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Nicholas Biddle to Thomas Jefferson, 12 December 1809

From Nicholas Biddle

Philadelphia Decr 12. 1809


I have no apology for the liberty I am about taking, except that it may enable you to render service to a Stranger. Some time since I received thro’ the legation at Paris a letter from a Mr Jean Baptiste Lefevre, accompanied by a note from the Marquis de la Fayette.

Mr Lefevre states that he served during the war in Col. Armand’s regiment; that in 1783 you had the goodness to take charge of a sum of paper money for him to be deposited at the treasury of Richmond: that you afterwards gave him a note of it which he unfortunately lost: and all that he knows on the subject is that the money “a produit 366 acres de terre à prendre Sur les confins de la Virginie.” He is now desirous of enquiring after the property. I therefore trouble you to know if you have any recollection of the circumstance which might enable him to discover where his lands are. If, as is most probable, so trifling a matter has wholly escaped your memory, perhaps you might without inconvenience designate the means of obtaining the necessary information. I need not repeat my excuse for intruding on your better occupations, nor assure you of the respect with which I have the honor to be

Yrs &c

Nicholas Biddle

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esq. Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 Dec. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Nicholas Biddle (1786–1844) was a native of Philadelphia who graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1801 and was in Europe from 1804 to 1807, serving successively as secretary to the American ministers to France and Great Britain. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in December 1809, sat in that state’s house of representatives, 1810–11, served as editor of the Philadelphia literary magazine Port Folio in 1812, and helped to prepare a History of the Expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark, ed. Paul Allen, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1814; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4168). Biddle was elected to a four-year term in the state senate in 1814 and, after two failed attempts to secure election to Congress, was appointed one of five government directors of the Bank of the United States by President James Monroe in 1819. Three years later the bank’s stockholders elected him president, a position he filled until President Andrew Jackson’s opposition forced the bank to close its doors in 1836. For the next three years Biddle served as president of the state-chartered Bank of the United States of Pennsylvania. Elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1813, he delivered a eulogy for TJ before that body in 1827 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Thomas P. Govan, Nicholas Biddle: Nationalist and Public Banker [1959]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:170, 175 [26 Jan., 15 Feb. 1819]; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 16 Apr. 1813, 8 July 1826, 6, 13 Apr. 1827 [MS in PPAmP]; Biddle’s APS Membership Certificate, 16 Apr. 1813 [MS in PPAmP; printed form with blanks filled in, signed by TJ as president and seven other officers]; Biddle, Eulogium on Thomas Jefferson [1827]).

jean baptiste lefevre is probably the M. le Fièvre who in 1778 served as a volunteer in the Pulaski Legion under Col. Charles Tuffin Armand, marquis de la Rouërie, and secured a recommendation from Lafayette. In 1779 the Continental Congress gave him a brevet commission as a lieutenant and $400 for his return to France (Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [1904–37], 13:57 [13 Jan. 1779]; Heitman, Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783, rev. ed., 1914 description ends , 73, 346). a produit … virginie: “yielded 366 acres of land to be taken on the Virginia frontier.”

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • American Revolution; and Va. land warrants search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; and J. B. Lefevre’s claim search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; identified search
  • Biddle, Nicholas; letters from search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; and J. B. Lefevre search
  • La Rouërie, Armand Charles Tuffin, marquis de search
  • Lefevre, Jean Baptiste; land warrant issued to search
  • Richmond, Va.; state treasury at search
  • Virginia; treasury of search