Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Francis W. Thomas, 6 August 1803

From Francis W. Thomas

Williamsport Maryland
August 6. 1803

Dear Sir

Had not an occasion offer’d wherein you will have it in your power to exercise the Philantrophy—I conceive you possess—tis certain you would never have been troubled with a line from an unfortunate man—who thus Boldly solicits the Illustrious President—for a Pardon—

I am perfectly concious of my Incapability [in] making a Sufficient Appollogy for this Singular—Liberty—yet with confidence I rely on your superior Talents and Generosity


In the year 1797—I left the U.S. in confind circumstances—at the age of Seventeen—In the course of a 2 years I accumulated a hansome Fortune—embarkd for the U.S. was taken by His Britainic majestys Frigate Arab, Commandd by Thos. B. Cabel—by this Catastrophe, I was left destitute of the means of subsistance—I was set ashore in Jamaca—from thence I came to Philadelphia—at the time the United States Frigate was recruiting—this was the truley deplorable situation in which I was placed—when I volunterily enterd as a seaman—I remaind on Board two months and Ill assure you Sir I found British tyranny Prevaild on board a Republican Ship—I allude to the Inferior Officers—

I acknowledge Sir, I left the Frigate in a Clandestine Manner, not alltogether on account of Bad Discipline—But Sir my principal Reason for so doing—common decency forbids my mentioning it—I offer neither as an excuse for my conduct—I was young and Intractable and now1 repent for my past Reprehensible conduct—and if Sir through your goodness I am entitled to enjoy the Blessings of Liberty—under the present administration—you will confer new Life to an unhappy man—Ive respectable Connections and sooner than be tried by a Court Martial—Id put a period to my existance—No Power on earth shall ever Bring me to Trial—I arrived here last month from E Florida and I am confident there are a few Midshipman Possessd with the Pompossity of a Mandarian—who Intend to Signalize themselves by makeing an excursion in this quarter—I wish to Become a usefull Member of Society. I shall endeavour to cultivate Peace and harmony with all rational Animals

tho I am Stigmatized with the Appelation of a deserter—if I am taken it must be man—yet I Flatter myself—through your Sympathic disposition—the threatening Storm may Blow over—My Brother in law not being at home has Induced me to take this liberty—or through his Influence, I Immagine you would be Solicited by—men of Popularity—on his return Its Possible an acquaintance of yours may Intercede in my behalf—I think it proper to observe that the money I recd. was returned by my Security.

With well wishes for your health and Prosperity—I am your most obet. Sert

Francis W. Thomas

Will. Port

Washington County


if it is convenient I should2 be happy to hear from your excellency next mail—and be at once assured of my Fate—I lament that my youthful conduct should be the means of exileing me to a foreign country—yet Ill hope for the best


F. Thomas

RC (DLC); torn; addressed: “The Hon Thomas Jefferson President of the U.S” with “Milton” interlined in another hand in place of “City Washington”; postmarked 8 Aug.; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Aug. and so recorded in SJL.

Francis W. Thomas served as an ordinary seaman on the frigate United States during the closing months of the Quasi-War with France (NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935-38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , Dec. 1800-Dec. 1801, 62).

thos. b. cabel: that is, Thomas Bladen Capel, commander of the British frigate Arab from 1799 to 1800 in the West Indies, who went on to a distinguished career in the Royal Navy (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ).

For a solicitation by Thomas’s brother in law on his behalf, see Thomas Kennedy to TJ, 26 Aug. 1803.

1Word interlined.

2MS: “hould.”

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