Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, 16 March 1802

To Robert R. Livingston

Washington Mar. 16. 1802.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Dec. 26. was recieved the 5th. inst. and one of a later date to the Secretary of state has been communicated to me. the present is intended as a commentary on my letter to you of Aug. 28. when I wrote that letter I did not harbour a doubt that the disposition on that side the water was as cordial, as I knew our’s to be. I thought it important that the agents between us should be such as both parties would be willing to open themselves to freely. I ought to have expressed in that letter the distinction between the two characters therein named, which really existed in my mind: of one of them I1 thought nothing good. as to the other (whom you mention to be the real one contemplated) I considered him well disposed to this country, but not towards it’s political principles. I had confidence in him to a certain extent; but that confidence had limits. I thought a slight hint of this might have had some effect on the choice of an agent. but the dispositions now understood to exist there, impose of themselves limits to the openness of our communications, and bring us within the extent of that reposed in the agent under consideration. consequently it is adequate to all the purposes for which it will be used. I wish you therefore not only to suggest nothing against his mission, but on the contrary, to impress him that it will be agreeable and even desirable, which is the truth. for I firmly believe him well disposed to preserve amity between that country and this. tho’ clouds may occasionally obscure the horison between us, yet there is a fund of friendship & attachment between the mass of the two nations which will always in time dispel those nebulosities. the present administration of this country have these feelings of their constituents, and will be true to them. we shall act steadily on the desire of cementing our interests & affections; and of this you cannot go too far in assuring them. in every event we will recieve with satisfaction any missionary they chuse to send. not being very sure of the channel of conveyance for this letter, I have explained the former one so that you will understand it; and reserve myself on other subjects to some future occasion. accept assurances of my high esteem & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNMus); addressed: “Robert R. Livingston Min. Pleny. of the US. of America at Paris”; endorsed by Livingston. PrC (DLC).

ONE OF A LATER DATE TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE: in a letter to Madison on 31 Dec., Livingston said among other things that the French government was republican neither in form nor in practice. Noting that the French showed “high favor” to monarchical governments, Livingston reported that Bonaparte, who had “severely” criticized TJ’s inaugural address, considered TJ to be a Jacobin and was extremely displeased with the National Institute’s decision to elect him to membership. The first consul’s government, according to Livingston, would have preferred William Vans Murray as the American minister. Livingston informed Madison that he was willing to give up the position if his doing so would benefit the public good (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–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 2:359).

In his letter to Livingston of 28 Aug. 1801, TJ expressed concerns about the possibility that the French government would send Antoine René Charles Mathurin de La Forest or Louis Guillaume Otto as minister to the United States. Livingston had learned from Talleyrand, and reported to Madison in a letter of 10 Dec., that Otto was the ONE CONTEMPLATED for the appointment. In a letter of 26 Feb. 1802, not yet received in the United States when TJ wrote the letter printed above, Livingston asked Madison for “particular” instructions regarding Otto. Livingston reported that Otto “stands very high here. He will be charged with instructions to make a commercial treaty with us.” Late in 1802, the French government announced that Otto would not be going to the United States (same, 2:304, 493; 3:26, 29n, 290; 4:277, 279n).

1TJ first wrote “in one of them I had” before altering the passage to read as above.

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