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To Thomas Jefferson from Edmond Charles Genet, 22 May 1793

From Edmond Charles Genet

Philadelphie le 22.1 mai 1793. l’an 2e. de la Repe. françoise

Monsieur

Le Conseil éxécutif de la République françoise a appris par2 mon predécesseur le Citoyen Ternant l’Empressement3 avec le quel le gouvernement des Etats unis de l’amerique4 s’est prêté à5 faciliter les achats6 que ce Ministre a été chargé de faire dans les Etats unis pour le Compte de la République françoise7 ainsi que l’acquitement des traites des colonies auquel des circonstances imperieuses l’ont obligé de pourvoir. Le Conseil éxécutif, M., m’a recommande8 d’éxprimer au gouvernement Americain la reconnoissance que lui inspirent toutes les marques d’amitié qu’Il a donne à ce sujet au9 peuple françois et pour lui prouver la reciprocité de nos sentiments Il10 s’est déterminé a imprimer sur le champ un grand mouvement au Commerce de la France avec l’amérique en tirant désormais des Etats unis la plus grande partie des subsistances et des approvisionnements11 nécessaires pour les Armées les flottes et les Colonies de la République françoise.

Le Conseil éxécutif m’a confié la direction de12 ces grandes et utiles operations et il m’a donné des pouvoirs particuliers renfermés dans les rapports et dans les arrêtés ci Joints en vertu des quels Je suis autorisé par le Conseil et par la trésorerie nationale de france à employer les sommes dont les Etats unis pourront effectuer13 le payement sur leur dette envers la france, ou celles que Je me procurerai sur mes traites personnelles payables par la Caisse de la trésorerie nationale, à acheter des subsistances, des munitions navales et à remplir d’autres services particuliers Conformément aux ordres qui m’ont été donnés par les Ministres de l’Interieur, de la guerre, de la Marine et des affaires Etrangeres.

Le gouvernement des Etats unis est trop éclairé pour ne point sentir les avantages immenses qui résulteront de cette mesure pour le peuple Americain et Je ne puis douter que connoissant les difficultés14 que differentes circonstances pourroient opposer dans ce moment ci à l’éxécution des15 commissions pressées qui m’ont été données s’il ne se prêtoit point encore a nous faire toucher de nouveaux fonds16 par anticipation Il ne trouve dans sa sagesse et dans les rapports ci joints du Ministre des contributions publiques de france des mesures propres a remplir nos vues et à satisfaire nos besoins.

Il ne m’appartient point de Juger si le Président des17 Etats unis est revêtu de pouvoirs suffisants pour acquiescer à notre demande sans le concours du Corps législatif;18 mais Je me permettrai de vous observer, M., que les derniers payements anticipés qui ont eu lieu19 le prouvent et que cette question paroit20 également résolue par l’acte du Congrès qui autorise le pouvoir éxécutif à ne changer21 l’ordre des remboursements de la dette Etrangere des Etats unis que lorsqu’il y trouvera22 un avantage évident. Or quel avantage plus sensible23 pouvons nous vous offrir que celui de vous acquiter envers nous avec vos propres denrées, sans éxporter votre numeraire, sans recourir aux operations onereuses24 des banquiers. C’est vous fournir25 à la fois26 le moyen de payer vos dettes et d’enrichir vos Concitoyens: c’est enfin augmenter la valeur de vos productions et par conséquent de vos terres en27 etablissant une concurrence necéssaire28 entre nous et une nation29 qui s’est pour ainsi dire reservé avec beaucoup d’art et de sacrifices30 le monopole de31 vos propres denrées. Il est tems M., que cette revolution Commerciale que Je regarde comme32 le complément de votre immortelle revolution politique s’accomplisse d’une manière solide; et la france33 me paroit être la seule puissance qui puisse34 operer ce bien incalculable. Elle le desire vivement; les sages dispositions35 dont Je viens de vous rendre compte en sont le garant. C’est donc à votre gouvernement maintenant à seconder les vues qui nous sont suggerées par36 notre constante37 amiti amitié38 pour nos freres les americains et par le desir que nous avons de resserrer les liens qui nous unissent à eux. Je me ferai un devoir bien doux de me conformer dans l’administration qui m’est confiée39 à ces sentiments de la40 nation françoise pour tous les Etats unis et afin que chacun d’eux participe à l’éxtension de nos rapports commerciaux J’aurai soin de répartir mes achats entre les differents Etats de l’union autant que le permettront les productions naturelles de leur sol et la nature de leur commerce. Je ne négligerai rien non plus pour que le mode41 qui m’est préscrit pour passer les marchés mette non seulement les négociants Americains et françois;42 mais aussi les43 proprietaires des terres et les fermiers en mesure de profiter des benefices qui pourront résulter de nos approvisionnemens.

Dft (DLC: Genet Papers); in Genet’s hand, except for part of dateline (see note 1 below) and one revision in a clerical hand; unsigned; above salutation: “Le Citoyen Genet Mtre. &c à M. Jefferson secretaire d’Etat des Etats unis de l’amerique”; at head of text: “Liquidation de la dette des Etats unis envers la france”; contains numerous emendations, only the most important being noted below. Tr (AMAE: CPEU, xxxviii); with minor variations. FC (DLC: Genet Papers); in English. Recorded in SJL as received 23 May 1793, and initially as a letter of that date before TJ corrected the entry. Enclosures: (1) First Report of the Minister of Public Contributions to the Provisional Executive Council on the American debt to France, Paris, 2 Jan. 1793, stating that Genet has been charged with requesting advance payment of the balance of this debt to purchase war supplies and provisions in the United States and empowered to dispose of the entire balance, or the approximately 17,000,000 livres needed by the departments of the interior, war, marine, and foreign affairs, for this purpose; recommending, in the unlikely event the United States followed a hostile course by refusing payment, that he draw bills of exchange at two months’ sight on the French treasury to pay for these purchases up to the amount authorized, after first offering as an inducement to the American government, if it cannot pay the debt in specie or bank notes, the option of furnishing it in interest-bearing securities that would pass at par among those to whom Genet may have to make payment on the French Republic’s account; and setting forth procedures for drawing the bills and orders (PrC of Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 86: 14895–901, in French, with “Copie Dette Americain Per. Rapport” at head of text and record of Council approval on 4 Jan. 1793 by secretary Philippe Antoine Grouvelle, counter-signature by Foreign Minister Lebrun, and 22 May 1793 certification by Genet at foot of text, all in a clerk’s hand with corrections by George Taylor, Jr.; Tr in DNA: RG 59, NL, English translation in Taylor’s hand with corrections by him; PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 80:13939–44, lacking some corrections; Tr in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in English, lacking some corrections). (2) Extract from the Registers of the Provisional Executive Council, 4 Jan. 1793, approving draft instructions for Genet on his mission to the United States Congress pertaining to the reorganization of consular affairs in the United States and payment of the American debt to France in accordance with No. 1 (PrC of Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 86: 14891–4, in French, partly faded, with certifications by Grouvelle and Genet, all in Taylor’s hand; Tr in DNA: RG 59, NL, English translation in Taylor’s hand with corrections by him; PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 80: 13945–8, lacking two corrections; Tr in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in English, lacking two corrections). (3) Second Report of the Minister of Public Contributions to the Provisional Executive Council on the liquidation of the American debt to France, 4 Jan. 1793, stating that Genet had been given information of the offers by Colonel Smith to procure reimbursement of what remains of the American debt, under a proposed rate of converting livres to dollars, and to purchase with it army supplies and provisions for the Republic, that the balance of the debt will have been reduced before Genet’s arrival by American advances to Ternant on behalf of Saint-Domingue, that a law of Congress authorizes reimbursement by anticipation only if it would be advantageous to the United States, and that Hamilton’s proposal for establishing the rate of specie exchange between livres and dollars is more advantageous to France than that suggested by Smith; and recommending that the Council authorize Genet to solicit payment of the principal and interest of this debt from the United States, to give as the reason the necessities of the French Republic in defending its liberty and independence just as the United States defended theirs when the sum was lent, to promise the American government, in view of the law requiring an advantage to the United States, that he would use these funds solely to purchase supplies produced in the United States, and to accept the proposed conversion of livres to dollars in a manner agreeable to the laws of both nations (PrC of Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 86: 14902–9, in French, with “dette americain 2d. Rapport” at head of text and record of Council approval on 4 Jan. 1793 by President Gaspard Monge and countersignature by Lebrun at foot of text, all in a clerk’s hand with a correction by Taylor; Tr in DNA, RG 59, NL, English translation in Taylor’s hand with corrections by him; PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 80: 13949–55, lacking some corrections; Tr in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in English, lacking some corrections). (4) Commissioners of the French National Treasury to the President of the Provisional Executive Council, 8 Jan. 1793, acknowledging receipt of No. 2 and stating their readiness to facilitate Genet’s mission to the United States by accepting any sum sent to them in the name of Congress, or orders furnished by Genet to the United States treasury, as payment on account of the American debt to France, and, in the event of any deficiencies in American reimbursements, by expediting payment of any notes issued by Genet at two months’ sight (PrC of Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 86: 14910–13, in French, with subjoined certifications, one of 17 Jan. 1793 by all six members of the Council stating that the letter was written in consequence of the mission they had given to Genet, and another by Genet, all in a clerk’s hand; Tr in DNA: RG 59, NL, English translation in Taylor’s hand with corrections by him; PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 81: 14022–4, lacking some corrections). Letter and enclosures with translations printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 1–8 (App.), 5–14; translations printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, i, 142–6. TJ submitted French texts of this letter and its enclosures to the President on 24 May 1793, at which time Washington requested translations that TJ supplied three days later (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 148; TJ to Washington, 27 May 1793). French texts intended for the Secretary of the Treasury were enclosed in TJ to Washington, 30 May 1793, 3 June 1793. See also Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 3 June 1793.

The Washington administration ultimately rejected Genet’s request for advance payment of the balance of the American debt to France—a sum estimated by French finance minister Etienne Clavière to amount to about 26,560,145 livres as of 1 July 1792—despite Genet’s stipulation that the money would be used to purchase provisions and supplies in the United States for the armies, fleets, and colonies of the French Republic (see F. A. Aulard, “La Dette Américaine envers la France,” Revue de Paris, xxx [1925], 537; and Editorial Note and documents on Jefferson and the American debt to France, at 3 June 1793).

The Acte du congrès was the 1790 act relatingto the payment of the foreign debt of the United States, which authorized the President to borrow up to $12,000,000 to discharge this debt “if it can be effected upon terms advantageous to the United States” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , ii, 2304).

1Digits inserted by a clerk in space left blank by Genet.

2Preceding two words interlined in place of “instruit par.” Following them, in the margin, Genet canceled the following passage: “avec <la plus vive reconnaissance> plaisir par les rapports de.”

3Genet here canceled an interlined “et le zêle.”

4Genet here canceled <avoit> a bien voulu se.”

5Genet here canceled “pourvoir par des payements anticipés sur le remboursement de la dette de la Republique Americaine envers celle de france à l’acquitement du.”

6Preceding two words substituted for “par tous les moyens qui étoient en son pouvoir <les operat> les approvisionnements.” In the margin, next to the last line of this passage, Genet wrote and then canceled “le payement <du> que ce Ministre.”

7Genet here canceled “et les payements” and added the next eight words, interlining the first four and writing the last four in the margin.

8Word interlined in place of “prié.”

9Genet first wrote “inspire un precédé aussi amical,” which he revised to “inspirent tous les sentiments d’amitié dont Il ne cesse de donner des preuves au” before altering the passage to read as above.

10Genet here canceled “m’a préscrit de vous Informer, M.”

11Preceding three words interlined.

12Preceding three words written in the margin.

13Word interlined in place of “encore avancer.”

14Word interlined in place of “obstacles.”

15Genet here canceled “ordres.”

16Genet first wrote “un nouveau fonds” and then altered it to read as above.

17Preceding two words interlined in place of “gouvernement.”

18Preceding six words written in the margin.

19Preceding four words interlined.

20Word interlined in place of “est.”

21Preceding two words, in the margin, substituted for “n’interve[n],” which Genet had interlined in place of “n’accelerer.”

22Word altered from “trouverait.”

23Genet first wrote “Quel avantage plus précieux 1.” He then altered it to read in succession “Cet avantage se trouve incontestablement” and “Or quel avantage plus précieux” before altering the text to read as above.

24Genet here canceled “ruineuses.”

25Word interlined in place of “offrir.”

26Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends : “en même temps.”

27Preceding seven words written in the margin.

28Word interlined in place of “utile dans les differents Etats <unis> de l’union.”

29Genet here canceled a heavily emended passage which in its final form appears to read “à laquelle d’anciennes habitudes de la part de vos négociants et d’immenses capitaux du sien ont pour.”

30Preceding seven words interlined.

31Genet here canceled “votre commerce.”

32Preceding three words interlined in place of “qui sera.”

33Preceding three words interlined in place of “mais notre gouvernement.”

34AMAE Tr: “<qui> capable de.”

35Genet first wrote “ce bien incalculable par des dispositions aussi sages que celles” and then altered it to read as above.

36Genet here first wrote “le desir <qu’elle a> que nous avons de resserer tous les liens qui unissent les peuples de france et d’amerique” and then changed the latter clause to “qui nous unissent au peuple Americain” before canceling the entire passage to adopt the modified version which follows above.

37Word interlined in place of “ferme et.”

38Remainder of sentence inserted interlinearly and in the margin.

39Genet first wrote “Je <me propose> tacherai, M., dans l’administration qui m’est confiée de <ádonner des preuves particul> me conformer” before a clerk altered the passage to read as above.

40Genet here canceled “Republique.”

41Genet here canceled “d’achat.”

42Preceding three words written in the margin.

43Genet here canceled what appears to be “bon.”

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