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To Thomas Jefferson from Robert R. Livingston, 26 December 1801

From Robert R. Livingston

Paris 26th. decr 1801

Dear Sir

I sent my letters to the secretary some days ago by the way of Havre. I am in hopes that the ship that takes them may not yet have sailed. as I wish to congratulate you on your being elected a member of the national institute tho not without opposition. Ct Rumfort who has just left this was warmly supported.

It gives me pleasure to find the number of friends that you have among the literary & leading characters here tho philosophy is very much out of fashion at present.

For politicks I refer you to my letters to the Secretary since this goes thro’ the post Office. What I there mention as a well founded conjecture relative to Luissania you may consider as confirmed tho the minister has not yet thought it proper to be explicit in his replies to my enquiries on that subject. I have so much information & from such different quarters that I have no doubt that all is arranged. The govt. has been offered to Genl. Massena & refused by him. Genl Bernadotte is now marked out for it. The possession of Luissania is a favorite object under an idea that french manufactures may pass thro’ that channel into our western territory. They know little of the navigation of the Missisipi & that so far from forwarding the sale of their manufactures they will only afford another market for British goods, which will be sent down the Ohio in spite of all their vigilance. It is a fact that these have been sent by that channel from Philadelphia even to New Orleans in preference to sending them by sea during the war. The only true mode of creating a market for French fabricks in America (which consists in creating American capitals in France by the payment of their debts) is as yet neglected, & I fear will continue to be so for some time.

The minister of exterior relations is gone to Lyons to meet the deputies of the Cisalpine republic. It is still problematical whether the first consul will go, tho this was the original intention & he was certainly expected there. On this subject I can not enlarge tho it contains some interesting details because the departure of the post will not afford me leasure to put this in cypher.

We have had continued rains ever since my arrival which have swolen all the rivers in France & Italy & Germany in so much that the destruction of the winter crops & the consequent scarcity of bread is apprehended for the ensuing season—The price of flower is already very high & increasing. It seems that large exportations were made under permits that were carryed far beyond their original intention

I have the honor to be with the most respectful attatchment & esteem Dear Sir Your Most Obt hum: Servt

Robt R Livingston

P.S. 120001 of the men sent to st domingo are destined for louisiaana in case tousaint make no opposition some secret discontent here both among the army & people

The Secretary of States Cypher

RC (DLC); body of postscript written in code by Thomas Sumter, Jr. (see below for the code used); text in italics is TJ’s interlinear decipherment of the coded passage, with his corrections of coding anomalies; spaces within deciphered words have been eliminated, but misspellings resulting from the coding process have not been corrected; the “P.S.” and the line below the coded passage are in Livingston’s hand; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Mch. 1802 and so recorded in SJL.

Livingston landed at L’Orient on 12 Nov., traveled through Nantes, and arrived in Paris on the evening of 3 Dec. He wrote letters to the secretary of state on 10 and 12 Dec., after he had presented his credentials to the French government (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:237–8, 265–6, 302–5, 309–10).

Member of the National Institute: see National Institute of France to TJ, [26 Dec.]. Count Rumford (Rumfort) was elected a foreign associate of the institute in August 1802 (Amable Charles, Comte de Franqueville, Le Premier Siècle de l’Institut de France, 25 Octobre 1795–25 Octobre 1895, 2 vols. [Paris, 1895–96], 2:58).

The conjecture in Livingston’s dispatches to Madison was that Louisiana had definitely been ceded to France, reportedly in exchange for the return of the Spanish portion of the island of Saint-Domingue to Spanish control. To Talleyrand, the French minister of foreign affairs, Livingston voiced concerns about the Louisiana retrocession, and suggested that Spain and France should consider ceding the Floridas to the U.S. Talleyrand acknowledged only that Louisiana “had been a subject of conversation.” No decision “had been concluded or even resolved on” about it, he told Livingston (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:304).

Jean Baptiste Bernadotte oversaw preparations for the expeditionary force to Saint-Domingue. In January 1802, Madison believed that Bernadotte would have the command of the endeavor, which continued to be Livingston’s presumption late in February. However, Victoire Emmanuel Leclerc received the command of the expedition and Bernadotte stayed in France (same, 373, 374n, 493; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 200–1; Vol. 35:398n).

The council of the Cisalpine Republic met at Lyons in January to promulgate a new constitution. On 31 Dec., Livingston reported to Madison that Talleyrand’s absence in Lyons “puts a stop to all public business” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:311, 359).

Secretary of States Cypher: the code Livingston used is printed in Ralph E. Weber, United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775–1938 (Chicago, 1979), 467–77, designated WE027. The code, which was similar to others TJ had used, assigned numbers to stand for words and groups of letters. A coded passage consisted of a series of numbers. In the code used for Livingston’s postscript above, “an” was the number 1, “people” was number 537, and the word “case” was coded by writing 1160 for “c” and 1658 for “ase.” Such a code could only be used if the sender and the receiver had the same code list. Rufus King used a different code, but one based on the same model, for his confidential communications as minister to Great Britain. A copy of the code used by Livingston is in TJ’s papers at ViU, on a printed form that could accommodate up to 1,700 words or groups of letters. Code lists of that size, and the use of printed forms to facilitate their construction, had been initiated by Livingston himself in the early 1780s, when he was secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation. Livingston used this particular code throughout his tenure as minister to France (MS in ViU, on a form with printed numbers in columns, words and parts of words having been written alongside the appropriate numbers in an unidentified hand, undated, untitled, endorsed by Jacob Wagner: “Mr. Livingston’s cypher,” labeled by ViU as Code B5; Tr in DLC: Peter Force Papers, 1857, which Weber used as his source; Weber, Diplomatic Codes, 153–4, 177; Edmund C. Burnett, “Ciphers of the Revolutionary Period,” American Historical Review, 22 [1917], 332; Ralph E. Weber, Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775–1900 [Washington, D.C., 1992], 65–8).

1As coded, and in TJ’s decipherment, the figure is “12 1000.”

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