Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Auldjo, 4 November 1790

From Thomas Auldjo

Cowes 4 Novemr 1790


On the 5th of last month I had the honor to notify to you my most chearfull and ready acceptance of the trust which Congress had been graciously pleased to repose in me and to offer to you my sincere thanks for your kindness and friendship in recommending me to the Service of the United States of America. I have since had the honor to receive your letter of instructions of 26th August.

On the 8th ultimo, having gone purposely to London, I applied at the office of the Duke of Leeds Secretary of state for foreign affairs, for the usual Ratification of my Appointment and delivered my Commission into the hands of the UnderSecretary of State Mr. Burgess who after reading it was pleased to inform me that being the first that had appeared from the United States of America, it required Consideration which it should receive as early as possible, and requesting my address in London added that I should be sent to very soon upon it.

Hearing nothing from Mr. Burgess for a whole week and my own affairs requiring my return home I applied again at the Duke of Leeds office on the 16th ultimo and sending in my name and business on paper to Mr. Burgess received for answer, without admission, that nothing had been done in my business.

I was I confess not a little touched at the dignity of a foreign State in Amity with Great Britain being thus wounded but I was willing to attribute it to the pressure of important business at that office and I quitted London requesting my Relation Mr. Mackenzie to receive and acquaint me with any message that might come on my Business from Mr. Burgess.—I continued with patience from a desire not [to be] too troublesome or importuning, in my state of Suspense untill the 26th ultimo when seeing in the London Gazette the Ratification of Mr. Johnson’s Commission which I well knew had not arrived more than three or four days, I requested my friend Mr. Mackenzie to wait on Mr. Burgess and on an interview a Conversation took place between them for which I beg leave to refer you to Copy of Mr. Mackenzie’s letter inclosed marked No. 1. I immediately wrote a pressing letter to the Duke of Leeds as per paper No. 2 and I drew up a few Observations on Mr. Burgess’s arguments which are copied in paper marked No. 3.

I trust that I have acted so far in Conformity to your Instructions and Consistent with the honour and dignity of the United States of America. If however I have been too Condescending in entering into explanations with the Under Secretary of State I must rely on your forgiveness as it arose entirely from motives and wish of Conciliation, that I might convince the British Government of the futility of their objections which Cannot for a moment stand the test of reason and common Sense.

By the next packet or sooner probably I shall have the honour to communicate to you the answer which my letter will draw from the Duke of Leeds but from the Complexion of the business at this time (they have returned my Commission by Mr. Mackenzie) it is more than probable I shall have to experience the mortification of being obliged to return to you my appointment; a circumstance which on every account would give me the most sensible pain. If such however should be the fate of the business, I shall entreat you to make my most unfeigned thanks, acceptable to the Honble the President and Congress for the high honor intended me by making me their Representative in these parts and to assure them when the time shall arrive when they can employ me in their Service here. I shall be proud of the honour of receiving their Appointment and to prove how much I am theirs & Sir, Your most faithfull & very obedient Servant,

Thomas Auldjo

If Congress wants proof of the Interest of America requiring protection at this port, they will find it in the instances of the Fanney Capt. Colley, Mary Capt. Boardman, Hannah Capt. Kilkem of Newbury port and Minerva Capt. West of Boston who discharged their Cargoes here this last Summer.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD). Recorded in SJL as received 17 Jan. 1791, but there given the erroneous date of 28 Oct. 1790. Enclosures: (1) Copy of a letter from James Mackenzie to Auldjo, 28 Oct. 1790, informing him of a conversation at the Foreign Office the day before with J. B. Burges “in the course of which he and Mr. [George] Aust the New Secretary were uncommonly civil‥‥ They said very readily they approved fully of the Appointment as to its principle and of you as an officer but that a doubt had arisen which had occasioned a Suspension as to the propriety of admitting a Consul where none had ever resided for were they to admit you as an American consul there they must of course, Consuls who might be appointed by France Spain or any other foreign Country which would be opening a door which they could not shut and might have ill consequences. They said that Congress had not intimated their intention of sending Consuls to this Country, the first knowledge of which was the production of your Commission. I answered that his Majesty had approved of Mr. Johnson without any such previous intimation. They replied they had no objection to any place at which it had been usual for Consuls to reside—they wished it would not be pressed upon them as in Case of refusal for it is yet undetermined it might give offence which they were Studious to avoid.” Burges and August informed him also that if Auldjo were appointed consul at Poole or at Southampton, his commission would be readily admitted even though he resided at Cowes. When Mackenzie pointed out the delay of getting a new commission, the secretaries suggested that Auldjo might act as a deputy of Joshua Johnson. “It appeared clearly,” Mackenzie concluded, “that they feared that if an American Consul of whom they have no apprehension were by authority resident at Cowes, the Spaniards and French might … apply and to have persons resident in publick Characters So near the Seat of naval armament might prove a dangerous protected Spy. This is not what they averred but Mr. Turnbull and I could clearly infer from their answer and reasoning” (Tr in DNA: RG 59, CD, endorsed “No. 1”; accompanied by Dupl, both in Auldjo’s hand). (2) Copy of a letter from Thomas Auldjo to the Duke of Leeds, dated at Cowes, 31 Oct. 1790, asking for a speedy approval of his commission and stating: “I humbly beg leave to premise to your Grace the strong reasons the United States have for fixing my Residence at the Port of Cowes are the Notoriety of its being their principal Port of Trade indeed I may affirm that it is the only one of any Consequence in the British Channel for American trade therefore I presume with all due submission they have judged a Consular Residence indispensably Necessary at this Port.—Permit me to add that I have it in Command thro’ the Secretary of State for the United States to Cultivate the Friendship and good disposition of the British Government … and I entreat of your Grace to believe my most strenuous endeavours will ever be exerted to the Completion of so pleasing a part of my Consular Duty” (Tr in DNA: RG 59, CD, endorsed “No. 2,” in Auldjo’s hand). (3) Copy of “Mr. Auldjo’s Remarks on the Conversation … between Mr. Burgess and Mr. Mackenzie,” dated at Cowes, 31 Oct. 1790. In this document Auldjo rejected as fallacious the argument that a door might be opened to French and Spanish “spies on the Arsenal at Portsmouth,” since neither of those countries had any trade at Cowes; pointed out that information of what was “going forward in the Dock Yard” at Portsmouth could as readily be gathered in London as in Cowes; and hinted that Poole and Southampton were quite as near to Portsmouth as was Cowes. Auldjo concluded: “I must now strongly enforce the Necessity of a Consular Residence here from the Notoriety of the importance of the American Trade at this Port being the only one of Consequence in the British Channel where their Ships frequent‥‥ The Port of Cowes has for nearly a Century past been the Rendezvous for American Shipping whether for the purpose of Clearing their Cargoes calling for Orders getting Intelligence of the State of the Northern Markets procuring Supplies repairing damages sustained in their Voyages across the Atlantic or wintering when the Season of the Year is too far advanced for their entering the North Sea. To such a port therefore it was Natural for the United States to turn their first Attention in their Arrangement of and appointment of Consuls for want of which I will affirm their Interest has suffered Materially in several instances lately. It ought to be a Matter of serious Consideration with the British Government to debar the United States of America from having an officer in their behalf for the Protection of their Trade at the only Port in the Channel where his Service is Materially required or can be usefull” (MS in DNA: RG 59, CD, in Auldjo’s hand).

On 23 Nov. 1790 Auldjo sent TJ duplicates of the above and also of that of 7 Nov. 1790, with copies of enclosures (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Feb. 1791 and so recorded in SJL).

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