Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Oliver Pollock, 18 October 1803

From Oliver Pollock

Philada. 18th. Octr. 1803


Having had the honor of being employed in the Service of the United States, as agent to the spanish Goverment in Loussiana, during the revolution that established our Independance, and having during my residence there in that capacity, discharged my trust as well to the satisfaction of my fellow citizens, as to that of the Goverment near which I resided, acquiring at the same time a perfect local knowledge of the Country, and an acquaintance with its inhabitants, which the possession of both the french and spanish language permitted me to cultivate intimately, I have vanity1 enough to presume that an offer of my services at this period, when that country is on the eve of forming part of the union, will not be deemed, by its first Magistrate, too presumptuous, especially when the facts I have just mentioned will no doubt be coroborated by his own memory.

I should not presume to address you, Sir, on the present subject if I yet labour’d under any embarassments, which might be considered as impediments, rendering me unfit to discharge the duties of a public servant, but having happily and honorably obtained an award of the Commissioners named under the 7th. article of the convention with Great Briton, and thereby secured a considerable claim I had against said Goverment, as a priviledged creditor of John Swanwick Esqr. & having actually recoverd one third thereof, I find myself once more independent and in a situation to act as a person free from every incumbrance whatever. I would have waited on you in person, sir, with this application, if the confinement of my youngest daughter whose dangerous situation demands the presence of an only parent, permitted me, but I am persuaded this apology will sufficiently plead with you in my behalf, as will also my friend the Honorable Pierce Butler, who does me the favour, & has the honor of presenting you this letter.

In consequence of having transacted mercantile bussiness upon a verry extensive Scale for several eminent houses in this country—as well as in Europe during my residence in New Orleans, I have been able to acquire a complete knowledge of the commerce of that City & its dependencies; this circumstance induces me to think that I could not better offer my services to my Country than in the Capacity of Collector of the Revenue2 at the Port of New Orleans; assuring you, Sir, that should you deem me worthy & capable of filling this important post, I shall accept it with gratitude, and give such securities as the law of my Country requires in similar cases, endeavouring at the same time, by a faithfull discharge of my duties, to merit a continuation of your protection & the approbation of my fellow Citizens. It is perhaps needless to Observe, that as proprietor of some lands directly on the Banks of the Mississippi, the prosperity of its Navigation & commerce is an object to me, even as a private Citizen, of the greatest concern. However, although I presume to sollicit from you the Collectorship of the Port of New Orleans, permit me to observe that in whatever other situation you may deem my services most usefull to my Country I shall with unremitting zeal endeavour to discharge the duties thereof as becomes a faithfull Citizen, and, Sir,

Your most Obedient humble. Servant

Olr. Pollock

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the U.S.”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Oct. and “to be Collectr N. Orleans” and so recorded in SJL.

offer of my services: in 1801, Pollock applied for office, first in Philadelphia and then as consul at New Orleans. He cited his service as commercial agent at New Orleans during the Revolution, where he obtained supplies for the Continental Congress and Virginia, for which he still sought compensation (Vol. 33:537-8; Vol. 35:326-8).

For Pollock’s entanglements as a creditor of john swanwick, see Vol. 33:537-8. On this date, Pollock wrote Gallatin that the Swanwick estate was awarded £5,445.13.11 sterling by the commissioners under Article 7 of the British Convention. He also noted that he was applying for the collectorship (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Pollock Oliver to mr Gallatin. to be Collectr. N. Orleans”).

Pollock’s daughter Lucetta died on 26 Mch. 1804 after a “tedious and distressing illness.” She was 21 years old. only parent: Pollock’s first wife, Margaret O’Brien, with whom he had eight children, died in 1799. Pollock remarried in 1805 (Aurora General Advertiser, 28 Mch. 1804; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

Pollock’s lands along the mississippi River included the Old Tunica Plantation at Tunica Bend, north of Baton Rouge (Light T. Cummins, “Oliver Pollock’s Plantations: An Early Anglo Landowner on the Lower Mississippi, 1769-1824,” Louisiana History, 29 [1988], 35-48).

1MS: “vaniety.”

2MS: “Revnue.”

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