Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edmund Randolph, 2 November 1791

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia November 2. 1791.

Dear Sir

I took the liberty of mentioning to you the other day the application, which Mr. Telles’s friends had made, for his appointment to the office of consul in Lisbon, and which they wished me to assist. On recollecting, what passed between us, I suspect that I was not clearly understood in my statement of Mr. Telles’s situation. He can never sue the court or any individual of Lisbon. His suit is in Eng land, and against English subjects. So that he cannot be in danger of irritating any man in or out of power in Portugal. His creditors here have not only borne the most ample testimony to his worth, but have given him so full a discharge, that he will not be obstructed in the execution of any consular function. And, altho’ he now appears in the character of a man, stripped of his fortune, his unequivocal expectations of more than 2,000£. per annum from two of his aged relations there, will put him in a condition to answer any trust, which the mercantile interest may choose to repose him.

I have been induced to trouble you with this letter, from a persuasion, that in my former conversations with you on this subject, I have not been so explicit, as I now am. Mr. Telles is a stranger to me, except from the recommendation of many virtuous men in this city. Neither for him nor any other, should I hold myself justified, to make private friendship a ground for soliciting from a public officer an act, which respects his public duty. But for any man I would undertake to represent facts; and if they tend, as in the present instance, to remove the obstacles, which stand in the way of a deserving, tho’ unfortunate man; I confess, that his promotion would be a real gratification to my feelings.—I am dear sir with truth yr. friend & serv:

Edm: Randolph

RC (DLC: Washington Papers); endorsed by TJ as received 2 Nov. 1791 and so recorded in SJL.

Randolph was undoubtedly correct in estimating John Telles as “a deserving, tho’ unfortunate man.” But if in his presentation of facts he meant to include the assurance that Telles had no intention of pursuing his case at Lisbon, he had been imposed upon by the friends promoting Telles’ candidacy for the consulate there. One of the principal reasons the mercantile interest had advanced for his appointment was that Telles’ influence at the court of Portugal and in commercial circles there would enable him to recover his losses more quickly than through the English courts (see Editorial Note and documents on consular problems, at 21 Feb. 1791).

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