James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Thompson, 7 August 1789

From Benjamin Thompson

Morris Town August 7th. 17891


As I have Supposed under the present government of the Union, that Congress will shortly find it expedient to make some Appointments in a Consular capacity to the Ports of France & French Islands, I have had thoughts of offering myself a Candidate for One or Other of the latter. My Knowledge of the language, customs & manners of the french Nation, I flatter myself, will entitle me to some consideration in the eye of those within Whose department such Appointments may fall. From the increasing intercourse with the Islands, I think they will be most likely to afford the best field for the exercise of the Knowledge & qualities requisite to the discharge of Consular duties. This reason itself is sufficiently important to induce a preference to the Islands. I have besides hopes of very considerable advantages that must Naturally result from a residence in a public Character—but I am altogether at a loss with respect to the mode of Application that would be most likely to succeed in bringing me forward to proper notice. I have therefore, sir, presuming on your former very obliging & friendly attention to me, ventured to solicit your advice & aid on the ocasion. I am known to the President General, to the gentelmen of Congress from this State & many others, but how far such interest & influence may avail in promoting the object I have in view, you doubtless, Sir, are best able to point out. I want information on the Subject & cannot conveniently at this time leave my Family & concerns at home; a line from you Sir, may perhaps for the Moment, answer the purpose of a Journey to New York, but Should you advise a personal attendance hereafter, I shall be ready to proceed. I Shall esteem it a very particular favor to hear from you in Answer per the Morris Town Stage Which leaves Powles Hook every Thursday Morning by Nine oClock. I am with great Esteem & regard Sir your very Humble servant

Benja: Thompson2

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1In the Index to the James Madison Papers this letter is mistakenly dated 7 Aug. 1829.

2Benjamin Thompson (b. ca. 1754) also wrote to Washington and Jefferson in his unsuccessful quest for a consular post. The nature of JM’s “former very obliging & friendly attention” to Thompson is uncertain, but may refer to JM’s role on a committee of the Continental Congress that considered a memorial of Thompson and others in April 1783. Nearly destitute and with “a Sickly wife & Six helpless Children,” Thompson wrote JM again in 1801 seeking an appointment (Thompson to Washington, 12 Sept. 1789, 3 Apr. 1790 [DLC: Washington Papers]; Thompson to Jefferson, 30 Mar. 1790, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, 1950—). description ends , XVI, 282–83; XVII, 253 n. 3; JCC description begins Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 267 n., 271; Thompson to JM, 31 Mar. 1801 [DLC]).

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