From Beauregard and Bourgeois
[New Orleans, 14 October 1789]
We the underwritten Subjects of his Catholick Majesty residing in New Orleans on the River Missisipi, most respectfully beg leave to address ourselves to your Excellency on a subject in which we find ourselves aggreved and that we are in Duty bound to communicate to you, who are the Father and great Protector of your Country, whose Honor we are persuaded you will not suffer, even in the smallest degree to be tarnished with Impunity.
Oliver Pollock acted as Agent for Congress and the State of Virginia in this Town during the early part of the late Revolution which has terminated so happily for the Rights of Mankind and to your immortal Glory. In the Year 1780 he had occasion for Money to support the Demands of the Army of Virginia then acting in the Western parts of that State; and to raise the necessary supply for that purpose, he offered us for Sale Bills of Exchange on France, at this Time we knew Pollocks circumstances to be very low, we always knew his Abilities as a Man of understanding to be mean, and that he being Ambitious, and grasping it was not improbable that he had rather assumed the Character of Agent than that he actually enjoyed it by any Appointment or Authority from Congress or the State of Virginia for indeed we conceived his Capacity inadequate to any office beyond that of a Pensylvania Constable. We therefore refused to purchase his Bills untill he convinced us that he was a regularly appointed Agent. This he delayed not to do, & by producing to us a Letter bearing date the 6th of November 1779 from Govr Jefferson of Virginia and the Board of Trade of that State authorizing & empowering him to draw Bills on the House of Penet, Dacosta Freres & Co. of Nantz for 65.814 Dollars & five Ryals; This Letter at once removed our Doubts as to Pollock’s appointment, and as to his right of drawing Bills of Exchange as above related, and considering the afore said Letter as a Caution and Ample Guarantee to us for the due Payments of the Bills or in the alternate case of their being returned unpaid, that we should be reimbursed with all Damages which we might sustain in consequence, conformable to the usage of Merchants and the Laws of Bills of Exchange we unfortunately bought his Bills & paid him instantly in Gold & Silver for them.
These Bills we sent to our respective Correspendents in France to do the needfull for us. we waited 18 Months in painful suspence for their Fate; at length we received advice that they were not and would not be accepted this information to us was alarming and it was rendered still more dreadfull to us by the news we had from the North that Lord Cornwallis had in the full carreer of success entered the State of Virginia from the South, Burnt all the Tobacco, and Ware Houses of that Country and from all and every appearance of things the War at that time did not promise a favourable termination for America, at this Period Pollock had neither Fortune, Character, or Credit, His insignificance, Poverty, and the general dislike of the good People of this Country towards him readily procured him a Passport to quit this Country leaving us hopeless, of ever touching a farthing of the Money he received of us for the aforesaid Bills, but the War took a favourable turn in 1782 and Great Sir under the Protection of Heaven as you evidently have been during the great revolution of America, you conquered your Enemy you conquered the most Puissant Power of Europe, and in the Year 1783 restored Peace to your grateful Country; Our hopes then revived, that Virginia ever famed for good faith would reimburse us the Money we advanced her Servant Pollock, in the moment of her Want.
In 1784 we were informed that Mr Pollock had settled all his Publick Accompts with the State of Virginia in which he included our Demands with an allowed Damage of 18 Cent and an Interest of 6 Cent annum. Yet untill the Year 1787 we heard no more on this Subject, When Daniel Clark, Pollock’s Agent here and they say is concerned with him, did inform us that he had orders from Mr Pollock to take up our Protested Bills and to allow us 12½ Cent damages & 5 Cent annum Interest and this in the Paper money of this Country of which 162½ Dollars were only equal to 100 Silver Dollars, we consented to take any Payment he made us having still confidence in the Honor and Justice of Virginia, that on a Representation from us she would reimburse us the difference between what he Pollock paid us and what he Pollock has charged the State with.
As Mr Pollock has settled his account with the State of Virginia in solid Mexican Dollars so we humbly conceive he ought to have settled with us in the same solid money and not in Paper Currency at 62½ Cent Loss. If Mr Pollock charges Virginia 18 Ct Damages & 6 ct annum Interest on our protested Bills we humbly conceive he as an honest Man, should allow us the same.
We are the fair Creditors and Claimants of the State of Virginia, we ask no more of her than what is honestly our due; She nobly settles with Pollock, and Pollock basely attempts to defraud us, as we believe he has defrauded her, We paid Pollock for his Bills in Gold and Silver, How does he reimburse us at the end of 9 Years? in paper Currency depreciated 62½ p. % under par. To God, the Honor of Virginia, and the Justice of the President of Congress, we submit our Claim with Humility trusting that the unconscionable and avaricious Pollock shall be compelled to pay us, a Sum equal to that which Virginia on the same account and for the same Purpose allows to him.
We humbly take leave to enclose a State of our Accounts from a comparative view of them it may be seen at a Cast of the Eye how much Mr Pollock would wish to rob us of;1 Individuals may rob States with Impunity but they are seldom allowed to rob each other without being exposed.
We now conclude this Representation with an humble Request that your Excellency will cause Justice to ⟨be⟩ done between us and Mr Pollock; praying the Omnipotent to take you into his holy Keeping & that you may be as successful in governing the United States of America as you have been in the Command of her Armies.
LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.
This memorial concerns the involved affairs of Irish-born Oliver Pollock (1737–1823), who had settled in New Orleans around 1768. Pollock spent some time in Philadelphia before the Revolution developing a network of contacts with commercial firms in the city and acted as New Orleans agent for the Philadelphia firm of Willing & Morris. In 1778 Congress appointed Pollock its commercial agent in New Orleans. In the same year Virginia used Pollock’s resources to provision George Rogers Clark’s forces in the Illinois country. Most of the provisions for Clark were contracted for by Pollock, using his own credit and the modest contributions made by Congress and by the state of Virginia. The memorial of Luis Toutant Beauregard and S. Bourgeois, New Orleans merchants, concerned these transactions. Enclosed with the memorial were accounts of each of the merchants and a certificate from Pollock’s agent Daniel Clark. By the end of the war Pollock’s claims against Virginia reached nearly $140,000. According to Pollock, in 1783 the state of Virginia stopped payment of the bills he had drawn on Penet, d’Acosta, Frères & Cie. At that time Esteban Miró, governor and intendant of Louisiana, listed the sum of $4,892 due to Beauregard and $22,519.1 to Bourgeois (Pollock to Miró, 18 Aug. 1783, and Miró to Pollock, 8 Oct. 1783, in Kinnaird, Spain in the Mississippi Valley, description begins Lawrence Kinnaird, ed. Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1765–1794. 3 vols. Washington, D.C., 1946-49. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1945, vols. 2-4. description ends vol. 3, pt. 2:77–78, 87–88). See also Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:230–31, 244, 432. A persistent creditor, Beauregard went to Virginia in 1780 in a vain attempt to secure payment (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 3:320,482–83).
GW received the merchants’ memorial early in 1790, and on 6 Feb. Tobias Lear sent the document to Edmund Randolph, with the president’s request for the attorney general’s opinion “Whether it can be considered as in any manner relating to the General Government—or to the State o[f] Virginia—or be viewed as a Mercantile transaction between persons unconnected with the public” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Randolph replied on 7 Feb. in one of his first opinions as attorney general: “I had the honor of receiving last night a letter of the 6th instant, from your Secretary, Mr. Lear, inclosing by your order a representation from Louis Poutant [Toutant] Beauregard and Le Bourgeois, two different statements of their respective accounts with Oliver Pollock, and a certificate of Daniel Clark, and requiring my opinion thereupon.
“From these documents, I understand that in the year 1780, Pollock being an agent for the western army of Virginia, and authorized by the Governor and board of trade of that State, to draw bills of exchange on the house of Penet, Decosta, Freres and company of Nantz, for 65,814 dollars and five ryals, Beauregard and Cadet Sardet, deceased, bot. three of those bills, and paid for them instantly in Gold & Silver; that after the expiration of eighteen months, advice was received of the non-acceptance of the bills thus purchased from Pollock; that in 1784, Pollock settled his accounts with Virginia in silver dollars, included in them Beauregard’s and Sardet’s demand, and obtained damages at the rate of Eighteen per centum, and an interest of six per centum per annum; that Bourgeois has married the widow of Sardet; and that in 1787, Clark being Pollock’s agent, took up the non-accepted bills which had been protested at the damages of twelve and a half per centum, and at an interest of five per centum per annum, and paid the amount estimated on these principles, in the paper money of New Orleans; and that one hundred and sixty-two dollars and on[e] half of this paper money, was no more than equal to one hundred silver dollars.
“Upon these allegations, a request is founded that the President of the United States ’will cause justice to be done.’ By Justice is me[a]nt a compensation for the difference between the damages of eighteen and twelve and a half per centum, between six and five per centum per annum, and between silver dollars and the paper dollars of New Orleans.
“To me it appears that these transactions do in no manner fall within the sphere of the President:
“1st. It is not pretended that the bills in question were drawn by Pollock in behalf of the United States, or under their license; on the Contrary, he was treated with as the agent of Virginia, and under the particular powers of the Governor and board of trade of Virginia—consequently, the debt arising from the protest of these bills never was a debt of the United States.
“2d. Let it then be allowed for a moment that Virginia is bound to make the compensation required. The Constitution of the United States extends the Judicial power to all cases between a state and foreign subjects. Beauregard & Bourgeois profess allegiance to his Catholic majesty, and therefore have the courts of the United States open to their claims against Virginia.
“3d. Perhaps, however, the President may sometimes think it advisable to remonstrate with a state on its conduct towards foreigners; But on this occasion, the truth seems to be that Virginia will always be able to defend herself. The papers are silent as to many important facts which ought to be ascertained, and which, when ascertained, might probably by their own weight, support the refusal of Virginia to pay what is claimed; But enough is in my opinion disclosed for this purpose. It is admitted that Beauregard & Bourgeois consented to accept in the paper money of New Orleans the damages of 12½ per centum, and the interest of five per centum per annum. The course of business renders it certain that Clark received the protested bills from Beauregard & Bourgeois, and that they were delivered up to Virginia when Pollock closed his accounts with her. Virginia then, ignorant of the distant negotiations betweeen them, and finding Pollock in possession of the bills, infers with great propriety that the rights of all other claimants were relinquished in favor of Pollock, and adjusts the debt as it is agreed fairly & honorably. Nay, even if Virginia had been apprized at the time of the adjustment, that Beauregard & Bourgeois had made a bad bargain with Clark, it surely was not proper for her to undertake to rectify the want of prudence in individuals, who resigned everything when they surrendered the bills. These reasons apply with equal force against any reimbursement for depreciation. But it may be added with respect to this point, that Clark, altho’ he paid paper money, paid a money which was legitimated by the sovereignty of New Orleans.
“4. In short, (if a dispute can be said to exist at all) it must lie between Beauregard & Bourgeois and Pollock. If he had deceived them, the laws of the United States afford redress. But as the merits of their contest do not relate to the General Government, I shall not trouble you with any observations upon it” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:109–11). By GW’s order, Lear transmitted a copy of Randolph’s opinion to Beauregard and Bourgeois on 16 Feb. 1790 (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).
In 1790 and 1791 Pollock was in Virginia attempting to settle his account with the state. See Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:230–31, 244, 432; Journals of the Council of State of Virginia, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends 5:63, 69, 184, 238, 254–55. His own views on the Beauregard-Bourgeois appeal to GW appear in a letter to Beverley Randolph, governor of Virginia, 22 Jan. 1791: “By your Excellency’s order at my request, the clerk of the Honourable the Council has handed me Copy of a scurrilous paper directed to the President of the United States, signed by Lewis Toutant Beauregard and S. Le Bourgeois, accompanied by a voluntary certificate signed by Dan’l Clark, dated New Orleans, 14th October, 1789. I was honoured at the same time with Copy of the Attorney-General’s oppinion upon those papers, dated New York, 7th Feb’ry, and given by order of the President.
“This oppinion is so fully pointed to the Purpose, that it leaves but little for me to say on the subject; therefore I do not mean to trouble your Excellency with a tedious argument upon a business already so Discussed, that inspiration could hardly throw a new light upon it. There are, however, some points in view which the authors of those papers maliciously insinuates, 1st, that I never had anything to loose, and of course they never looked to me for the money; and lastly, that I may have defrauded the State as well as them. Respecting those charges I have 1st to observe that I carried on an extensive and advantageous commerce for twelve years before the revolution; during which time I was supply’d with dry-goods from London, negroes from Africa, and flour from Philad’a to the River Mississippi, (for all which I had no bills protested); and by the Correspondence I had with the principal Commercial Houses in Philad’a, I became known to the United States, and early in the revolution I was solicited by them & this state for important supplys which I then furnished with my own funds, and my own Credit long before I had the honour to touch Beauregard or Bourgeois’ money for the unfortunate bills upon Pinet, Dacosta & Co.
“Those Gentlemen, say: ‘In 1784 we were informed that Mr. Pollock had settled all his publick accounts with the State of Virginia in which he included our demands with an allowed damage of 18 p’r cent., & Interest of 6 pr. Ct. pr. annum. Yet untill the year 187 we heard no more on the Subject.’ They must have had more than common indulgence in their debtors to remain three years in silence without making any demand on me, and nine years without making any demand even on the State, which they now say was their whole Dependance for their money; but I presume they forgot how they commenced suits against me at the Havana & New Orleans. . . . It now only remains to inform your Excellency respecting the paper money busines. In the years 1787 & 1786, I shiped my attorney (then Mr. Clarke), negroes from the West Indies & flour from Philad’a to New Orleans, to be there disposed to the very best advantage to take up those bills, and all others that unfortunately had my signature hanging over me for the publick service. Mr. Clarke in this transaction received the current money of the country for my property, and, of course paid it away as received.
“It appears also by this Gentleman’s certificate that I had gained 1 p’r Ct. Interest & 5½ p’r Ct. damages. Granted he acted as my attorney and did only his duty to make the best bargain he could for me, ‘however sorry he or them may be for it now,’ for which I paid him 5 p’r Ct. on the sales of my Goods, and 5 p’r Ct. for taking up those bills, but this is out of my own pocket, as I did not act in this instance as agent for the State, or did the State furnish me with funds or Credit to take up those bills, but on the contrary, I risked my own funds and my own credit in the regular line of Commerce, and paid those gentlemen in their own Currency at their own door, and if I have any proffits by the negociation, I presume all men of candour will think me justly entitled to them, but what is most to be lamented that they have got the paper money which was Equal to Gold and Silver at New Orleans when I was there last year, and I am, to this day, not only laying out of my Capital but also out of the Interest of my money.
“I observe Mr. Clark’s certificate cloaths Mr. Beauregard with the dignity ‘of one of his Majistie’s council of Loussiana.’ I hope he has got better credentials to produce for it than that flimsy voucher, but if he has such appointment it does him honour, and it is probably from that circumstance of his having acquired a proper knowledge of the Rectitude of that Government, that prevented him from having the audacity to lay such a claim before that Honourable Tribunal, although I was on the spott at New Orleans at the verry time he secretly put it forward to the President of the United States, & by that artifice put it out of my power to bring them to Justice” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 5:251–54). For an enthusiastic letter of support for Pollock attesting to his zeal in settling his accounts in New Orleans, see Esteban Miró to the governor of Virginia, 27 July 1790, in ibid., 192.
1. The enclosures were a “Statement of Mr Toutant Bourgards accompt with Oliver Pollock as settled by Daniel Clark said Pollock’s Agent at New Orleans,” a “Statement of Oliver Pollock’s accompt with Toutant Bourgard, agreeable to the Settlement which the said Oliver Pollock made with the State of Virginia,” a “Statement of Oliver Pollock’s account with the Representatives of Cadet Sardet as said Pollock has settled the same with the State of Virginia,” and a “Statement of Oliver Pollock’s account with the Heirs of Cadet Sardet deceased as Settled with Mr Bourgois who married the widow of said Cadet by Daniel Clark Agent of said Pollock at New Orleans.” All of these documents are in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.