Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Sylvanus Bourne, 7 October 1801

From Sylvanus Bourne

Consular Office of the Ud. States
Amsterdam Octo 7h 1801—


As the preliminaries of a peace between Great Britain & France were signed at London on the night of the 2d Instant, we now approach that period when with the war will cease the necessity which that occasioned of having many Certificates of divers kinds from the Consular office & will of course reduce the income of this one to a mere trifle—In this position of the case may I be permitted Respectfully to submit to your Consideration whether the importance of the Consular Establishment here (which now Constitutes the only representation of our Country to this, either in the political or commercial departs.) is not sufficient to claim the patronage or support of our Govt. by the allowance of a moderate annual compensation say 2000 to 2500 Dolls. towards the payt of which Sum the fees still receivable in the Office can be credited—in order to make it bear as little as possible on the publick—

The Value of this arrangment would be enhanced to me by the Consideration of the heavy expences & losses to Which I have been subjected for some years past. as my first & unsuccessfull mission to the Island of Hispaniola I was at the Charge of 1000 Dolls—since then the British have robbed me of 8000 Dolls more—I suffered by the failure of Mssr Morris Nicholson & Greenleaf to an equal amount these repeated misfortunes have fallen hard upon me on the eve of my establishment here & under the increasing expences of my family—thro every scene I [however?] uniformly attended to the various objects comprised in my Official duty & if not with ability—my heart will uphold me in saying that [this] has been with integrity & fidelity to those interests which have been Committed to my charge—& I hope that I shall continue to merit the confidence & approbation of my Country & its Goverment which I esteem to be among the most gratefull rewards attached to public Employ &

I have the honor to be With the greatest Respect Your Ob & devoted Sert.

S Bourne

PS The Contents of the preliminary Articles of Peace between E & F are as yet unknown here—

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); at head of text: “The President the United States.” Enclosed in Bourne to James Madison, 7 Oct., commenting on the future support of the consular establishment in Amsterdam and enclosing “a letter for the President” (RC in same; see also Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:162).

For Bourne’s previous attempts to obtain consular compensation, see Vol. 32:133.

Heavy Expences & Losses: Bourne, who had resigned in December 1791 as U.S. consul for Saint-Domingue and complained to TJ of his accumulated expenses and sacrifice of fortune, was named vice consul for Amsterdam in 1794 and continued in consular service in the Netherlands for almost 23 years. In March 1797, a British admiralty court condemned a ship that he owned and rejected the idea that his mercantile property was protected by virtue of his consular position. Bourne also experienced some financial setbacks resulting from the bankruptcy of the consortium of Robert Morris, John Nicholson, and James Greenleaf, whose real estate schemes in the new federal city were unsuccessful (Helen Bourne Joy Lee, The Bourne Genealogy [Chester, Conn., 1972], 89; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:158; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:418–19; Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:234–5; Vol. 22:386–7, 468).

Bourne had sent TJ a letter from Amsterdam on 2 Oct. (not found), which TJ recorded in SJL on 4 Jan. 1802 with the notation “S.”

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