Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Louis André Pichon, 2 April 1801

From Louis André Pichon

Washington City—12 Germinal an 9 (2 avril 1801)

Le Cit. Pichon prend la liberté de prier Monsieur le Président des Etats Unis de vouloir bien agréer l’expression du regret qu’il a eprouvé d’apprendre le depart de cette ville de Monsieur le Prèsident avant d’avoir pu lui présenter ses devoirs. Le Cit. Pichon, avait cru entendre de la bouche de Monsieur le Secre. d’Etat que Mr. jefferson devait rester jusqu’a vendredi prochain; L’equivoque dont l’expression est Susceptible a trompé le Cit. Pichon qui prie Mr. Le Prèsident des Etats Unis de vouloir bien accepter l’assurance de sa respectueuse consideration.

editors’ translation

Washington City—12 Germinal Year 9 (2 April 1801)

Citizen Pichon takes the liberty of begging the president of the United States to be so kind as to accept the expression of regret that he felt on learning of the president’s departure from this city before being able to present his respects. Citizen Pichon had thought he understood from what the secretary of state said that Mr. Jefferson was to remain until next Friday; the misunderstanding to which the expression is open deceived Citizen Pichon, who begs the president of the United States to accept the assurance of his respectful esteem.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “à Monsieur le Prèsident des Etats Unis”; endorsed by TJ as received on 9 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.

Louis André Pichon (1771–1854) presented his credentials on 18 Mch., and the next day TJ signed an exequatur recognizing him as commissary general from France for commercial relations and extending all privileges “as are allowed within the United States to the Consuls of the most favoured nations.” When Bonaparte appointed Pichon on 26 Oct. 1800 he also authorized him to act as chargé d’affaires until such time as France might send a minister plenipotentiary to the United States. Pichon was no stranger to America: beginning in 1791 he was a secretary in the French legation to the United States, where he served for five years under three ministers to the U.S., Ternant, Genet, and Fauchet. Returning to France in 1796, he recommended a policy of “clandestine” aggressiveness to force changes in U.S. policy without an open war. He became the assistant head of a division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sent to the French legation at The Hague, he conveyed to William Vans Murray, with whom he was acquainted, Talleyrand’s message that France would welcome new American envoys in the aftermath of the XYZ debacle. In the ensuing negotiation, which resulted in the Convention of 1800, Pichon was the secretary of the French delegation and acted as an intermediary between the two sides. In 1804, Bonaparte abruptly recalled Pichon, who had failed to prevent the marriage of Bonaparte’s brother Jerome to Elizabeth Patterson, from his posting in the United States. Jerome Bonaparte and, later, the restored kings of France appointed Pichon to various positions after his return to Europe, and the career diplomat and government official also wrote tracts on public affairs (FC in Lb, DNA: RG 59, Exequaturs, TJ “To all whom it may concern,” 19 Mch. 1801, in a clerk’s hand including signatures of TJ and Levi Lincoln; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 1329; National Intelligencer, 23, 30 Mch. 1801; Jean B. Duvergier and others, eds., Collection Complète des Lois, Décrets, Ordonnances, Réglemens, avis du Conseil-d’État, 108 vols. [Paris, 1834–1908], 12:319; Gazette Nationale ou le Moniteur Universel, 7 Brumaire Year 9 [29 Oct. 1800]; Albert H. Bowman, “Pichon, the United States, and Louisiana,” Diplomatic History, 1 [1977], 257–8; Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Directoire, 1796–1800 [Paris, 1982], 19; Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Consulat [Paris, 1986], 27, 461–2, 480, 487–8; Vol. 31:44–50, 55).

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