Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 7 July 1790

From William Short

Paris July the 7th. 1790

Dear Sir

The intelligence of your long and painful indisposition has given me, in common with all your friends here a real concern. They join me in solliciting you not to allow too intense an application to business to expose you again to an attack which by repetition must necessarily become dangerous. The account of the President’s narrow escape affected sincerely all the friends to America here. His re-establishment gives great pleasure. At present I have recieved either the originals or copies of all the letters you mention in yours of May the 27th. except—that of March the 28th and April 7th. My private letters since I have recieved from you the information of your remaining at New-York, have been June the 14th. and 29th. Of the first I sent a duplicate.

Petit and the packers are going on with the greatest expedition possible. I foresee no delay unless the fever of going to work at the Champ de Mars should take possession of the packers. They think that every thing will be ready in seven or eight days.—Petit still continues his determination not to go to America, unless he should hear farther from you. I suppose the truth is that he counts on being employed by your successor. Should he fail there and not be able to find any other suitable place, which is highly probable under the present circumstances of this country, then I think he would be easily induced to go to America, though he says that his plan in that case is to return to his province, where he has some land which he will attend to the cultivation of.—The old chariot and cabriolet are sold for 300.livre tournois It was the most that could be got. The horses are not sold because the highest price was twenty five guineas. I did not send them to the market because I feared they would not sell for so much. I have thought it would be best to keep them for your successor who will certainly be glad to give much more for them. Should it fall to my lot, of which however I am far from entertaining hopes I should be glad to have them and I judge of others by myself. Still if a tolerable price is offered for them they shall be sold.

Since my last I have heard nothing either from Langeac, who is in Switzerland, or his brother who is his attorney here. There is no doubt however that you are obliged by the expressions of the lease to keep the house three years from the day of its renewal, and I suppose as little doubt that Langeac will insist on that interpretation of it.—Still he may be certainly engaged to relinquish his claim for a small sacrifice and particularly as he is in treaty and has hopes of selling his house. There will be no difficulty in making the house rent paid since your departure, enter into Mr. Grand’s accounts and it shall be done.

Tolozan spoke to me again a few days ago and told me he knew that by the Constitution you could accept the present with the consent of Congress, which he knew also could be easily obtained. I told him that as yet there had been no instance of it, and that I supposed you did not chuse to be the first to sollicit it. Our conversation ended there, and he seemed well enough satisfied.

It has been understood that the Corps diplomatique are to be invited to the ceremony of the 14th. The Imperial, Spanish and Neapolitan Ambassadors not chusing to be present, and not liking either to refuse an invitation of the sort, are endeavouring to prevent the invitation. The Sardinian is going to visit the Bishop of Liege, it is supposed either that he may be absent on the 14th. or because a Mr. Cordon mistaken for him on the confines of Savoy has been arrested and insulted.—The English Ambassador and Ambassadress seem to please here very generally. They are still lodged in a hotel garni. She enquired of me very particularly about you some days ago, and told me she knew you here last year.

The Marquis de la fayette is running through his fortune and I fear will get to the end of it. He refuses to accept any salary which has been repeatedly offered to him by the municipality. He has a large tent spread in his garden which holds a table of an hundred plates. He intends that it shall be filled every day as long as the deputies of the gardes nationales continue here. Mde. de la fayette’s life has been despaired of; but she is now quite out of danger. Mde. de Tessé has been very ill also. She is still in Switzerland. I have sent her the letter you inclosed me. Pio, I am told has entered the service as one of the garde soldée. It has been a long time since I have seen him, but I suppose he has some expectation of promotion, as he begun by being a private soldier. He is considered as the most violent enragé, and lives now in the district of the Cordeliers as I am told, which is the maddest of all Paris.

I have just recieved a letter from London which informs me that the Queen of Portugal has appointed M. Friere her minister there as minister to America. There may be and probably is some mistake as to the name and rank of the person in question. The Ambassador of Portugal certainly knew nothing of it three days ago.

I hope I shall not be much longer without knowing something as to the foreign establishment which Congress shall decide on. In the present uncertainty I know not what steps to take and although I endeavour as much as possible to keep this situation out of my sight still it presents itself too often and with too much force to be resisted. I am sorry you did not say who were those veterans in office who were on the public list, for it is the only list you speak of. I enter very readily into your situation with respect to myself. I know your respect for public opinion and easily concieve that whatever might be your opinion as to my fitness for this place, if you concieved that the public would attribute my appointment to partiality in you, that you would be averse to taking such a degree of responsability on yourself. You my dear Sir are certainly the best and only judge how far that should weigh, and whether such an opinion would have existed in public. It certainly however could not have existed as to the appointment of chargé des affaires, and I think your opinion sometimes was that that grade was not an improper one. Certainly no inconvenience could have arisen for its being preserved for some time, and particularly during the absence and uncertain return of the French Minister. After having exercised that grade during that time, I should have shewn either that I was not proper to be appointed as Minister, or that I might be appointed with propriety even in the public opinion. This was what I had supposed would be the case. Others thought I should be appointed Minister immediately because they knew your opinion of me. I supposed it would be mediately because I knew better than they how those matters stood in America. I desired to be appointed for several reasons, and if I do not mistake one of them and the strongest was because I had allowed myself to be persuaded that I was more fit for it than another, and because I did not doubt I could be useful. I still hope that if by accident I should be continued here, I shall give no reason to repent of it. Adieu. Yr friend & servant,

W: Short

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Private”; endorsed as received 25 Oct. 1790 and so recorded in SJL. PrC (DLC: Short Papers).

This letter was enclosed in one from St. John de Crèvecoeur to TJ, L’Orient, 10 July 1790, who wrote: “It no doubt contains ample Informations of the Extraordinary Event which is to Take place in Paris on the 14th. Instant; I Tremble lest the Good Marquis shou’d not be able to maintain Peace and Good Order among so Great a concourse of People as will Flock there from every Part of the Kingdom. Messrs. Otto and de la Forest will send you the Gazette nationale for the Month of June. Few Instances Excepted in the Southern Provinces where the Sparks of the old Fanaticism have been Kindled by the Priests, Peace and Tranquillity every where Prevail. The Immense Crops which covers the Surface of the Kingdom, Promise Plenty. God Grant it may be Gathered without Rain” (RC in DLC; endorsed as received 14 Oct. 1790 and so recorded in SJL—a puzzling circumstance since both Short’s private and public letters of 7 July 1790 were received on 25 Oct. 1790 and these were the only ones that Crèvecoeur’s could have covered).

Only three days before writing the above letter Short, learning from Crèvecoeur’s son that his father had landed in France, wrote in some agitation: “He tells me you left New York on the 20th of May, and as I recieved the day before yesterday a letter from Mr. Jefferson by the Packet, I suppose you have crossed the Atlantic in it‥‥ I take the liberty of writing to ask if you came by the French Packet and if you can tell me how it happens that I get letters dated early in April by a vessel which sailed late in May. My latest letters from Mr. Jefferson are of the 30th of April. I am much surprized that he should not have made use of your good offices in forwarding me letters and gazettes as late as the day of your sailing. If you know any thing also relative to the intended foreign arrangements you will satisfy my impatience and render me a very acceptable service in communicating it. By Mr. Jefferson’s letter I learned only that this arrangement was awaiting the passage of a bill—that many were talked of in public and desired to come as minister to France—so that it is doubtful whether I should be appointed. He did not say who were the persons talked of in public. I will thank you to let me know who they are—as you come from New-York you must necessarily be in the way of knowing. Ever since the 10th of June, when these letters arrived, I have been in this state of uncertainty. Until then I had considered myself as fixed at Paris for some years‥‥ As a state of suspense of uncertainty is of all others the most disagreeable I will thank you to be so obliging as to let me know how these matters stood at the time of your leaving New-York as far as you may be able to judge” (Short to Crèvecoeur, 4 July 1790; RC owned by Louis Saint-John de Crèvecoeur,

Montesquieu-sur-Losse, France; PrC in DLC: Short Papers). This letter crossed one of 2 July 1790 that Crèvecoeur dispatched to Paris with TJ’s letters for Short: it had been delayed because, on landing at L’Orient, Crèvecoeur has been “harrased, fatigued, and taken up with looking for a decent Lodgings in this Dirty City.” He said that he had seen TJ the day before he left New York, “and he repeatedly declared He had not the Least Idea of the Person Intended to replace him at Paris; the Bill Empowering the President To appoint Ministers and Consuls was past the Lower house but had not been Taken up by the Senate; I make no doubt Mr. Jefferson as a friend and peculiar confident of the President must have a Great Influence in the appointment of his Successor, if a Successor is as yet Sent. I have often mentioned your name without being able to form any Jugement of his Intentions; I did more. I assured him that Mr. Maddison was the Person pitched upon by the Public. ‘I have not heard the Least Syllable about it’—was his answer;—I hope and pray you May be continued and have an opportunity of Seeing the conclusion of this Grand and Interesting Scene which is ennacting under your Immediate Inspection” (Crèvecoeur to Short, [ca. 15] July 1790; endorsed as received on the 18th; DLC: Short Papers).

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