Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 30 April 1798

To Van Staphorst & Hubbard

Philadelphia Apr. 30. 1798.


Your favor of June 26. reached me Sep. 22. in Virginia. having settled the interest on the account inclosed in it agreeably to a statement which will be at the foot of this letter, I prepared a bond for the amount, which I brought on to this place, and have kept by me till the present season which gives a better chance for a safe conveyance than a winter passage.

A paragraph in your letter has given me uneasiness, lest you might have supposed I could consider you as involved in the practices of which I therein spoke. nothing could be farther from my thought; and the intention of my observations was, besides giving you a general view of the speculating practices going on here, as a general caution for the government of your affairs, to designate more particularly the conduct of one individual (mr Greenleaf) whom I had formerly understood to have been trusted by you in some matters. his catastrophe, as well as that of some others, has been what all prudent men might foresee. indeed the shock which has resulted from the state of things mentioned in my letter, has been very great, & severely felt by our merchants in general, not only those who directly participated in these matters, but those also who had kept clear themselves, but were affected by the failure of others. this was considerably hastened and increased by the French & British spoliations on our commerce. these have been most scandalous indeed: and [tho?] both nations [still continue] their outrages on us, yet those of the one are considerably more in amount than the other. a great degree of impatience under these sufferings has consequently siezed our merchants, who openly call for war, and some think our government has too readily yielded to their views. the farmers, who know that they must pay the expence, wish a continuance of peace. this occasions some difference of sentiment among us; but should war be declared against us there will be but one sentiment pervading every description of men, that of uniting cordially to repel an invader. this is the true clue to the present state of opinion with us. the expences of preparation we have already incurred are very great, and give much uneasiness to those who are anxious to see our public debt discharged.

I take the liberty of inclosing & recommending to your care a letter to a friend of mine, Baron Von Geissmar, at Hanau, which is very interesting to him. I am in hopes you can give it a safe conveyance.

I am with great esteem Gentlemen Your most obedient & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

florins sols
1792 May 16. the balance per acct rendered was in my favor  656– 2
Sep. 27. By my draught in favor of Dobson ƒ1014–
Nov. 23. By my do. in favr of the bankers of the Us.  2221–14 3235–14
  balance now against me 2579–12
1795. Oct. 13. Int. on do. @ 6. per cent to this date is  447– 2
  To remittance of this date through Maury
  £50. 5s 5d St.
  balance then remaining due 2473–14
1797. Dec. 25. mt. on do. @ 6. pr. cent to this date is  326– 6
balance for which a bond is now inclosed 2800–
  payable Dec. 25. 1802. with in @ Dec. 25. 1797.6 per cent from Dec. 25. 1797.

PrC (DLC); torn; at foot of first page: “Messrs. Nicholas & Jacob Van Staphorst & Hubbard.” Enclosures: (1) Bond to Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 25 Nov. 1797. (2) Probably TJ to Baron von Geismar, 13 Feb. 1798, recorded in SJL but not found. Enclosed in TJ to Jacob Van Staphorst, 30 May 1798.

James Greenleaf had spent the years from 1789 to 1793 in Amsterdam marketing U.S. government securities. He then became the associate of Robert Morris and John Nicholson in their notorious speculation in Federal District real estate, but was forced to default when he failed to induce Dutch investors to purchase Washington city lots (Shaw Livermore, Early American Land Companies: Their Influence on Corporate Development [New York, 1939], 164–5). My letter: TJ to Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 27 Mch. 1797.

TJ’s friend, the Baron von Geismar, had written a letter of 15 Oct. 1796 that has not been found, but according to SJL it was received on 11 July 1797 from Hanau. Evidently he and TJ had not corresponded since 1789, although they had become acquainted ten years earlier when the baron, a German officer who surrendered with Burgoyne at Saratoga, had been quartered near Monticello awaiting parole (Marie Kimball, Jefferson, War and Peace: 1776 to 1784 [New York, 1947], 40–5; TJ to Richard Henry Lee, 21 Apr. 1779; Geismar to TJ, 13 Apr. 1789). Also noted in SJL, but missing, are letters from Geismar to TJ of 11 July, 7 Aug. 1798, and 20 Feb. 1799, received, respectively, from Hanau on 22 Jan., 30 Mch., and 30 Aug. 1799, and one from TJ to Geismar dated 23 Feb. 1799.

A bond of £500 sterling from TJ to Farell & Jones, representing the first installment of TJ’s portion of the debt owed to that firm by John Wayles’s estate, had been assigned to John Dobson, a London merchant (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:839; Vol. 15:674–6).

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