Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Explanatory Notes on Accounts, [8 July 1792]

II. Explanatory Notes on Accounts

[8 July 1792]

Explanatory Notes

In order to explain the principles on which some articles of this account are founded, it will be necessary to enter into a developement of the proceedings of Congress from the beginning, with respect to their ministers.

When they made their first appointments, having themselves no experience or knolege of the allowance usually made by other nations, and confiding in the discretion of their ministers, they left it to themselves to find what should be their expences, engaging to pay those expences, and a handsome allowance besides for their services. [See resolution Sep. 28. 1776. and May 7. 1778.] The Ministers, on their arrival in Europe, had therefore to do as they saw others of their grade do. In Aug. 1779. Congress settle the allowance which they had promised for their services, at £500. sterl. a year ‘besides their expences’ and in Oct. 1779. they establish a fixed salary of £2500. sterl. for both the services and expences of their Ministers. But what particular expences were to be considered as those of the Minister, and to be covered by this salary, were not specified, from the same want of information in Congress which had obliged them from the beginning to go step by step only, in fixing the allowances. The ministers therefore, now as before, enquired into the usage established by other nations, in order to know what expences were considered as those of the Minister, and what of the sovereign; and they found the rule to be [see papers of June 11. 1781. and Oct. 4. 1781.] ‘where a salary was given for service and expences, the expences understood were merely those necessary to the man, such as housekeeping, cloathing, coach &c. that clerks, couriers, postage, stationary, illuminations, courtage [or court-fees] were expences of the prince or state, who also furnished an hotel, by rent, or purchase, to be considered as the hotel of the prince or state.’ On these principles then their accounts were kept. At Paris, the U.S. rented an hotel: at the Hague they resolved to buy one, which was done. See resolution Dec. 27. 1782. On the 7th. of May 1784. they reduced the salary from £2500. sterl. to 9000. Dollars: and on the 9th. of May they appointed Th:J. one of their ministers for negotiating treaties. It is to be observed that they had never had occasion to consider at all the article of Outfit to a Minister separately, because no appointment had taken place since Octob. 1779. when the salary was first fixed: and all the Ministers then resident1 in Europe, having at the time of their outfit, been allowed their expences, these necessarily included the Outfit.

The appointment of Th:J. being only for a special purpose, and not to reside in Europe, consequently not obliging him to take or furnish a house, he did not on that appointment claim an Outfit. When he was afterwards appointed to reside at Paris, as Minister there, he applied to his predecessor Dr. Franklin, to know how he was to keep his accounts: who told him that the U.S. furnished the hotel, paid clerks, couriers, postage, stationary and court fees. He applied also to Mr. Barclay, who was authorised to settle all accounts of the U.S. in Europe; who gave him a copy of Dr. Franklin’s account to be his guide. This contained an Outfit in fact, as has been before mentioned. Th:J. accordingly began an account of the cost of his furniture, carriage, horses, clothes, &c. but finding that the details were numerous, minute, and incapable from their nature of being vouched,2 that a year’s salary was allowed by most nations and considerably more by some for this article, and that even this would be less than the actual amount of the particulars of his Outfit, he thought it better to charge it at once at a year’s salary, presuming that Congress would rather at length fix a sum for that article also, as they had done for the salary. He wrote a private letter to Mr. Jay, then Secretary of foreign affairs, on this subject, who laid it before Congress. They referred it to a Committee, who concluded that a certain sum should be given equal to what Th:J. had expended. But, for want of a representation of 9. states necessary in money matters, they never could report, during the old government, and so it laid over for the new.3 July 1. 1790 the Congress of the present government passed a general law, fixing the Outfit at a year’s salary. This was not retrospective, and is only mentioned as shewing their sense that a year’s salary was a reasonable allowance for Outfit.

From hence it appears, that previous to the law last mentioned, there was no complete and legal ascertainment of the principles on which the accounts of Ministers were to be settled. They were governed in some articles by fixed allowance, in others by the usage of other nations, by precedents or practice of their predecessors, and by the reason of the thing. Thus, in the present account, the article of salary till the 1st. of Aug. 1784. stands on the ground of the resolution of Congress of Oct. 4. 1779. and after that on that of May 7. 1784. That of hotelrent, couriers, postage, stationary, court fees, on usage and precedent; that of outfit on the same, and on the proceedings of the Committee of the old, and Congress of the new government. The rent of the hotel was paid by Mr. Grand for the most part when he had money, and at other times by Th:J.

Note on the value of the Dollar, in French money.

The intrinsic worth of a Dollar in French money results from the following facts. The Piastre of Spain contains 499.94 As of pure silver. [The As is a Dutch weight whereof 10,240 make a pound, poid de Marc.] The value of the piastre is 2 ½ florins of Holland. Encycl. Meth. Commerce. Monnoie. Espagne. 211.b.4 Again ib. Amsterdam 181. ‘la piastre neuve d’Espagne 2. flor. 10. sols argent courant.’ ib. France 214.b. ‘l’ecu de change qui contient 276.08 As d’argent fin vaut au pair 27 ⅚ sols argent de Hollande.’ We have this ratio then. 50 sous court. : 1. Doll. : : 27 ⅚ sous court. : 0.5525 Doll. Then 1livre tournois = 0.5525/3 = 0.1841 ⅔ Dollar And 1. Dol. = 5.livre tournois43 = 5livre tournois—8s—7 1/5 d. However the common estimate being of 5livre tournois—8s for the dollar, and the late Minister of finance having fixed on that in his public accounts, as the just value, I have adopted it.

Note on Expences of travelling.

When a Minister has been sent from his residence into another country on special business, his expences have been allowed.5 I have charged such only as were doubled on account of my journey, that is to say, such as were continuing at Paris, notwithstanding my absence. These were 1. subsistence; my table being kept up for Colo. Humphreys, Mr. Short &c. 2. servants.6 3. Lodging. 4. post hire, packages, portage.

Note on the value of the Dollar in French money
after Oct. 31. 1789. [i.e., 1785]

The reduction in the value of the livre in France took place on the 1st. of Nov. 1785. by reducing the quantity of gold in the Louis. Till then the Louis was worth intrinsically 242 6/11 pence sterling. On the recoinage which took place, 15 9/77 pence sterling of gold was withdrawn from it, so that it remained intrinsically worth but 227 3/7 pence sterling. Had there7 been nothing but gold in circulation, the livre would have been reduced exactly 97/154ths of a penny sterling.8 But there being also silver money in circulation, and that being untouched, the reduction had but half it’s effect, to wit the livre became worth only 97/304ths of a penny sterl. less. This multiplied by 5livre tournois—8s-7 ½d the former value of the dollar, raises it to 5livre tournois—12s.9 Exchange with foreign countries was10 immediately affected, and began to fall. After some little vibrations it settled down to 4. per cent below what it had usually been.11 The pound sterling, which before this operation of M. de Calonne12 had been ordinarily settled @ 24.livre tournois rose, after it, to 25livre tournois—3s among the bankers, and with those less13 minute, it was14 generally settled @ 25.livre tournois15 which is about 4. per cent.—The same sum of money drawn from Holland paid 5livre tournois—12s to Th:J. after this operation, which had paid him but 5livre tournois—8s before.16

P.S. July 8. 1792. The17 old French Louis was estimated in Philadelphia18 at 34/6 the new one is estimated at 32/6. Hence we have this proportion. As 32/6 new Louis : 34/6 old Louis :: 5livre tournois—8s : 5livre tournois— 14 64/100S and halving the difference would give the dollar = 5livre tournois—11 32/100S19 a fraction less than the European estimate, because our estimate at 5livre tournois—6s is a little below the truth.

PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 70: 12253–4, 53: 9015, 70: 12255); undated except for postscript to final note; entirely in TJ’s hand; brackets in original; consists of four slightly torn sheets as follows: “Explanatory Notes” written on the first two sheets, “Note on the value of the Dollar, in French money” and “Note on Expences of travelling” on the third, and “Note on the value of the Dollar in French money after Oct. 31. 1789 [i.e. 1785]” on the fourth; with TJ’s penciled additions of later date (see notes 2–3 below). These notes were based on five earlier notes that TJ had apparently written in 1789 while he was Minister to France in preparation for the submission of his accounts during what he presumed would be a temporary leave of absence in America in 1789–90:

(1) “Note on the article of Outfit 1785. May 2. Congress, at the time of appointing me to reside at the court of Versailles, were silent as to the article of Outfit. I charge it however, because 1. it is necessary indispensably. The expences, in the beginning, of Clothes, Carriage and horses, and Furniture, are so great that, if to be deducted from the Salary, the minister would be a year or two without salary, and living on what? 2. The universal consent and practice of all nations at this day is to allow the Outfit. They know it is expected that their Representative shall establish a house from the first moment. 3. Congress have allowed the Outfit in another form in every preceding instance. Their Resident ministers before me were appointed during the existence of a regulation which allowed them all their expences, and a sum over and above (I believe it was 500. guineas) for their time. Afterwards they repealed this regulation, and gave them a fixed salary of about 2500 guineas. The ministers of that moment having been already outfitted, it was unnecessary at that time to decide how the article of Outfit should be regulated, whether by actual expences, or, like the salary, at a fixed sum. Mine was the first appointment which occurred afterwards. They then reduced this salary about 500 guineas, but were still silent as to the article of Outfit. I began an account of my actual expences for Clothes, Carriage, horses, and Furniture and pursued it till I saw it would exceed a year’s salary. Finding that the details were numerous, minute, and incapable, from their nature, of being vouched, and supposing that Congress would make a precedent of my case, as it was the first, and would prefer a sum certain for the Outfit, as they had done for the article of Salary, I have ventured to extend the Outfit at a year’s salary, being authorized to consider that sum as reasonable by my own actual expenditures, and by the practice of other nations, who I believe never give less, but generally more. My letters to Mr. Jay May 15. 1788. and to Mr. Madison July 31. [i.e. 25 May] 1788.”

(2) “Note on the article of House rent. The Ministers resident have had a house found for them in addition to their salary. At the Hague, the United-states bought a house for their minister. At London I presume Mr. Adams charged houserent. At Paris the U.S. always paid Dr. Franklin’s houserent without it’s entering into his account at all. Mr. Grand, in like manner, generally paid the rent of mine. But sometimes it happened that I paid it myself. In those cases therefore I charge it to the U.S.”

(3) “Note on the value of the Dollar, in French money.”

(4) “Expences of Journey to England.”

(5) “Note on the value of the Dollar in French money after Oct. 31. 1789. [i.e., 1785]” (Dfts in DLC, TJ Papers, 53: 9011, 9010, 52: 8902, consisting of four undated pages entirely in TJ’s hand, with No. 5 emended, lacking postscript, and later altered by TJ so as to constitute the first part of the otherwise incomplete 2d Dft of this section as described in note 9 below; PrCs in same, 12: 2064–7, with No. 5 lacking later alteration; 2d Dft in same, 77: 13296, undated except for postscript of “July 1792,” entirely in TJ’s hand, consisting only of revision to latter part of No. 5, varying from corresponding section of document printed above as indicated in note 9 below). TJ incorporated the substance of Nos. 1 and 2 into the first four paragraphs printed above, he used No. 3 verbatim in the corresponding section of the text above, he employed an expanded version of No. 4 in the section on travel expenses in order to justify all of his European travels, and he made use of a revised version of No. 5 in the final section printed above. TJ probably submitted accounts, receipts, and other supporting documents to Auditor Richard Harrison in July 1792, and although it is no longer possible to identify them because of the fire that destroyed the Treasury records pertaining to the accounts in 1814, some indication of their contents can be adduced from TJ’s interlined notations on the 3d Dft and PrC (see notes to Document i above). TJ later incorporated an expanded version of the first four paragraphs of these notes into a comprehensive explanation of the disputed portions of his French accounts that he submitted to Harrison in 1796 (TJ to Harrison, 8 Mch. 1796; Statement on Accounts as Minister Plenipotentiary in France, 8 Mch. 1796). It was undoubtedly then that he made the penciled additions described below in notes 2–3, for the first of them appears almost verbatim in the 1796 explanation.

TJ could not have completed these explanatory notes in the form printed here prior to 8 July 1792. This conclusion is supported by the error TJ made in his accounts in giving 9 May 1784 as the date the Confederation Congress elected him one of their ministers for negotiating treaties. TJ made this mistake after discovering on 8 July 1792 that in his accounts he had erroneously given the date of his election as 11 Apr. 1784—an error that left him in debt to the United States. Unwittingly, TJ then entered a correction in the accounts to indicate that the appointment was made on 9 May 1784 and similarly revised the 8 July 1792 draft certification of the oath he planned to swear before Supreme Court Justice James Wilson (see Document i and note to Document iii). In fact, TJ was elected minister plenipotentiary on 7 May 1784 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxvi, 356).

The papers of June 11. 1781 and Oct. 4. 1781 were, respectively, letters of those dates from Benjamin Franklin to John Adams and from Adams to Franklin in which they discussed the ministerial expenses they could justifiably charge to the United States (Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, 6 vols. [Washington, D.C., 1889], iv, 491–2, 767). The ensuing quotation is taken from Franklin’s letter. TJ’s account of the cost of his furniture, carriage, horses, clothes, &C. is described in note to Document i. TJ’s private letter to Mr. Jay on the legitimacy of charging the cost of his diplomatic outfit to the public was written on 15 May 1788. Jay reported the opinion of the committee appointed by the Continental congress to consider this issue in his reply of 25 Nov. 1788. The general law making provision for the cost of outfit is in Annals, description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title-page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends ii, 2292.

1Word interlined in ink, probably prior to submission of the original to Harrison.

2At this point TJ later interlined in pencil “that it was difficult to say when and where they should end.”

3At this point TJ later interlined in pencil “See a minute of Nov […].” This probably refers to a minute of John Jay’s 25 Nov. 1788 letter to TJ about the Confederation Congress’s opinion on the propriety of charging the cost of outfit to the United States. Such a minute, undated and in a clerk’s hand, is in DLC: TJ Papers, 53: 9004.

4PrC torn; preceding letter supplied from Dft.

5Preceding sentence not in Dft.

6Working from the Dft, TJ at this point originally wrote “3. chariot horses.” He subsequently canceled this item and renumbered the remaining two.

7In Dft TJ here first wrote “the operations of commerce.” He then expanded the first word to “there” and canceled the next three words.

8Here in Dft TJ canceled “and the […] Dollar would.”

9At this point TJ wrote as the last sentence in Dft: “Exchange with foreign countries has been correspondently affected. The pound sterling was ordinarily settled at a Louis before the operation. It is now generally 25livre tournois—3s which is a rise of 4 ⅚ per cent.—In a loose way the pound sterling is settled at 25.livre tournois which is about 4. per cent.” Later, in July 1792, he canceled all but the first four words, inserted a caret at the beginning of the first canceled line, and finished the thought with the first six words of the 2d Dft, producing a sentence identical to the next one printed above. With this alteration TJ in effect transformed the Dft into the first part of the 2d Dft.

102d Dft begins with this word.

11In 2d Dft TJ canceled a variant version of the next sentence as well as an incomplete sentence consisting of “The new French Louis.” He wrote the postscript immediately after them.

12Preceding four words not in 2d Dft.

13Here in 2d Dft TJ initially wrote, then expunged, “attentive.”

14Here in 2d Dft TJ wrote “afterwards.”

15Remainder of sentence interlined.

16Preceding sentence not in 2d Dft.

17Here in 2d Dft TJ canceled “new French.”

18“Phila.” interlined in place of “America” in 2d Dft.

19Remainder of 2d Dft reads: “<a little> that is to say 68/100 of a sol below what the European exchange fixed it.”

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