Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Arnold Henry Dohrman, 24 May 1780

To Arnold Henry Dohrman

Virginia, May 24. 1780.


The many Kindnesses which you have shown to our captive countrymen, whom the fortune of war has carried within the reach of your inquiries, do great honour to your humanity, and must forever interest us in your welfare. I beg leave on behalf of my countrymen1 to assure you, that these attentions are felt with sensibility, and that any occasion which shall offer of rendering you service will be cheerfully embraced. Should future events open an intercourse between your country and ours for the exchange of productions yielded by the one and wanted by the other, your actions have pointed out the friend to whose negotiations we may safely confide our interests and necessities. I beg leave to subscribe myself with the greatest esteem and respect, sir, Yr Mo. Obt. & Mo humble Servant

Tho: Jefferson

Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 14th Cong., 2d sess.); at head of text: “No. 5”; at foot of text: “To Arnold Henry Dohrman Esq.” and “(Copy.)”; with subjoined note: “Secretary’s Office, March 7. 1818. The foregoing are truly copied from the original documents, which accompanied the petition of Rachael Dorhman. Charles Cutts.” Tr (same); with text crossed out and note written at head of text: “Omit this letter it being a duplicate”; at foot of text: “(Copy)”; with one variation (see note 1 below).

Arnold Henry Dohrman (d. 1813), a Dutch-born merchant in Lisbon at the beginning of the American Revolution, was such a strong supporter of the American cause and so distinguished himself by the assistance he rendered to captive American seamen, that in June 1780 the Continental Congress appointed him unsalaried United States agent in Portugal, a post that ultimately led to the destruction of his mercantile credit. In 1787, after he arrived in Philadelelpha and petitioned for the settlement of his disordered accounts, evidently with this letter from TJ and other testimonials from prominent Americans in hand, the Confederation Congress recompensed Dohrman for his services by approving annual payments of $ 1,600 for his salary from the time his expenditures began and granted him a township in the Northwest Territory, which led him to settle in Steubenville, Ohio, where he died in penury. Rachel Dohrman, his widow, submitted a text of the above letter to Congress as part of her successful claim in 1817 for an annuity for herself and her eleven children (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Claims, 508–14).

1Second Tr: “Country.”

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