Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Humphreys, 28 June 1802

From David Humphreys

New Haven June 28th. 1802

Dear Sir.

I had fully determined, upon my arrival in the U.S., to have made a journey to the City of Washington, for the express & sole purpose of paying my respects to the President. But the fatigue & inconvenience which my wife suffered in our voyage from Europe prevented me from carrying that determination into effect; especially as She was unable to accompany me & unwilling to be left alone among Strangers in my absence. A few days ago I arrived in this place with the object of making provision for her residence. In the mean time the warm season having commenced & her health requiring a more cool position, I shall be under the necessity of attending her without delay to New Port. This state of facts I hope will be accepted as a sufficient apology for, as they are the real cause of, any seeming neglect of that homage which is due to the Chief Magistrate of the Union. If after our return from the eastward, which will of course be as soon as the principal heat of the summer shall be passed, you shall judge that any oral communication from me might be of any utility, I will with the highest satisfaction proceed directly to the Seat of Government.

Under these circumstances, I would not defer to have the honour of enclosing the answer of the Catholic King to the letter of Recall which you addressed to H.M., in my behalf. And I think it proper to mention at the same time, the measures which I took to avoid receiving the Royal Present usually offered on similar occasions. On the 24th of Janry last, I wrote to the first Secretary of State in the following terms. “It is not probably unknown to your Excy, that the Constitution of the U.S. prohibits every Person holding any Office of profit or trust under them from accepting any Present from any King, Prince or foreign State without the consent of Congress. Upon this principle, while I was Minister at the Court of Lisbon, I sent to my Government a Sabre & Belt richly mounted & ornamented in gold, which had been presented to me by the Dey of Algiers.

Notwithstanding I do not now hold any Office of profit or trust, or of any nature or kind whatsoever under the U.S., and therefore may not be prevented by a fair construction of that article from accepting a Present from a King, Prince or foreign State; yet from motives of personal delicacy & especially from respect to the opinions of some of my fellow Citizens, I should find it prudent to decline receiving the Present of H.C.M., in giving every proof in my power of my profound sensibility & thankfulness to the Royal Donor.” On the 1st of Febry. he addressed to me the following reply. “Muy Sor: mio. Permitame V.S. le diga en contextacion al reparo que en oficio de 24 de Enero proximo pasado me expuso tenia, para reciber el regalo que el Rey mi Amo acostumbra á los Embaxadores y Ministros que han residido cerca de su Persona; que mas se funda en su escrupulosa delicadeza, que en lo que previene la Constitucion de los Estados Unidos sobre esta materia, y que habiéndole admitido los Predecésores de V.S. en la Legacion que acaba de servir; me parece no debe V.S. tener inconveniente en hazer lo mismo, mucho menos si le considera como una expresion honorosa y calificativa de un Soberano Amigo de su Gobierno.—Me répito con este motivo á los ordenes de V.S. y ruego a Dios gue su vida m. a. Aranjuez 1o. de Febrero de 1802. B.L.M. de V.S. su mas Ato. Servor. Pedro Cevallos.”

Immediately on the receipt of this, I requested an interview with him, and went accordingly from Madrid to Aranjuez to confer on the subject. In this conversation, after repeating & enforcing the sentiments which I had already expressed verbally & in writing, I informed him, that, if after all I had said & done, it should still be the pleasure of His Majesty to send this token of the Royal favour, I could do no more than to hasten to lay it before the Supreme Executive of the U.S. to be disposed of in such manner as may be thought proper. This I shall perform, should the case however modified occur. For, notwithstanding all which has passed in the matter, I have reason to believe a Present will be sent in ornaments intended for my wife, who was so fortunate as to have obtained marks of the peculiar consideration & benevolence of the Queen.

I do not pretend to offer any informations or advices relative to the dispositions of the Court of Madrid or the subjects now in discussion with it, since my Successor will doubtless have superseded the necessity of my giving you that trouble. I flatter myself the reports made by me to the Department of State will have furnished the means of forming a pretty accurate opinion of the relations subsisting between the two Governments & Countries, during my Residence in Spain, in a Diplomatic Character. Yet I must claim indulgence for mentioning again the circumstances & merits of an Individual. Indeed I cannot dispense with my consciencious obligation to renew my recommendation of Mr Moses Young, who has for so long a time, and with so much fidelity & ability acted as Consul of the U.S. at Madrid, as well as Secretary to me while Minister at that Court. From the former Office, he has derived no emoluments in compensation for much labour & an extensive correspondence, as troublesome to himself as useful to others. The pay of the latter was sufficient merely to defray his expences. This old & faithful Servant of the Public has been left in a very disagreeable situation by the nomination of Mr Graham as Secretary to the Legation. I shall only add, that I conceive Mr Young merits well of the Republic on many accounts, & that few Persons are better calculated for executing the duties of a Commissioner for liquidating & deciding the claims of Citizens of the U.S. on the Spanish Government.

Three or four days previous to my departure from Lisbon, I had a private Audience of considerable length of the Prince of Brazil. His Royal1 made many friendly observations, as they related to myself & Country. He indicated some surprize at the suppression of the American Mission to Portugal, while such interesting connections exist between the two Nations, in point of commerce, and just at the moment when a Minister Plenipotentiary named by him was on the eve of sailing; expressed a desire to maintain the sincerest amity with the U.S.; requested his best Compliments might be presented to the President; and intimated his readiness to re-establish a Diplomatic intercourse by appointing a Minister whensoever it should be deemed expedient.

I was sorry to learn from other sources, that there may soon be several unpleasant cases for official representation, respecting property of Citizens of the U.S., detained in foreign Portuguese Possessions, which, I presume, it will scarcely be supposed can be made with so good a prospect of success by a Consul as by a proper Diplomatic Agent.

I hope that a letter which I had the pleasure of writing to you, by Duplicates, on the 8th of May 1801, was received: and I beg you will be persuaded that

I have the honour to be, with perfect consideration & esteem, Your mo: ob: & mo: hble Servt

D. Humphreys

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson, President of the U.S. of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 July and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found, and no letter from King Carlos IV to TJ in the appropriate time period is recorded in SJL.

ARRIVAL IN THE U.S.: in March 1801, in a letter signed by Levi Lincoln as acting secretary of state, TJ notified Humphreys that he would be replaced as minister to Spain and should begin preparations to return to the United States. Humphreys’s formal recall was written in June 1801, but he did not receive it until his successor, Charles Pinckney, arrived at the Spanish court in December. Humphreys then complained that his recall instructions allowed him only three months’ salary to cover his return to America, but it was so late in the year that it would be longer than three months before he could make a safe ocean crossing. Pinckney, moreover, was ill and could not immediately assume the duties of minister. In March 1802, Humphreys traveled to Lisbon. He embarked from that port for New York, where he arrived late in May (New York Commercial Advertiser, 3, 29 May 1802; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 1:333–4; 2:321, 345–6; Vol. 33:321–3).

Humphreys’s WIFE, Ann Frances Bulkeley Humphreys, was the daughter of Lisbon merchant John Bulkeley. Thomas Bulkeley, whom TJ had recently replaced as U.S. consul in that city, was her brother. In the early 1790s, when Humphreys was the U.S. minister to Portugal, John Bulkeley’s firm acted as his bankers and, through him, handled payments for the subsistence and ransoming of American captives in Algiers. The firm also sold wine to TJ (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Frank Landon Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys: Soldier—Statesman—Poet, 2 vols. [New York, 1917], 2:253; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:112, 131; 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 , 2:812, 829, 988; Vol. 22:170, 323; Vol. 24:4–5; Vol. 25:28–9, 88n, 160n, 235–6; Vol. 34:430n).

LETTER OF RECALL WHICH YOU ADDRESSED TO H.M.: regarding the letter that TJ wrote to the king in June 1801 to announce that Humphreys would be returning to the United States, see Vol. 33:323n.

Although he felt obliged to turn down the ROYAL PRESENT, Humphreys did receive something valuable from the Spanish government, in the form of permission to assemble and take with him a flock of 100 merino sheep. For centuries the raising of that breed, prized for its wool, had been carefully controlled. When Humphreys’s flock arrived in the United States in 1802, there may have been only one true Spanish merino in the country, a ram obtained by Étienne Delessert, a friend of Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours. TJ had some sheep of Spanish origin at Monticello, the gift of Robert Morris, but they were evidently not pure merinos. Humphreys, who received special dispensation from the Portuguese government to export his herd through Lisbon, took the sheep with him across the Atlantic on the same ship on which he and his wife traveled. When the vessel arrived in New York, newspapers took note of the merinos and suggested that readers visit the docks to see the unusual cargo. Humphreys transported the sheep to his property at Derby, Connecticut, where he established a breeding flock and began to promote the qualities of merino wool. A couple of months after the arrival of Humphreys’s sheep, a second, much smaller group of merinos appeared in the United States, sent from France by Robert R. Livingston. Those animals were from the breeding flock that had been established under royal patronage years earlier at Rambouillet, France, from Spanish stock (New Bedford, Mass., Columbian Courier, 18 June 1802; Boston Mercury and New-England Palladium, 7, 10 Sep. 1802; Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys, 2:338–48; Carroll W. Pursell, Jr., “E. I. du Pont, Don Pedro, and the Introduction of Merino Sheep into the United States, 1801: A Document,” Agricultural History, 33 [1959], 86–8; Carroll W. Pursell, Jr., “E. I. du Pont and the Merino Mania in Delaware, 1805–1815,” Agricultural History, 36 [1962], 91–2; Frans A. Stafleu, “Benjamin Delessert and Antoine Lasègue,” Taxon, 19 [1970], 923; Antidote to the Merino-Mania Now Progressing through the United States, or, the Value of the Merino Breed, Placed by Observation and Experience, upon a Proper Basis [Philadelphia, 1810], 7–8, 11; George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746–1813 [New York, 1960], 428–9; Barbara McEwan, Thomas Jefferson: Farmer [Jefferson, N.C., 1991], 123; Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends , 111–12; Vol. 28:267–8; TJ to James Ronaldson, 13 Feb. 1809, in DLC).

FIRST SECRETARY OF STATE: Pedro Cevallos Guerra, Spain’s minister of state, was sometimes referred to as the first minister (Douglas Hilt, The Troubled Trinity: Godoy and the Spanish Monarchs [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1987], 118; Vol. 33:295n).

SABRE & BELT RICHLY MOUNTED: although he remained in Portugal and delegated the negotiations to Joseph Donaldson, Humphreys oversaw the treaty with Algiers that was signed in 1795 and ratified by the Senate the following year. Following the conclusion of the pact, Ali Hassan, the DEY OF ALGIERS, sent a sword and sash to Humphreys. The United States gave the dey a golden tea set and other gifts worth about $300 (Louis B. Wright and Julia H. McLeod, The First Americans in North Africa: William Eaton’s Struggle for a Vigorous Policy against the Barbary Pirates, 1799–1805 [Princeton, 1945], 24–5; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:303–4).

MUY SOR: MIO: “My dear sir. Permit me, Your Excellency, to say in response to the misgiving that you explained you had in your communication of 24 Jan. last about receiving the present that the king my master is wont to make to the ambassadors and ministers who have resided near him, that that has more to do with your scrupulous discretion than with the prohibition of the Constitution of the United States on this matter, and given that Your Excellency’s predecessors in the legation you recently served accepted them, it appears to me that Your Excellency should have no objection to doing the same, especially when you consider it as a proper expression from a sovereign friend of your government. I am as ever on this occasion at Your Excellency’s service and I pray that God preserve your life many years. Aranjuez, 1 Feb. 1802. Your most devoted servant kisses Your Excellency’s hand. Pedro Cevallos.”

John Adams appointed MOSES YOUNG as U.S. consul at Madrid in April 1798 (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 , 1:268–9).

João, the prince regent of Portugal, had the title PRINCE OF BRAZIL. In an official letter in May 1801, acknowledged by João in September, TJ had announced the closure of the American diplomatic legation in Lisbon. The Portuguese government then canceled plans to send João Paulo Bezerra to the United States as resident minister (H. V. Livermore, A History of Portugal [Cambridge, 1947], 386; José Calvet de Magalhães, História das Relaçoes Diplomáticas entre Portugal e os Estados Unidos da América (1776–1911) [Mem Martins, Portugal, 1991], 333; Vol. 34:209n; Vol. 35:507n).

A few American ships had been DETAINED for various reasons along the coast of Brazil. TJ and Madison expected consular officials to assist shipowners with any claims resulting from those detentions (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 2:437, 456; 3:131, 190, 398).

1Thus in MS; Humphreys evidently omitted a word.

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