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David Bailie Warden to Thomas Jefferson, 14 April 1811

From David Bailie Warden

Washington, 14 April, 1811—

Dear Sir,

I am induced, by a sense of duty, to inclose for your perusal, a copy of my defence with regard to the insinuation made against me, before my appointment, by a secret enemy, and to which, I understand,1 General armstrong has lately referred—as he has not furnished his objections to my consular2 appointment, I trust that the President will soon allow me to embark. The suspension of my departure has excited curiosity, and has set me up as a mark for Newspaper calumny. The attempt made, by my secret enemy, thro3 the Editors of the New york evening Post, to injure my reputation, has completely failed. I instructed my friend Counsellor Sampson to prosecute them for the libel, and they inserted an article, in their paper, of the 10th, proclaiming my innocence.

The National Intelligencer, of this day, contains my observations on Robins’ travels.

I am, Sir, with great esteem and respect

your very obligd Servt

D B. Warden

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Apr. 1811 and so recorded in SJL. FC (MdHi: Warden Letterbook); in Warden’s hand; lacks closing. Enclosure: Warden to James Madison, Washington, dated 20 Feb. 1811 but actually composed of extracts from letters Warden wrote Madison on 21 and 26 Feb. 1811, stating in response to Madison’s inquiry about his conduct that under John Armstrong’s instructions a French vessel was purchased by Capt. Nathan Haley under the name of Capt. Banks to sail as a parlementaire, or French ship bearing a flag of truce; that at Haley’s request and with Armstrong’s approval Warden received passage money and advertised the voyage under his own name; that Baron von Humboldt’s colleague Aimé Goujaud Bonpland asked Warden to allow Henry Auguste, a watchmaker to Napoleon, to make the journey with a large collection of machines and mathematical instruments, for which he claimed to have a French passport; that Warden believed the machines would be useful to the United States and that Madison would approve the shipment; that Haley requested they be carried as ballast and that Warden ask Mr. De La Rue to receive the machines without using Auguste’s name; that on Warden’s advice, Auguste was to make financial arrangements directly with Haley at Dieppe; that Warden sent a note of introduction to New York navy agent John Bullus requesting that he intercede with the president to allow the machines free entry; that he heard nothing more until the vessel departed without Auguste’s cargo, which Haley informed him had been seized by creditors and found to contain silks and other merchandise in addition to the instruments and machines; that he is mortified and had no knowledge of or financial interest in the scheme, of which his letter to Bullus is proof; that Humboldt, Bonpland, and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac had affirmed the value of Auguste’s project and Warden’s innocence; that Warden had provided a passenger list to Armstrong as instructed, and was never involved in any speculation; [remaining portion from letter of 26 Feb. 1811]: that the vessel in question was the Happy Return, which sailed in October 1809 for the United States; that Auguste’s scheme was known to Armstrong but not himself, and that if he had been involved news of it would have been circulated by his enemies; that Auguste was reputedly an excellent artist who concealed his financial difficulties and talked freely of his plan to export machinery to the United States; that the weight of the cargo did not rouse his suspicion because Auguste said that the models included cannon and heavy machines; that Warden had not had time to see them himself; and that his motives were just (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 192:34220–1; in Warden’s hand; at head of text: “copy”; printed from RCs at DLC: Madison Papers in Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 3:178–81, 188–90).

Warden’s unsigned and highly critical review of C. C. Robin, Voyages dans l’intérieur de la Louisiane …, 3 vols. (Paris, 1807), appeared in the Washington national intelligencer on 16 Apr. 1811, not the 14th, and was also published anonymously as Observations on Robin’s Travels in Louisiana, &c. Lately Published at Paris (Washington, D.C., 1811).

On the same day as this letter Warden wrote Martha Jefferson Randolph offering to purchase anything she wanted in Paris, complaining of his persecution by Armstrong and his hopes that Madison would permit him to take up his duties as consul at Paris, commending the “most amiable manners and liberal opinions” of Théodore Pahlen, who plans to visit Monticello, reporting that he (Warden) traveled to Philadelphia with her acquaintance Mrs. Jones, stating that James and Dolley Madison had both given him much attention, and crediting the latter’s civilty toward himself to Randolph’s influence (MdHi: Warden Letterbook).

1FC: “to whom I am told.”

2Word omitted in FC.

3Preceding four words omitted in FC.

Index Entries

  • Armstrong, John; and D. B. Warden search
  • Auguste, Henry search
  • Bonpland, Aimé Goujaud; and D. B. Warden search
  • Bullus, John search
  • Gay-Lussac, Joseph Louis search
  • Haley, Nathan search
  • Happy Return (ship) search
  • Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander, Baron von; and D. B. Warden search
  • Madison, Dolley Payne Todd (James Madison’s wife); and D. B. Warden search
  • Madison, James; and D. B. Warden search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints D. B. Warden’s review of C. C. Robin search
  • newspapers; New-York Evening Post search
  • New York (city); New-York Evening Post search
  • New-York Evening Post (newspaper) search
  • Observations on Robin’s Travels in Louisiana (Warden) search
  • Pahlen, Théodore, Count; visits Monticello search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); and D. B. Warden search
  • Robin, C. C.; Voyages dans l’intérieur de la Louisiane search
  • Sampson, William; and D. B. Warden search
  • Tournillon, Mary Louisa Brown Trist Jones (wife successively of Hore Browse Trist, Philip Livingston Jones, and Etienne St. Julien de Tournillon); assets of seized search
  • Voyages dans l’intérieur de la Louisiane (Robin) search
  • Warden, David Bailie; and A. von Humboldt search
  • Warden, David Bailie; and J. Armstrong search
  • Warden, David Bailie; letters from search
  • Warden, David Bailie; Observations on Robin’s Travels search