Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Richard W. Meade, 8 December 1802

From Richard W. Meade

Phila., December 8th. 1802.


Having been informed the Commissioners are about to be appointed on the part of the US. to meet those of Spain for the settlement of Certain claims of the American Citizens, I Have taken the liberty of addressing you on the Subject, with a tender of my services.—

I Have not thought it necessary to accompany this Letter with any Recommendations. I flatter myself however that on investigation my character will not meet your disaprobation. My Being a Native as well as my father Mr. George Meade of this City & of Respectable Connections will I am induced to hope, add a little weight to the application.

The Secretary of State was addressed some time since by the Merchants of this place in my behalf for an Agency to prosecute their Claims. I then considered myself as a Plaintiff Since when some fortunate circumstances have occurr’d with respect to my [c]laim which induce me to Consider myself so no longer—If I should be thought capable & worthy of the appointment & [it] should be deemed necessary to procure any Recommendations, I doubt not being able to procure satisfactory ones—

With due Respect & Consideration I remain Sir Your most obt. hum Sevt.

R. W. Meade

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); torn; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Dec. and “to be Commr. to Spain” and so recorded in SJL.

Richard Worsam Meade (1778–1828) was the son of Henrietta Worsam and George Meade, a land speculator and Irish-Catholic merchant in Philadelphia. Richard established a successful mercantile business in Saint-Domingue in the late 1790s. He returned to Philadelphia and in 1801 married Margaret Coates Butler, daughter of a prominent shipowner in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Meade, as the assignee in bankruptcy proceedings in 1802, oversaw the dissolution of his father’s holdings, including tracts of land in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina. In 1803, Philadelphia merchants sent the younger Meade as their agent to Spain to seek redress for the seizure and confiscation of their vessels in Buenos Aires. He established himself as a merchant, banker, and shipowner at Cadiz and in 1804 began seeking the consulship there in place of Joseph Yznardi, Sr. Meade served as U.S. naval agent at the port from 1806 to 1816. He also collected art and took an interest in the exportation of merino sheep to the United States. His family returned to Philadelphia in 1817, but Meade was detained and confined at Cadiz by the Spanish government until April 1818, when the U.S., to gain his release, threatened reprisals against Spanish commerce. Meade spent the next decade attempting to recover debts owed him by Spain. In 1820, a Spanish tribunal awarded him a certificate of debt for the sum of $491,153.62, but under the 1819 Treaty of Florida, the United States assumed responsibility for the claims of American citizens against Spain. Meade moved back to Philadelphia and then to Washington to settle his account, but he never received reimbursement (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928-36, 20 vols. description ends ; R. W. Meade, “George Meade, A Patriot of the Revolutionary Era,” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 3 [1888–91], 194, 218–19; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 8 Mch., 9, 28 Apr. 1802, 19 June 1818; Montrose, Penn., Susquehannah Centinel, 16 Aug. 1817; Philadelphia National Gazette and Literary Register, 12 Jan. 1826, 18 Dec. 1827; Alexandria Gazette, 10 Jan. 1828; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939-44, 6 vols., and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801-1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 6:455–6; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 3:548–9; 6:62–3; 8:81–2; Pierce Butler to TJ, 3 Oct. 1804).

secretary of state was addressed: perhaps a letter from Thomas FitzSimons, president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, to Madison, 18 Sep., which has not been found. In it FitzSimons noted that Philadelphia merchants were sending an agent to Spain to prosecute American claims. Meade, also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, was FitzSimons’s nephew (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 3:590; Meade, “George Meade,” 194, 199; Philadelphia Gazette, 2 Nov. 1802; see also Madison to TJ, 14 Aug. 1802). my claim: Meade later noted that he had lost a large sum of money through Spanish detentions at Buenos Aires. Merchants entrusted him with claims worth almost $1,000,000 when he left for Spain (Richard W. Meade, The Case of Richard W. Meade, Esq. A Citizen of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Seized and Imprisoned, 2d of May, 1816, by the Government of Spain, and Still Detained. Cadiz, November 27th, 1817 [Washington, D.C., n.d.], 4–5).

On 9 Dec., James Barbour of Barboursville, Virginia, wrote Madison also offering his services as commissioner under the Convention of 1802 with Spain (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ: “Barber James to Mr. Madison to be Commr. in Spain”; 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–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:183–4).

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