Thomas Jefferson Papers

IV. Jefferson’s Notes on the History of the Medals, [ca. 8 July 1792]

IV. Jefferson’s Notes on the History of the Medals

[ca. 8 July 1792]

Congress voted medals to several officers and directed1 Rob. Morris their minister of finance to have them made. He authorized Colo. Humphreys to have this done in Europe. Colo. Humphreys had contracted for some of them, had made some paiments, and left the whole business to be finished by me. I made contracts for the rest, and the whole of those named in Mr. Morris’s list, were compleated and one medal either in gold or silver (according to the vote) was made for each officer and a set in silver for Genl. Washington. All this was paid for by Mr. Grand on my orders. The two sets of medals were brought by me and delivered to the President, who was thought the proper person to deliver those destined for the officers to themselves. Adml. Jones’s having been last ordered, was not finished till after I left France, and so was left for Mr. Short to look to.

Congress by their resolution of July 27. 87. directed me to present a set of these medals to2 the different powers of Europe, to the universities of Europe, to certain officers there, and to send 215. sets to America. Those for Europe I supposed would be about 110. sets.3 It was necessary that each set should be arranged in a box; on trial of different cabinet makers, one Upton was found to make the boxes best and on the best terms, and as it would be a work of time to have so many made by one hand, he was set about them in due time.4 It was necessary he should recieve his money from time to time and in small sums. I found it therefore less inconvenient to pay him those little sums myself from time to time than to load Mr. Grand’s accounts with such a number of small orders. Hence it happened that the paiments to him entered into my accounts while the other paiments in general were made by Mr. Grand. The boxes made were lodged at Mr. Grand’s office, and Upton was going on with the work when I left Paris. Hurry at my departure, and a firm expectation of returning prevented my settling with him and taking his receipt for the sums I had paid him, and my destination being afterwards changed it was impossible for me to offer to the Auditor any other voucher than my own oath. The boxes deposited with Mr. Grand are a further voucher. After I returned to America Genl. Lee applied to me for the medal voted him by Congress, which Mr. Morris’s list had by mistake omitted, and producing to me the resolution of Congress for the purpose I put it in hand with Wright to be executed in Philadelphia. Wright, as well as I recollect, would not agree to warrant against the quality of the steel. His dies broke after they were executed, so that this matter was not concluded when I left Philada.

It may be observed that so much of the resolution of Congress as respects the whole of the medals to be made and presented (except those to the officers themselves and the set to Genl. Washington) remains still to be executed, and that a considerable expense is already incurred in the proceeding to execute it.

Besides the expences for the medals presented in my accounts, I presume other details will be found in Colo. Humphrey’s and Mr. Short’s.

All the papers in my possession respecting them are now returned to the Auditor.

Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 233: 41772a); at head of text: “Notes as to Medals” docketed by TJ: “Medals” undated, but probably ca. 8 July 1792 when TJ submitted his accounts, possibly after 31 Dec. 1793 when he left office.

Henry Lee’s application to TJ for the medal voted him was evidently made in person: no evidence exists of a written request. Joseph Wright, first draftsman and diesinker to the United States Mint, returned to Philadelphia from New York in 1790 and died there in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 (George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society’s dictionary of artists in America, New Haven, 1957, p. 705). his dies broke: Loubat found only Wright’s “original die of the obverse” in the Mint at Philadelphia, so it was evidently the die of the reverse that broke (Loubat, Medallic history description begins J. F. Loubat, The Medallic History of the United States of America, 1776–1876, New York, 1878, 2 vols. description ends , i, 29). Morris’s list has not been found. Upton was a cabinetmaker whom TJ had employed as early as May 1785. On 9 Apr. 1789 an entry in TJ’s Account Book mentions for the first time the cases made for the medals: on that date he paid “Upton for Medal boxes for U.S. 96livre tournois on account,” and three days later he paid an additional 144 livres on account. An entry for 31 July 1789 shows that he paid Upton for a “case for 11 medals for U.S.” 24 livres. While most of Upton’s work was done in 1789, it is clear that TJ had entered into contract with him at the time the Gates and Greene medals were being executed: on 27 Dec. 1787 Short paid the cabinetmaker “for six boxes of medals the sum of ninety livres agreeable to the contract with Mr. Jefferson” (DLC: Short Papers, receipt in Short’s hand, signed by Upton).

1This word interlined in substitution for “authorized,” deleted.

2TJ wrote at this point, and then deleted: “every.”

3This sentence is interlined in substitution for the following, deleted: “This would require [96?] sets for Europe and 215. for America.”

4The end of this sentence and the beginning of the next originally read: “… immediately. In his poverty,” &c. TJ then caused the passage to read as above.

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