Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Deblois, 29 August 1802

From William Deblois

Havre Augt. 29th: 1802


I am induced to this freedom by the desire of Thomas Paine Esqr. who is shortly to embark from hence for America; He very deservedly merits my friendship and esteem, and from his observations on his long tryed acquaintance with you, I am induced to entertain a hope you will look with an indulgent eye, on the liberty I now take, and when you know the cause I wish it may plead a further excuse; That of releiveing a Wife and large familly, for by a train of unavoidable misfortunes my finances are at a low ebb.—Peter Dobell Esqr: for whom I now act, in his absense as Agent, is about to resign the Consularship of this place, and I have to solicit your Excellencey in nominating myself to that Office—I am an American by birth, and ‘ere this trust my name is not wholly unknown to you—I have resided nearly five years in France, and know well the people I am among. should it please your Excellencey to grant my request, be assured it will be my endeavour to merit that Honor, and never abuse the trust reposed in me—

Accept Sir, my sincere wishes that you may long live, to be at the head of a free and enlighten’d people, and believe me to be with sentiments of the highest respect and esteem—

Your Obedient & very hble: Servt.

Wm: Deblois.—

Dupl (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “His Excellencey Thomas Jefferson esqr. President of the United States”; at foot of text: “(Copy) Orriginal by Thos. Paine Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Oct. and “to be Consul at Havre” and so recorded in SJL. RC (same); endorsed by TJ as received 20 Dec. and “to be Consul at Havre” and so recorded in SJL.

Before his time in Le Havre, William Deblois (ca. 1758–1811) was a Boston-based ship captain and merchant. Neither TJ nor James Madison seems to have considered Deblois for the position of commercial agent or vice-consul of the French port. He returned to Boston and after being declared a bankrupt in 1803 worked for the remainder of his life as a ship captain (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 4:426; Boston Continental Journal, 26 Feb. 1784; New York Morning Chronicle, 15 Oct. 1803; Boston Columbian Centinel, 26 Oct. 1811).

Deblois enclosed his solicitation in a letter of 31 Aug. to THOMAS PAINE, who had experienced difficulty in finding a ship captain willing to give him passage to the United States and had turned to Deblois for help. Deblois asked Paine that if TJ had not already chosen a replacement for PETER DOBELL, to “use your influence that I may remain as I now am—Consul pro tempo” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; Gazette of the United States, 6 Nov. 1802).

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