George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nathaniel Barrett, 11 May 1789

From Nathaniel Barrett

New York May 11. 1789


Being soon to embark for France, in which Kingdom I shall reside for several years; I have been advised by many of my Friends to offer myself as a Candidate for the Place of Consul to that Kingdom, or if the general system of Consulates shall not be presently arranged, to serve in the mean Time as Commercial Agent for the united states.

My residence in Paris with the Connections I have formed in that City, & in Rouen, the capital of Normandy, will enable me as effectually to serve the general Interest, I presume, as any one.

For my Character, and the exertions I have made for several years past in France in behalf of the Commerce of these states—I beg Leave to refer your Excellency to the Vice President, and the several Gentlemen of the Senate from the Eastern States, to whom I have been long personally known.

I can only add, sir, that if I should be thought worthy of this Appointment, my Time, and Abilities shall be dedicated to render every Service in my Power to my Country. I have the honor to be with the utmost respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient, and most humble Servant,

Nat. Barrett


Nathaniel Barrett (1743–1793), of Braintree and Boston, was Continental loan officer for Massachusetts from 1778 to 1781. In late 1785 he went to France to negotiate contracts for the sale of American whale oil and for deductions by France on the duties on American oil and signed a profitable six-year contract by the end of 1786. John Adams and James Bowdoin both wrote letters of introduction for him to Jefferson, although Adams commented on his “Singular Character, irritable, fiery, avaricious, parcimonious, to a degree, that made me always doubtfull whether he would succeed” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 8:662–63, 9:46, 73–75, 117, 262–63). He returned to America in 1786 but was back in France by the end of the year, continuing his efforts for the whaling industry and becoming involved in schemes to make Honfleur a free port and to market rice from South Carolina (ibid., 10:541, 11:315). In March 1789 he wrote Jefferson requesting that he be recommended to GW as a candidate for a diplomatic post in France (ibid., 15:149). GW appointed Barrett consul at Rouen in June 1790 (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:48–49).

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