Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Tobias Lear, 25 July 1801

From Tobias Lear

Cape François, July 25th: 1801.—

Dear Sir,

Agreeably to the Memo. which you gave me, I have now the pleasure of sending you some of the Liqueurs & Sweetmeats of this place.—They are packed in two Boxes with a card of Direction on each “The President of the US.”—ship’d in the Schooner Betsy of Alexandria, Saml. Gilpin Master, and addressed to the care of Colo. Gilpin of that place, to whom you will have the goodness to order the Amount to be paid—vizt 175. Livres 13 Sous—equal to 21 12/100 dolls.—I should have sent more; but as I was not myself a judge of the quality, I thought it best to send a small quantity at first, as a sample, and I hope they will prove so good as to bring me an order for a further supply.—

I enclose a bill and a memo. of the different kinds of liqueurs which are also labeled on the bottles.—

I shall not trouble you here, my dear Sir, with public matters, as I write to the Secretary of State by this opportunity, and send him a Copy of the Constitution formed for this Island.—It was, however, my intention to have said something on the general state of Cultivation &c. hereabouts; but I find myself too much indisposed to attempt it at present.—My indisposition arises from a slight cold which I took last evening.—It will soon go off.—The Climate, so far as I have experienced it, is very salubrius.—

I shall always feel highly gratified if I can, by the execution of any commission, or by any means, promote your wishes; for I am, with the highest respect & sincere Attachment

Dear Sir, Your Obliged Friend—

Tobias Lear.—

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Invoice for two boxes, one containing 18 bottles of liqueurs and 4 bottles of sour lime syrup (“Sirop de limon”), the other box containing pots of guava jelly, citron, ginger, pineapple, and tamarind pulp, for total charges of £175.13 or $21.12 (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 134:23105; undated; at head of text: “Doit Le Cn Lear à Bozie” [debit of Citizen Lear to Bozie]; in French in an unidentified hand, with the $21.12 probably added by Lear). (2) List of contents of the two boxes, including, for the cordials, 2 bottles each of creme of orange flower, huile (oil) de Venus, cannelle, parfait amour, absinthe, and creme d’anis, and 6 bottles of noyau (MS in same, 134:23104; in the same hand, but with the numbers of bottles added by Lear, who also totaled the bottles of liqueurs and preserves, adding the 4 bottles of “syrup Punch” to the liqueurs and noting that the articles were to be packed in two boxes; on verso, a calculation, probably by Lear, converting the total of 175 livres to $21; also on verso, an apparently unrelated listing of items in French in an unidentified hand).

No memorandum from TJ to Lear about the Liqueurs and preserves has been found.

On 17 Aug. George Gilpin wrote from Alexandria to notify TJ of the arrival of the two boxes (RC in MHi; at foot of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Aug. and so recorded in SJL). TJ replied from Monticello on 28 Aug., advising Gilpin that he had written to John Barnes that day, requesting Barnes to pay Gilpin the costs, including “any additional charges,” and receive the goods. In his financial memoranda for 5 Oct. 1801, TJ recorded a payment of $22.58 to Gilpin for the items shipped by Lear (PrC in same, at foot of text: “George Gilpin esq. Alexandria,” endorsed by TJ in ink on verso; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1054).

Constitution: in July, Toussaint-Louverture announced a constitution for Saint-Domingue, written by a panel of commissioners he had appointed earlier in the year. The instrument, which abolished slavery, made Toussaint governor for life and allowed him to choose his successor. Samuel H. Smith received a copy of the constitution in confidence from Louis André Pichon, and on 10 and 12 Aug. Smith’s National Intelligencer printed a detailed account of the promulgation ceremony held at Cap-Français on 8 July and a translation of the constitution. Although the constitution referred to Saint-Domingue as a French colony and contained no declaration of independence, the new government was to go into effect immediately, and Bonaparte viewed it as a proclamation of sovereignty by Toussaint. Some of its features resembled recommendations that Alexander Hamilton made early in 1799, when Toussaint’s representative, Joseph Bunel, was in the United States and Timothy Pickering asked Hamilton for suggestions regarding a constitution for Saint-Domingue (Thomas O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789–1804 [Knoxville, Tenn., 1973], 118–20; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:428, 429n, 478; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 1500–1; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 22:473–5, 492–3).

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