From Jean Vermonnet
Havane le 13 Fevrier 1803.
L’occasion que je rencontre d’un Officier de la Marine Francaise qui se rend aux Etats unis est pour moi une circonstance trop heureuse, puisque par elle je me trouve à même de me rappeller à V.E. de laquelle j’ai reçu des Politesses, et des marques de bonté lorsque j’eu l’honneur de la visiter à la City federal il y a environ deux Ans. Elle eut même à cette Epoque la bonté de m’annoncer que s’il se formoit un Corps d’Ingénieurs, Elle n’oubliroit pas que par mes Services passés j’aurai des droits à réclamer sa protection, et ce fut par cet espoir que je m’occupé de former un Plan de la Baye de Hampton, du même que des environs de Norfolk à fin d’y decrire un Sisteme de defence tel que je l’appercevois utile. Mais la Situation de ma famille et la Lenteur du Secretaire de la Guerre à m’honorer d’une reponse pendant 8. mois à cinq Lettres que je lui avois écrit me devint un garant de son refus à m’affirmer la protection que V.E. m’avoit temoigné. Je pris alors le parti de quitter les Etats unis, ou j’avois residé pendant 27. Ans, et ou j’avois servi 13. ans comme Ingénieur, pour visiter un Domaine Francais ou j’avois des grands Intérêts en terre, &c. Depuis ayant l’avantage d’être connû par le Gouvernement Francais, j’ai été invité à me rendre dans les Possessions Espagnoles pour y remplir une Mission, et y prendre aussi une Fonction qui me lie au Gouvernement qui m’a accuilli. Etant dans ce moment ci à la Havane j’ai eu la Satisfaction d’y rencontrer votre chargé d’affaires Vincent Gray Esquire homme trés estimable, et qui a acquis la consideration à bien juste titre des personnes en place, et respectables du Pays ou il est. Dans le Cas qu’il seroit agreable à V.E. de recevoir quelques objets d’histoire naturelle comme aussi de toute autre chose dans les Pays Espagnols ou ma place me donne des relations, et me met à même de voyager, je la prie de croire que ce seroit pour moi un plaisir égal à celui que j’éprouve à l’assurer du respecteux attachement avec le quel j’ai l’honneur d’être
De V.E. Son tres humble et tres obeissant Serviteur
Comisaire et agent G.
pour lisle de cube l’a louisianne
Havana, 13 Feb. 1803
A French naval officer who is traveling to the United States provides me with an unhoped for occasion to send greetings to Your Excellency who was particularly kind to me when I had the honor of visiting you in the capital city some two years ago. At that time you generously pledged that if you were to create a corps of engineers, you would remember that I could seek your support, given my past service. Inspired by this hope, I worked on formulating a plan for Hampton Bay and the area around Norfolk, designing a system of defense that I judged useful. But after writing five letters to the secretary of war and not receiving any response in eight months, I concluded that he was unwilling to confirm the support Your Excellency had promised. Given my family situation, I thus decided to leave the United States, where I had lived for 27 years, including 13 as an engineer, and to visit a French territory where I had significant land interests, etc. Since then, benefiting from being known by the French government, I have been invited to the Spanish possessions to fulfill a mission and perform a function that links me to the government that has welcomed me. In Havana, where I am now, I was pleased to meet your chargé d’affaires, Vincent Gray, Esquire, a very worthy man, who has deservedly earned respect from the officials and notable citizens of the country.
If Your Excellency would like some specimens of natural history, or any other objects from the Spanish territories where my position leads me to travel and meet people, I assure you that fulfilling your wish would be a pleasure equal to the one I have in assuring you of the respectful attachment with which I have the honor of being Your Excellency’s very humble and obedient servant
Commissary and General Agent
for the island of Cuba,
Louisiana, Campeche, etc.
RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Vermonnet; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 13 Jan. received 21 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.
Jean Arthur Marie de Vermonnet (or Vermonet), also known as John Vermonnet, was born in France in 1750 and served as a junior officer in the royal army from 1768 to 1775. In America in 1776, he received, with George Washington’s endorsement, a brevet appointment as an officer in the Continental Army and served as an engineer. Afterward he was in Saint-Domingue. Beginning in 1792, he offered himself as a painter of miniature portraits in several American cities, and he and his wife, whom he married in Boston, advertised a school for young ladies in Baltimore. In 1794, he sought engineering work from the commissioners of the Federal District before receiving an appointment from Secretary of War Henry Knox to direct the construction of fortifications at Annapolis and Alexandria. Vermonnet lived in East Florida in 1806 and provided TJ with information about St. Augustine. The next year the French government made him its commissary for commercial relations for Kentucky, to reside at Natchez (André Lasseray, Les Français sous les treize etoiles, 1775–1783 [Paris, 1935], 480–1; Gilbert Bodinier, Dictionnaire des officiers de l’armée royale qui ont combattu aux États-Unis pendant la guerre d’Indépendance, 1776–1783, 4th ed. [Versailles, 2005], 460; Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 40 vols. [New Haven, 1959– ], 36:203n; Washington, Papers description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, Edward C. Lengel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983- , 56 vols. Confed. Ser., 1992-97, 6 vols. Pres. Ser., 1987- , 16 vols. Ret. Ser., 1998-99, 4 vols. Rev. War Ser., 1985- , 20 vols. description ends , Rev. War Ser., 5:67n; Pres. Ser., 15:423–4, 459–60; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Military Affairs, 1:93–5; RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895-1989 description ends , 9 , 113–14; New York Daily Advertiser, 25 July 1792; Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 28 Oct. 1793; Alexandria Columbian Mirror, 19 Apr. 1794; Abel Poitrineau, “Demography and the Political Destiny of Florida during the Second Spanish Period,” Florida Historical Quarterly, 66 , 439; Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 560; Notes on St. Augustine, 27 Feb. 1806, in DLC; exequatur, 21 Apr. 1807, FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, Exequaturs, and Tr in KyU, endorsed).
à la city federal il y a environ deux ans: Vermonnet probably visited the capital city in the spring of 1801, when he asked Mann Page to write a letter of introduction to TJ (Vol. 34:207). Vermonnet, in hopes of obtaining an appointment to lay out fortifications near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, also solicited support from John Dawson. The engineer addressed two letters to the War Department on the subject, one from Norfolk in March 1801 and another from Portsmouth, Virginia, in July of that year. Vermonnet enclosed a plan with the second communication and also discussed the establishment of a school of engineering. A War Department clerk answered that letter, informing Vermonnet in Henry Dearborn’s absence that the fortification plans had been brought to the president’s attention (Vermonnet to the War Department, 28 Mch., 16 July 1801, noted in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; chief clerk to Vermonnet, 27 July 1801, in DNA: RG 107, MLS).
Since the summer of 1802, vincent gray, the former deputy collector of customs at Georgetown, had been acting U.S. consul at Havana (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., 4:62; Roy F. Nichols, “Trade Relations and the Establishment of the United States Consulates in Spanish America, 1779–1809,” Hispanic American Historical Review, 13 , 305; Vol. 35:43, 46n).