Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Robert R. Livingston, 2 June 1803

From Robert R. Livingston

Paris 2d June 1803 midnight

Dear Sir

Mr Monroe having undertaken to write our Joint letter on the subject of Louisiana I should confine mine to the Secretary of State1 to objects that relate only to my individual Department, but I must communicate to you in the utmost confidence a circumstance that has just come to my knowledge & that must be known only to yourself & Mr Madisson because it will influence your measures.—You know that the ratifications have been delivered & that we were to send them directly to you, we have accordingly applied for a passport for Mr Jay the bearer.—to our note on this subject we received no answer I called this day on Mr Talleyrand to accelerate it; he was at St Cloud I called on the Minister of the Treasury. he was there also. I called again this night & am just2 returned they have been these two days past in Council and principally basting Mr. Marbois on the subject of the Treaty for it seems that the Consul is less pleased with it since the ratification than before and I [am]3 persuaded that if he could conveniently get off he would, he insists that our whole debt does not exceed4 four millions and that we have got twenty, that the delivering the ratifications to us was contrary to all form and that they must be recalled and given to Mr Pichon to exchange5 and to this I believe we must consent as it is certainly regular tho’ we shall first keep copies of the ratifications he insists that if the Stock is not delivered in the [time]6 prescribed the Treaty is void that as it is not to be created till after the delivery of the territory a party among us may create delays in taking possession &c he insists upon writing to Pichon not to deliver them but upon a certainty that we will create the Stock &c and upon giving him certain discretionary powers &c in short he appears to wish the thing undone and he will not be sorry to see an opposition to its ratification with us or such a delay [as]7 will render it void I told you in a letter to Mr Madisson how & why the negotiation was put into the hands of Mr Marbois This has not been forgiven by8 and I doubt not that every possible objection and9 insinuation has been made use of to disgust the first Consul with it. To appease him in some measure Mr Marbois has engaged to write a letter to us stating that it is understood that if the treaty is not complied within the time prescribed that it will be void—I have told him, that nothing we can write will change the treaty10 that a non compliance on our part if unnecessary or done with bad faith might render it void. but that an accidental non complyance would not defeat it and I strongly objected to writing any thing upon the subject he was very much distressed at what had passed and told me that he had done every thing for us & that we must not sacrifice him you will see his letter and our answer he promised to send it tomorrow we will take care that the answer shall occasion no change in the Treaty which indeed is impossible it should, but we must as far as we can soothe the youthful Conqueror whose will knows no resistance I will add nothing to this, Mr Monroe I presume will so frame our joint letter as to give you every necessary information11—You see the object of this is to guard you12 against any delays but13 above all against any change in the form of the ratification for be assured that the slightest pretence will be seized to undo the work the first Consul had expressed much resentment at the change made in the former Convention when ratified and makes it a principal objection to having been induced to send the ratification before you had agreed to ratify it & will give14 express direction to Mr Pichon not to deliver the ratifications in case you make the slightest alteration it is necessary you should know this. it is equally necessary that those who oppose the administration should not know it as it will be a trump card in their hands. I really pity Marbois Instead of delivering an order they now talk of sending a special messenger, a Commissary to surrender the country, but I hope we shall induce them to change this resolution & give orders to Mr Pichon

As it was near midnight when I left the treasury I have not been able to communicate with Mr Monroe on this subject or to tell him of the unexpected difficulties that have intervened, & as we are anxious to send off Mr Jay to morrow if they can be removed, & I have to write to Mr Madisson & we are15 to adjust these matters with Mr Marbois, & with Mr Talleyrand and to sollicit a flag of truce16—the morrow will be fully occupied so that I cannot defer writing till I have seen him, & indeed I am under engagements that no official letter shall be written on17 this subject, & with difficulty have obtained permission to mention it to you18

I am Dear Sir, with much respect and esteem Your most obt hum: Servt

Robt R Livingston

Dr Sir

I mentioned to you in one of my former letters a wish to leave this this summer but as things are now circumstanced I think it best to remain at my station till the spring unless you shd order otherwise19

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Livingston, who added postscript, “douplicate” at head of text, and below signature: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr President US:A”; portions in same code as in Livingston’s letter of 12 Mch.; text in italics is TJ’s interlinear decipherment, and his corrections of significant coding anomalies are noted below; endorsed by TJ as received 17 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); in Livingston’s hand except coded passages inserted by clerk in gaps left by Livingston; not deciphered; at head of text: “private & confidential”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Aug. Dupl (DNA: RG 59, Duplicate Dispatches); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Livingston; at head of text: “Duplicate”; at foot of text in Livingston’s hand: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr prest the United States” in place of canceled “The honble James Madison Esqr”; lacks postscript; coded passages not deciphered; notation by TJ at foot of text: “to be filed in Secy. of state’s office”; endorsed by Jacob Wagner as received 30 Sep. Enclosed in TJ to Madison, 18 Aug. 1803.

Livingston’s and Monroe’s joint letter to Madison was dated 7 June (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:66–72).

mine to the secretary of state: Livingston wrote to Madison on 3 June, responding to requests from the secretary of state that he press the case of John Rodgers and William Davidson over their detention at Cap-Français, protest the forcing of American ships to transport blacks from the island of Guadeloupe, and pursue other matters with the French government (same, 4:304–5, 344; 5:52–4; Vol. 37:427–8).

you know: a dispatch from Monroe to Madison on 23 May announced that the American envoys had received the French ratifications of the Louisiana treaty and conventions from François Barbé de Marbois the day before; see also Livingston to TJ, 26 May (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:24–5). Although the treaty and two conventions were interdependent, the French government ratified each of them individually (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:505–6).

Livingston and Monroe chose Peter Augustus jay, a son of John Jay, to be the courier for the ratifications (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:47, 71).

minister of the treasury: Barbé de Marbois.

in a letter to mr madisson: Livingston reported in a dispatch to Madison of 13 Apr. that Barbé de Marbois had taken on the negotiations over Louisiana (same, 4:511–15; Livingston to TJ, 14 Apr.).

his letter and our answer: according to the terms of the convention covering the financial payment for the cession, the United States was to issue the stock within three months of the exchange of ratifications and the transfer of possession of Louisiana. In a letter to Livingston and Monroe, Barbé de Marbois argued that the three-month term would start with the exchange of ratifications, not the transfer of possession, and that failure to comply with the deadline would void the convention. In reply, the American diplomats stated that it was the “duty” of the United States “to carry into effect the provisions of the treaty and conventions in the times therein specified,” and the French should not bring up the matter of consequences unless the U.S. failed to meet its responsibility. Barbé de Marbois told the Americans that in Bonaparte’s opinion the taking of possession of Louisiana by the United States could be delayed indefinitely if Spain was slow in giving up the colony, if the British took control of it before the United States had possession, or by other circumstances. In their joint letter to Madison of 7 June, Monroe and Livingston expressed an opinion that the first consul might have become dissatisfied with the financial terms of the cession and hoped, by setting the deadline at three months from the exchange of ratifications, to nullify the transaction. In an undated postscript, Livingston reported that the French government “of its own accord” had officially withdrawn Barbé de Marbois’s letter and returned the Americans’ response to it, but had not changed its position regarding the potential voiding of the convention (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:514; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:67–8, 70–1, 71n).

guard against any delays: “It is our earnest wish and advice if the treaties are approved by the president,” Monroe and Livingston declared in the joint letter, “that he convene the Congress to provide the funds for an immediate compliance with them.” Also, although it was Pichon’s responsibility to send the bonds when they were ready, Livingston and Monroe recommended that a U.S. naval vessel be used to take the certificates to France to avoid delay. “We cannot too strongly impress an idea,” the envoys wrote, “if our conduct is approved, of the most prompt execution of the stipulations to be performed on our part, and of a course of proceeding which leaves nothing to chance, by giving any cause of complaint” to the French (same, 68–9).

change made in the former convention when ratified: according to Barbé de Marbois, Bonaparte considered his country’s ratification of the Louisiana treaty and conventions to be subject to change until the United States ratified the documents. Citing the precedent of the Convention of 1800, which the U.S. Senate had ratified only after removing one article and adding a limit of duration, Bonaparte threatened to append conditions to his ratification of the Louisiana sale (same, 67; Vol. 33:22n).

give orders to mr pichon: on 6 June, Denis Decrès, the minister of marine and the colonies, signed instructions to Pichon for the transfer of Louisiana. Once ratifications had been exchanged, the chargé was to see that possession of the colony was ceded from Spain to France and immediately from France to the United States. Instructions from Talleyrand of 7 June authorized Pichon to proceed with the exchange of ratifications. He was to add to the official record two clauses, one stating that the United States must fulfill its obligations even if the British should occupy Louisiana, the other declaring that the treaty and conventions would become null if the U.S. did not follow the financial terms specified in those agreements. The French government put the instructions from the ministers, which were in cipher, and the ratification documents into an envelope that Livingston and Monroe gave to Jay, who was to convey it to Madison for transmittal to Pichon. The packet also included a letter from Talleyrand to Madison confirming the French ratification and one from Barbé de Marbois, as finance minister, to Gallatin, enclosing a copy of a contract of 12 Floréal (2 May) between the French government and two banking firms, Francis Baring & Company of London and Hope & Company of Amsterdam. That agreement had been made in consultation with Livingston and Monroe, who wanted to ensure that the price of the stock issued for the purchase of Louisiana would not drop from open trading in the United States or Europe. In the contract, the Baring and Hope firms agreed to buy all of the stock from France. Baring & Company had become bankers in London for U.S. government transactions, and that firm had long-standing business and personal connections to Hope & Company, which could make payments in France. The American envoys enclosed a copy of the contract in their 7 June joint letter to Madison. Jay, who also carried Livingston’s and Monroe’s dispatches and copies of the French ratifications, traveled on the Oliver Ellsworth, which sailed from Le Havre on 23 June and stopped at Rochelle on the west coast of France before crossing the Atlantic. The ship, boarded twice en route by British privateers and once by a Royal Navy frigate, arrived in New York on 18 Aug. (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:509, 534; 5:47n, 55, 66–8, 70, 71, 81, 89, 98, 105, 123, 251, 294, 355–7, 365, 386; J. E. Winston and R. W. Colomb, “How the Louisiana Purchase was Financed,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 12 [1929], 189–237; Ralph W. Hidy, The House of Baring in American Trade and Finance: English Merchant Bankers at Work, 1763–1861 [Cambridge, Mass., 1949], 31–4; Martin G. Buist, At Spes Non Fracta: Hope & Co. 1770–1815, Merchant Bankers and Diplomats at Work [The Hague, 1974], 39, 40, 53–4, 57–8; King, Life description begins Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, New York, 1894–1900, 6 vols. description ends , 4:223–4; New York Evening Post, 19 Aug.).

12d RC: “mine to Mr Madison.”

2In place of this word 2d RC has “this moment.”

3This word, omitted by Livingston’s clerk in the coded passage of the RC, has been supplied from the code in the 2d RC and Dupl.

4In accordance with the code in the MS, TJ first wrote “sent” (code 379). He corrected it to “exceed” (code 1379); Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 469, 475. The word was coded correctly in the Dupl, incorrectly in the 2d RC.

5In accordance with the code in the MS, TJ first wrote “Europe change” (codes 1375 and 21). He corrected that to “exchange” (codes 1377 and 21); Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 475. 2d RC and Dupl both contain the coding error.

6TJ’s brackets. “Time” (code 843) is his substitution for “to” (code 849) in MS (Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 472). 2d RC and Dupl both contain the error.

7TJ’s brackets. As coded in MS, the word (code 1627) would be “ay” instead of “as” (code 1657). Dupl contains the error; 2d RC has code 1327, “der” (Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 475, 477).

8This ellipsis also appears in 2d RC and Dupl.

9Word coded correctly in MS (code 1667), but TJ first wrote “that” before correcting himself (Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 477).

10Dupl: “nothing we can write will avail.”

11Preceding nine words are in code in 2d RC and Dupl.

12Word lacking in 2d RC and Dupl.

13TJ first wrote “that” and then substituted “but,” although “and” (code 1667) was the correct word (Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes description begins Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938, Chicago, 1979 description ends , 477).

14Preceding eight words and ampersand lacking in 2d RC.

15MS: “let.” Dupl: “we are to adjust these matters”; 2d RC: “we must adjust the business.”

162d RC: “obtain passports.”

172d RC: “shall enter into.”

182d RC: “to state it thus fully to you.” 2d RC concludes: “The french troops have entered Hanover & are by this time I believe in full possession—I have the honor to be Dear Sir With the most respectful consideration Your Most Obt hum: servt.”

192d RC postscript: “PS. I wrote a few days ago informing you my williness to remain here till the spring as I believe the present state of things may render it necessary to await the return of your ratification & to adjust difficulties on the subject of the debts &c. after which it will be too late to sail.”

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