Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Stephen Cathalan, Jr., 24 August 1792

From Stephen Cathalan, Jr.

Marseilles the 24th. August 1792.


I have the honour of Confirming you my Last Letters;

Since four others Mens have experienced The Same Fate, as the 6 Mentionned to you in my Last; but now we have all reason to expect that those dreadfull Scenes will not be renewed, Sûspected People will be Judged by Law.

I Inclose here a Deliberation Resolved by the Section No. 13. of this Town, which is Composed of the most uneasy People, and agreed by all the others at the unanimity; Since every Body is united to a Same Sprit.

Now I offer to your wise Consideration a Very interesting Matter, explained in Full in a Memoire, which I have presented to this Municipality, of Marseilles, of which I remit you here Inclosed a Copy, dated the 19th. Inst. on the Subject of wheats and Flour, to which I beg your Refference; We are in the Greatest apprehension to be in the greatest need of these So necessary Commodities, and to See Prices Gradûaly Rise, till next Month of July, from £53 a 54. per charge of ℔ 290 Marseilles Weight (Flour the Same Price per Barrel) which they would now obtain on arival ready money on the Warf at the Landing to £65 before next Month of December, and £70. before March, on the actual Course of Forreing Exchanges and Specie, rising again till next Crop in July next.

This Memoir was So well received by this Municipality, that they have determined to writte a Letter to Genl. Georges Washington President of the united States of America dated of this day, which I have the Pleasure of remit you here Inclosed; Begging you Sir to Present to him in the name of the Town of Marseilles.

I hope that the american Merchants on his Invitation, will contribute in all their Power to Supply this Town abundantly; and as Soon as advices from you, will require the desired protection in the Streights, it will be already Granted and executed.

You may assure them that Brandies will be at moderate Terms about £45 a £40 per ql. Gross of 90 ℔ English, they will make an advantageous Remittance at Lenght from my Part, in the Consulate Line, as well as in Commercial one, they may Rely on all my endeavours, to render their voyage and adventures as Beneficial as Possible.

Tobacco on the Contrary abunds now and Can’t obtain here £54livre tournois. Marc Weight no Purchasers.

I am departing for Bordeaux in Two hours to See Consul Fenwick—when arived, I will have the honour adressing you, and Send you a Copy of this and the Municipality Letter. I am with Respect Sir Your most obedient humble & Devoted Servant

Stephen Cathalan Junr.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); at foot of first page: “Thos. Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of State Philadelphia”; with alterations and deletions made by TJ prior to publication (see below), but omitted here; recorded in SJL as received 30 Oct. 1792. Dupl (same); contains variations in spelling and phraseology; sent with Cathalan to TJ, 10 Sep. 1792. Tr (same); in a clerk’s hand and containing variations in spelling and phraseology; at head of text: “Copy.” Enclosures: (1) Délibération en forme d’arrété, De la Section No. 13, dite des Grands Carmes (Marseilles, [1792]), describing a decree dated 13 Aug. 1792 and concurred in by the other 23 sections of Marseilles, setting forth procedures to prevent internal conflict and the flight of counterrevolutionaries from adversely affecting the foreign trade of Marseilles, especially the importation of wheat (pamphlet in French and Tr in English, same). (2) Mémoire of Cathalan to the Mayor of Marseilles, 19 Aug. 1792, noting that Marseilles could not depend on its traditional sources of supply of grain in Europe and Africa because of poor harvests and high prices and that it must turn to the United States; that the house of Cathalan & Son has for a year been in contact with its American correspondents on this matter; that orders must reach the United States soon because American vessels were least vulnerable to the Algerines in the Mediterranean between November and March; that he is about to confer with Joseph Fenwick in Bordeaux about ways to encourage American importations before winter set in; that a letter to President Washington from the mayor and municipality of Marseilles would strengthen his efforts; and that Americans would find profitable returns in cargoes of rum, “the usual drink of the Americans,” and brandy exported from Marseilles (Trs in French and English, the latter with alterations and deletions made by TJ prior to publication, same). (3) The Mayor and Officials of Marseilles to George Washington, 24 Aug. 1792, affirming that the Americans and the French are free peoples united by friendship, commerce, and reverence for the President; proposing more extensive trade between the United States and Marseilles, where the grain shortage is acute this year, and requesting his influence on behalf of American exportations; advising that they had petitioned the National Assembly to grant a premium on foreign grain imported into southern France and to give naval protection to American vessels; and promising that in exchange for American produce Marseilles will send oils, wines, and other commodities suited to the American market and do everything possible to promote the American trade (RC in French, Dupl in French, and Tr in English with alterations and deletions made by TJ prior to publication, same).

Cathalan’s letter and its enclosures, as emended by TJ, were printed in installments in the National Gazette of 10 and 14 Nov. 1792 (for a discussion and further references, see Vol. 20: 745–6). For TJ’s response to the overtures for increased trade with Marseilles, see TJ to the Mayor and Municipal Officers of Marseilles, 6 Nov. 1792.

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