Thomas Jefferson Papers
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J. B. Moussier to Thomas Jefferson, 14 September 1809

From J. B. Moussier

a Charleston le 14 Septembre 1809

Monsieur Le président

J’ai L’honneur d’informer, Votre excéllence, que je viens de recevoir ici, un paquet à votre adresse, qui m’est parvenu de france par la Voie du Ship mentor, ce Sont divers ouvrages de Mr henry de Gazzera membre de plusieurs académies, qui vous prie d’en agréer L’hommage.

J’aurois desiré, Monsieur Le président, que la distance de cette ville m’eut permis de vous les présenter moi même, dans L’impossibilité de m’acquitter de cette honorable Commission, j’ai L’honneur de vous prévenir que j’ai remis ce matin Le paquet au Capitaine Levin Jones de la Goélette Wolf de Baltimore, qui m’a assuré qu’il vous Sera éxactement remis.

Cette circonstance me fait hazarder de vous faire une priere, dont je vous prie d’excuser la liberté Si elle devait être impraticable.

J’ai apporté de france une grande collection de tableaux qui représentent les principaux monumens de L’antiquité, une Caisse d’environ cinquante tableaux n’a pu-être disposée au moment de mon départ et est restée à Bordeaux; les Capitaines des batimens parlementaires envoyés en france n’ont pas voulu S’en charger, pour ne pas déroger à la loi de non-intercourse.

Cette circonstance qui retarde mes projets d’établir un muséum dans une des villes des états unis, me fait reclamer votre protection, pour donner L’ordre au Cape du premier batiment qui irait en france en parlementaire, de demander cette Caisse à Mr Louis ferrier Négt à Bordeaux, pour la remettre ensuite à Mr Joseph Thebaud Négt à New-york, qui la tiendrait à ma disposition.

J’ose espérer, Monsieur Le président, que La protection que vous accordez aux arts, me fera trouver mon excuse auprès de vous, Si j’ai pu me rendre importun.

J’ai L’honneur d’être avec un profond respect Monsieur Le president. Votre Tres humble & Très obéissant Serviteur

J. B. Moussier

Editors’ Translation

Charleston 14 September 1809

Mister President

I have the honor of informing Your Excellency that I recently received here a package addressed to you, that came to me from France by way of the ship Mentor. It consists of various works by Mr. Henri Gazzera, a member of several academies, who wishes you to accept them with his compliments.

Mister president, I wish that the distance from this city to you would have allowed me to present them myself. Given the impossibility of fulfilling this honorable commission, I have the honor of letting you know that this morning I gave the package to Captain Levin Jones, of the schooner Wolf, who assured me that it would be delivered to you without fail. This opportunity leads me to venture a request, whose liberty I hope you will forgive, should it not be practicable.

I brought from France a large collection of paintings representing the principal monuments of antiquity. A crate of about fifty paintings was not ready at the time of my departure and remained in Bordeaux. Captains of parlementaires did not want to take it into their care, so as not to run afoul of the Non-Intercourse Act.

This situation, which sets back my plans to establish a museum in a city in the United States, induces me to ask for your assistance, so that orders may be given to the captain of the first parlementaire going to France to ask Mr. Louis Ferrier, a merchant in Bordeaux, to deliver the crate to Mr. Joseph Thebaud, a merchant in New York, who will hold it for me.

I dare hope, Mister President, that the protection you grant to the arts will excuse me in your eyes, should I have made myself tiresome.

I have the honor to be with profound respect Mister President your very humble and very obedient servant

J. B. Moussier

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); on Moussier’s printed letterhead, headed by his insignia, handwritten dateline, and internal address (with handwritten sections indicated in italics): “J. B. Moussier, Citoyen américain, [preceding two words interlined] Naturaliste du Muséum impérial de France, de l’Athénée des Arts, Correspondant de la Société académique des sciences de Paris, a Son excellence, Monsieur Jefferson ex-président des Etats-unis d’amerique à Washington”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Sept. 1809 and so recorded in SJL; on verso is Albert Gallatin’s proposed language for a negative response to Moussier, signed and dated 11 Nov. 1809 and quoted verbatim in TJ to Moussier, 28 Nov. 1809. Translation by Dr. Roland Simon. Enclosures: (1) Henri Gazzera, Importance, et Avantages d’une Morale Publique et Privée, Ou Nécessité d’une Religion dans toute sorte de Gouvernemens et de Climats (Avignon, 1801; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1521). (2) Gazzera, Les Veilles de Saint-Augustin, Évêque d’Hippone (Avignon, 1803; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1553). (3) [Gazzera], Les Nuits de Ste Marie-Magdelaine pénitente (Paris, 1807; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1554). Enclosed in TJ to Gallatin, 11 Oct. 1809, and Gallatin to TJ, 11 Nov. 1809.

Moussier may be the Jean Baptiste Moussier (d. ca. 1831) who, as a merchant at New Orleans in the 1820s, successfully promoted a new type of bank, the capital of which was secured by stockholders’ property mortgages (Irene D. Neu, “J. B. Moussier and the Property Banks of Louisiana,” Business History Review 35 [1961]: 550–7).

Gazzera had written TJ on 25 Oct. 1808 (DLC) that he was sending him a packet of books by way of Moussier, adding that Moussier left Europe with a large collection encompassing European, Asian, and African antiquities spanning four millennia as well as recent scientific discoveries, which he hoped to open to the American public under legislative protection.

Index Entries

  • antiquities; paintings of search
  • Ferrier, Louis search
  • French language; letters in, from; J. B. Moussier search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and case of J. B. Moussier search
  • Gazzera, Jean Antoine Henri Eugene; Importance, et Avantages d’une Morale Publique et Privée search
  • Gazzera, Jean Antoine Henri Eugene; Les Nuits de Ste Marie-Magdelaine pénitente search
  • Gazzera, Jean Antoine Henri Eugene; Les Veilles de Saint-Augustin, Évêque d’Hippone search
  • Importance, et Avantages d’une Morale Publique et Privée (Gazzera) search
  • Jones, Levin search
  • Les Nuits de Ste Marie-Magdelaine pénitente (Gazzera) search
  • Les Veilles de Saint-Augustin, Évêque d’Hippone (Gazzera) search
  • Mentor (ship); carries packages to TJ search
  • Moussier, J. B.; art collection of search
  • Moussier, J. B.; forwards package to TJ search
  • Moussier, J. B.; letters from search
  • Moussier, Jean Baptiste search
  • museums; plans for an American search
  • Non-Intercourse Act; and parlementaires search
  • paintings search
  • parlementaires search
  • Thebaud, Joseph search