Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George III, King of Great Britain, 16 September 1803

From George III, King of Great Britain

George The Third, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh, Arch-Treasurer and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire &ca.—To The United States of America sendeth Greeting.—Our Good Friends. Having Nothing more at Heart than to cultivate and improve the Friendship and good Understanding which so happily subsist between Us, and having the fullest Confidence in the Fidelity, Prudence and other good Qualities of Our Trusty and Well-beloved Anthony Merry Esquire, We have thought proper to appoint him Our Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to reside with You, not doubting from the Experience We have had of his good Conduct on other Occasions but that he will continue to merit Our Approbation, and at the same Time conciliate Our Friendship and Good Will, by a strict Observance of the Instructions he has received from Us to evince to You our constant Friendship and sincere Desire to cement and improve the Union and good Correspondence between Us: We therefore desire that you will give a favorable Reception to Our said Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, and that you will give entire Credence to whatever he may represent to You in Our Name, especially when, in Obedience to Our Orders, he assures you of Our Esteem and Regard, and of Our hearty Wishes for your Prosperity. And so We recommend You to the Protection of The Almighty.—Given at Our Court at St. James’ the 16th. Day of September 1803 in the Forty Third Year of Our Reign.

Your very good Friend

George R.

Dupl (DNA: RG 59, Communications from Heads of State); entirely in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Copy”; at foot of text: “Hawkesbury,” representing a countersignature; endorsed by Jacob Wagner as received 28 Nov. and “Copy of Mr. Merry’s credence.”

anthony merry sailed from England on 25 Sep. and landed at Norfolk on the evening of 4 Nov. He arrived in Georgetown on the 26th of that month and presented his credentials to Madison on the 28th. The following day, Madison took him to meet TJ at the President’s House. Merry reported to his government that by accident his first encounter with the president was an awkward meeting in a narrow passageway and that TJ was dressed in his “usual morning attire.” In 1806, Josiah Quincy preserved an account of the meeting from Merry that has become famous: “I, in my official costume, found myself, at the hour of reception he had himself appointed, introduced to a man as the President of the United States, not merely in an undress, but actually standing in slippers down at the heels, and both pantaloons, coat, and under-clothes indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to apperances, and in a state of negligence actually studied.” This was the first permanent appointment as minister plenipotentiary for the 47-year-old Briton, a career diplomat who had spent much of his career in consular positions or as chargé d’affaires. Lord Hawkesbury had used him, however, as an unofficial envoy in preliminary overtures to France in 1801, and the following year Merry acted as his country’s interim minister to France. Rufus King, who described him as “a plain, unassuming and amiable man,” had lobbied the British Foreign Office to send Merry to the United States rather than Francis James Jackson. William Cobbett, railing against the appointment of “mere stop-gaps of the corps diplomatique” to represent Britain in the United States, expected puzzled Americans to ask, “Who is Mr. Merry?” (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- , 35 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:118-19; 6:xxvii, 17, 103; Edmund Quincy, Life of Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts [Boston, 1867], 92-3; William H. Masterson, Tories and Democrats: British Diplomats in Pre-Jacksonian America [College Station, Tex., 1985], 74-7; Lucia Stanton, “Looking for Liberty: Thomas Jefferson and the British Lions,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 26 [1993], 650; 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 ; Vol. 35:295, 297n; Vol. 38:584, 588n).

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