Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Thornton, 5 March 1801

From Edward Thornton

Washington 5 March. 1801.


The voluntary expression of those sentiments of just and enlarged policy, which you were pleased to make me the organ of conveying to His Majesty’s Government, encourages me to request a few moments’ audience, on another subject no less important to the two countries.—

The Packet Boat, now lying at New York, will be dispatched in a few days to England; and the King’s Ministers will naturally look forward with a degree of interest and expectation to the first advices, which they shall receive after your accession to the Chief Magistracy of the Union, relative to the points in discussion between Great Britain and America.—I allude particularly to the stipulations of the Sixth Article of the Treaty of 1794, the complete execution of which has been hitherto delayed by the suspension of the Board, appointed to carry them into effect.

I hope, Sir, you will forgive the liberty I take on this occasion, in consideration of the earnest solicitude I feel to become in any manner the humble instrument of preserving and consolidating the friendship which happily subsists between the two countries;—and I beg you to accept the assurances of the profound respect, with which I have the honour to be,

Sir, Your most obedient humble servant,

Edwd Thornton.

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); at foot of first page: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.


Edward Thornton (1766–1852) first came to the United States in 1791 as secretary to British minister George Hammond. He became the British vice consul in Maryland in 1793, then was made secretary to the British legation in 1796. Since November 1800 he had been the acting British chargé d’affaires following the departure of minister Robert Liston and he continued to act in this capacity until the arrival of British minister Anthony Merry in November 1803. Thornton went on to a distinguished diplomatic career, which culminated in his appointment as ambassador to Portugal in 1819 (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the earliest times to the year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Charles Lanman, Biographical Annals of the Civil Government of the United States, During Its First Century [Washington, 1876], 616; Vol. 26:398).

The sixth article of the Jay Treaty involved the settlement of claims by British merchants against American debtors. After months of acrimonious negotiations, the bilateral board established to arbitrate these claims dissolved in July 1799 (Vol. 30:624–5n).

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