Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Henri Peyroux de la Coudrèniere, 21 June 1796

To Henri Peyroux de la Coudrèniere

Monticello in Virginia June 21. 96


Retired to my estate and withdrawn from the bustle of public life I had not expected an occasion of recalling myself to your recollection. This however is furnished me by Mr. Volney whose name is already well known to you as the celebrated traveller into Egypt and Syria, author of some other very estimable publications, and a member of the first national assembly of France. These with his great personal worth and his character of a stranger will all be titles to your attentions, patronage and good offices should he pass over from the Illinois to St. Louis, as he expects. While making known to you a person of so much worth and celebrity, it is a great gratification to me to be brought again to your memory and to repeat assurances of the high esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedt. & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “M. Peyroux de la Coudroniere Commandant de St. Louis.”

Henri Peyroux de la Coudrèniere (b. ca. 1743), born and educated in France, was a strong advocate of emigration to Spanish Louisiana and in the mid 1780s served as an interpreter for Acadian families who were being settled there. He subsequently sought and received a commission as captain in the Spanish army and, in 1787, was appointed commandant at Ste. Genevieve, 45 miles south of St. Louis. In early 1792 Peyroux embarked on a trip to Philadelphia where he hoped to contact European immigrants and induce them to settle in upper Louisiana. There he met TJ and became acquainted with André Michaux, who reportedly recommended him to Edmond Charles Genet to aid in the projected French invasion of Spanish territory. When Peyroux returned to Louisiana in the summer of 1793 political opponents questioned his loyalty and succeeded in having him removed as commandant at Ste. Genevieve, although no formal charges were brought against him. In the late 1790s he became commandant at New Madrid, a position he held until 1803. TJ wrote to Peyroux that year requesting protection for Meriwether Lewis and the other members of the expedition. In 1805 Peyroux spent time in Philadelphia and presented a paper entitled “Essai sur la plus nouvelle des epoques de la nature suivi d’un tableau comparatif de la Basse Louisiane avec la Basse Egypte” before the American Philosophical Society. Two years later he published the essay in Annales Philosophiques, Politiques et Litteraires, the first, and only, volume of a journal which he attempted to establish in Philadelphia. In 1817 Peyroux remained committed to encouraging and aiding European emigration to Louisiana (Glenn R. Conrad, ed., A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, 2 vols. [New Orleans, 1988], ii, 646–7; Carl J. Ekberg, Colonial Ste. Genevieve: An Adventure on the Mississippi Frontier [Gerald, Mo., 1985], 350–7, 461–2; A. P. Nasatir, ed., Before Lewis and Clark: Documents Illustrating the History of the Missouri, 1785–1804, 2 vols. [St. Louis, 1952], ii, 598–99; Jose de la Pena y Camara, ed., Catalogo de Documentos del Archivo General de Indias Seccion V, Gobierno. Audiencia de Santo Domingo sobre la Epoca Espanola de Luisiana, 2 vols. [New Orleans, 1968], i, 44, ii, 272, 277, 278; Ernest R. Liljegren, “Jacobinism in Spanish Louisiana, 1792–1797,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly, xxii [1939], 85–7; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, xxii, pt. 3 [1884], 368, 377–8; Donald Jackson, ed., Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783–1854 [Urbana, 1962], 104–5, 108–9, 133, 169; Peyroux to Albert Gallatin, [1817], in NHi: Gallatin Papers; TJ to Peyroux, 3 July 1803, 9 July 1807). For other publications by Peyroux, see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 668, 1369, 1378, and Vol. 5:668.

It is unclear when TJ obtained the following census information, which he attributed to Peyroux:

“Ste. Genevieve 1000. free persons
 500. slaves
 St. Louis. 2000. free persons
no slaves.”

(MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 137: 23683; undated; entirely in TJ’s hand; at head of text: “Don Enrique Peyroux de la Coudreniere cidevant Commandant de Ste. Genevieve en Louisiane”; endorsed by TJ on verso: “Louisiana”).

In his travels Volney did not pass over from the illinois to St. Louis and there is no evidence that Peyroux received this letter (Volney to TJ, 24 Aug. 1796).

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