Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Fenwick, 20 January 1793

From Joseph Fenwick

Bordeaux 20 Jany. 1793.


I have the honor to own your favors of the 31st. May and the 16 Octor. 1792—the latter covering letters for Mr. Morris and Mr. Short which were forwarded and held as you desired—answers to which go by this opportunity via St. Eustatius by the American Brigg the Mermaid as the best opportunity now offering from hence. The first I only received in November accompanying the Laws of Congress of the Session closing the 8 May. I herewith send you a Bond required by the Law relative to the functions of Consuls. Mr. John Mason of Virginia will be my security and who will procure another person satisfactory to you that will join him in the same as required by the Law.

I shall profit of the different occasions that present to communicate to you such information as you may require and that I think will be acceptable.

I shall also correspond with the minister of the United States that may reside in this country.1

Grain is now very scarce here and demanded at the prices below also all articles of provision, and the demand likely to continue during the war or until a plentiful crop supplies the real and immaginary wants. The value of the assignats have considerably depreciated lately and exchange on England is now 5d¼ stg. per Livre uncertain and fluctuating. Articles of subsistence do not fluctuate with the Exchange, tho’ it is the Thermometer for most others. This may be attributed to the system adopted by the Government for procuring their supplies thro’ agents of Government and not in the ordinary chanel of Commerce. Wheat and Flour are not higher now than in Novemr. when Exchange was 7dper Livre or thereabouts. Tobacco is ready sale and not a great provision in market.

There is a late decree of the Convention to arm immediately 30 sail of the line and 20 Frigates which added to this number already equipped of 22 sail of the Line and 30 Frigates will make a considerable Fleet. The sailors, Carpenters, Rope Makers &ca. &ca. are classed as under the former Government and they have heretofore gone off without murmuring to the Dockyards and I think they will continue to go at least from this and the neighboring places without difficulty. A war with England and Holland is thought inevitable—the Underwriters refuse all premiums of Insurance. I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obedient and most humble Servant

Joseph Fenwick

  • Exchange London 15¾ a ½
  • Amsterdam 30 a 29¾
  • Madrid 27
  • Wheat 23 a 24livre tournois per Boisseau
  • Flour 52 a 55livre tournois per barrl.
  • Indian Corn 12 per Boisseau
  • Rice 36 a 38livre tournois per Ct.
  • Tobacco 40 a 60livre tournois per do.
  • Whale Oil 50 a 55livre tournois per Ct.
  • Sperm do 80 a 85
  • Whale Bone common short 160 a 200 per Ct.
  • Beef 60 a 80livre tournois per barrl.
  • Pork 90 a 110 per do.
  • Pot ash 70 a 76 per Ct.
  • Pearl do. 70. a 80 per do.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqre Secretary of State Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Apr. 1793 and so recorded in SJL; portion of text marked in pencil by TJ for publication (see note 1 below). Enclosure: Fenwick’s consular bond, 20 Nov. 1792 (MS in same).

At Fenwick’s request, John Mason, his partner in the mercantile firm of Fenwick, Mason & Company, wrote a brief note to TJ from Georgetown on 22 Jan. 1793 asking how he and his friends could post the required security for Fenwick’s consulship (RC in DLC; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Jan. 1793 and so recorded in SJL).

1Except for the complimentary close and signature, the remainder of the letter and the subjoined list of prices were printed as the “Extract of a Letter from Bourdeaux, dated January 20, 1793,” in the National Gazette of 1 May 1793.

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