receipts he has signed, against his passing three inclosed ones, all of which I have made out to save you the trouble; Then all will be in order. We wish to have three Certificates, two to send to Carolina by different Conveyances, and one to hold by us. To morrow we shall answer Mr. Cuttings letter to England” (in hand of Nicholas Hubbard—which explains why the certificates signed by TJ are also in Hubbard’s hand; DLC). It was in consequence of these directions that the certificates were executed—but this was far from putting the affair in perfect order.

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