Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 1 September 1791

To Jean Baptiste Ternant

Philadelphia. Sep. 1. 1791.


I have communicated to the President what passed between us the other day on the subject of the paiments made to France by the United States in the assignats of that country, since they have lost their par with gold and silver: and after conferences, by his instruction, with the Secretary of the Treasury, I am authorised to assure you that the government of the United States have no idea of paying their debt in a depreciated medium, and that1 in the final liquidation of the payments, which shall have been made, due regard will be had to an equitable allowance for the circumstance of depreciation.—I have the honor to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem & respect Sir Your most obedt. And most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Monsieur de Ternant, M. P. de France.” FC (DNA: RG 360, DL). Dft (DLC: Madison Papers); dated 31 Aug. 1791, but text is identical with the above except for the important change suggested by Hamilton and accepted by TJ (see note 1 below). Dft contains no indication of the alteration proposed and may or may not be the text that TJ submitted to Hamilton. The fact that Dft is in the Madison Papers suggests that TJ conferred with Madison on the subject either before or after incorporating Hamilton’s amendment in the final text as approved by Washington.

On the matter under discussion, see Editorial Note and group of documents on the American debt to France, at 10 Apr. 1791.

1From this point on in TJ’s draft the text reads: “… they will take measures for making their payments in their just value, avoiding all benefit from depreciation, and only desiring on their part to be guarded against any unjust loss from the circumstances of mere exchange.” On Hamilton’s advice TJ deleted this passage and caused the final text to read as above.

Index Entries