Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmond Charles Genet, 22 November 1793

To Edmond Charles Genet

Germantown Nov. 22. 1793.


In my letter of Oct. 2. I took the liberty of noticing to you that the commission of Consul to M. Dannery ought to have been addressed to the President of the US. He being the only channel of communication between this country and foreign nations, it is from him alone that foreign nations or their agents are to learn what is or has been the will of the nation, and whatever he communicates as such they have a right and are bound to consider as the expression of the nation, and no foreign agent can be allowed to question it, to interpose between him and any other branch of government under the pretext of either’s transgressing their functions, nor to make himself the umpire and final judge between them. I am therefore, Sir, not authorized to enter into any discussions with you on the meaning of our constitution in any part of it, or to prove to you that it has ascribed to him alone the admission or interdiction of foreign agents. I inform you of the fact by authority from the President. I had observed to you that we were persuaded that in the case of the Consul Dannery, the error in the address had proceeded from no intention in the Executive Council of France to question the functions of the President, and therefore no difficulty was made in issuing the commmission. We are still under the same persuasion. But in your letter of the 14th. inst.1 you personally question the authority of the President, and in consequence of that have not addressed to him the commissions of Messrs. Pennevert and Chervi. Making a point of this formality on your part, it becomes necessary to make a point of it on ours also; and I am therefore charged to return you those commissions, and to inform you that, bound to enforce respect to the order of things established by our constitution, the President will issue no Exequatur to any Consul or Vice consul not directed to him in the usual form after the party from whom it comes has been apprised that such should be the address. I have the honor to be with respect Sir your most obedt. & most humble servt.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); with dateline added in ink; at foot of first page: “Mr. Genet.” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Tr (DLC: Genet Papers); in French; draft translation. Tr (AMAE: CPEU, xxxix); in French; at foot of text: “Pour copie conforme.” Enclosures not found. Printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 93–4.

your letter of the 14th. inst.: Genet’s second letter to TJ of that date. have not addressed to him the commissions: see Genet to TJ, 13 Nov. 1793.

For approval of this letter by the Cabinet and the President, who this day received and returned it to TJ with his sanction, see Cabinet Opinions on Various Letters, [23 Nov. 1793]; and Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 255–6.

1Preceding six words and digits interlined in place of “since.”

Index Entries