Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Crowninshield to Thomas Jefferson, 30 June 1817

From George Crowninshield

Marseilles 30th June 1817

Much Respected Sir

Stephen Cathalan Esqe the United States Consul for this place, having accumulated an ample fortune, and being desirous of retiring from active life, has resigned his Office to Mr Joshua Dodge an established Commission Merchant at this place, and is very highly esteemed and beloved; this Gentleman is in my opinion every way qualified for the Office, and should he obtain the appointment from our government, I am persuaded he would do honor to the United States.—

At this place are many Commission Merchants, and I am very possitive that no new establishment from the United States could obtain a living, as the Commerce from the United States to this port is not sufficient to support more than those already established: and it requires an acquaintance with the business and the language, which Mr Dodge is perfectly acquainted with, having resided here for some time.—Mr Dodge is related to our family, and was educated in the Counting house of the late firm of George Crowninshield & Sons of which I was a Partner, I know him to be correct, capable & very active; And respected Sir, permit me to refer you for further information respecting Mr Dodge to my Brother the Honble Secretary of the Navy of the United States.—Any assistance you may please to offer to obtain Mr Dodge the appointment of Consul for Marceilles will infinitely oblige one, who has the Honor to be with every sentiment of Respect and Esteem,


Your most obedient, Humble and devoted servant

George Crowninshield

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Crowninshield; between dateline and salutation: “Thomas Jefferson Esqe”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Oct. 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in Stephen Cathalan to TJ, 8 July 1817, and Benjamin W. Crowninshield to TJ, 26 Dec. 1817.

George Crowninshield (1766–1817), merchant and yacht traveler, was born into a wealthy merchant family in Salem, Massachusetts. At an early age he was sent to sea as a captain’s clerk. Crowninshield went on to captain ships in the West and East Indies before returning to Salem in about 1800 to assist his father in the countinghouse of the family firm, George Crowninshield & Sons, which was reorganized in 1809 as George Crowninshield & Company. In August 1813 Crowninshield sailed one of his family’s ships to Canada to retrieve the bodies of American naval officers killed in the capture of the USS Chesapeake. The family firm dissolved following the death of his father in 1815. Crowninshield retired at that point as a wealthy man and began constructing Cleopatra’s Barge, reportedly the first American yacht built solely for pleasure. He set sail for the Mediterranean on the vessel in March 1817. After attracting large crowds but none of the royalty he hoped to entertain, Crowninshield returned to Salem and died on board his yacht (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; David L. Ferguson, Cleopatra’s Barge: The Crowninshield Story [1976], 83–118; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 4:337, 6:450–2, 544–5; Salem Essex Register, 21 June 1809; Salem Gazette, 28 Nov. 1817).

Joshua Dodge (1791–1872), merchant and diplomat, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, attended Phillips Academy in Andover about 1802, and trained in the countinghouse of George Crowninshield & Sons. Dodge arrived in France about 1809. By 1815 he was a commission merchant in Marseille working with several Massachusetts firms, and that same year he began to solicit appointment as the port’s consul. In 1817 Dodge made an agreement with the incumbent consul, Stephen Cathalan, that allowed Cathalan to remain in the position while Dodge took over the duties. Cathalan retained the title of consul and a portion of the accompanying remuneration but agreed to help Dodge obtain the position officially when he did resign, with this assistance to come, in part through Cathalan’s friendship with TJ. Following Cathalan’s death in May 1819, Dodge was appointed temporary consul at Marseille by Albert Gallatin, the United States minister plenipotentiary to France. President James Monroe gave Dodge the permanent appointment later in the year. He served until President Andrew Jackson removed him about 1830. From 1820 onwards Dodge helped TJ procure wines from Europe, both as an individual and after 1821 through his firm, Dodge & Oxnard. In 1823 he spent a week visiting TJ at Monticello. President Jackson appointed Dodge consul at Bremen in 1834. He held this post until 1839 and ended his diplomatic service shortly thereafter as a special agent attending to the interests of the American tobacco trade with Europe (Biographical Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778–1830 [1903], 47; Benjamin W. Crowninshield to TJ, 20 Sept. 1817; Dodge to TJ, 26 May 1819, with enclosures, and 7 July 1823; Ellen W. Randolph [Coolidge] to Nicholas P. Trist, 28 Mar. 1823 [DLC: Nicholas P. Trist Papers]; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–25; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends ; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:186, 197, 4:52, 344, 348, 5:241 [3, 31 Jan. 1820, 3 Feb. 1830, 21 Jan., 10 Feb. 1834, 14 Jan. 1840]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 1 Feb. 1842; Boston Daily Advertiser, 5 Oct. 1872; gravestone inscription in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass.).

Dodge was related to the Crowninshields through his mother, Elizabeth Crowninshield Dodge, who was a cousin to George and Benjamin W. Crowninshield (Sibley’s Harvard Graduates description begins John L. Sibley and others, eds., Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, 1873– , 18 vols. description ends , 17:505; Joseph Thompson Dodge, Genealogy of the Dodge Family of Essex County, Mass 1629–1894 [1894], 143; The Diary of William Bentley, D.D. Pastor of the East Church Salem, Massachusetts [1905–14], 4:335–6).

Index Entries

  • Cathalan, Stephen (Étienne) (1757–1819); as consul at Marseille search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; as secretary of the navy search
  • Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams; family of search
  • Crowninshield, George; family of search
  • Crowninshield, George; identified search
  • Crowninshield, George; letter from search
  • Crowninshield, George; recommends J. Dodge search
  • Dodge, Joshua; as consular candidate search
  • Dodge, Joshua; family of search
  • Dodge, Joshua; identified search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Marseille; U.S. consulship at search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search