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To Thomas Jefferson from Nathaniel Cutting, 5 March 1790

From Nathaniel Cutting

At sea, Latt. 7° 40’ north, Long. 13° West from London, 5 Mch. 1790. Hopes TJ arrived safely, found affairs there to his wishes, and “duly received the cordial congratulations of a grateful Country.”—Soon after seeing TJ off at Cowes, he left Le Havre on a long voyage “rather… of observation than immediate emolument.” In two years at Le Havre he found “the general intercourse between that City and my native Country … not so uniform, or so reciprocally pleasing and advantageous to the parties immediately concern’d” as he had anticipated. Yet “I am thoroughly convinced that there is scarcely another City in Europe which presents Commercial advantages … equal to those that Havre de Grace may boast whenever the projected improvements in her Town and Port are compleated: neither do I know any place on Earth that presents a fairer mart for the general produce of America, provided mutual confidence can be inspired in the breasts of the merchants of both Countries. The mists of their ancient prejudices were beginning to be dissipated, a social intercourse between them was dawning, when the gloomy aspect of Public Affairs in France cast a damp upon the enterprizing spirit of Commerce on both sides the Atlantic,” totally blasting his pleasing prospects of being useful to his countrymen. “Though by Birth and Principle inviolably attach’d to America, yet I have not the happiness to boast of many powerful Friends there; I am still much less known in France.” Hence he yielded to overtures to make the present voyage, from which he might return “after a painful exile of a few years” either to France or America.

In adjusting affairs at Le Havre, he did not omit that resulting from TJ’s mentioning his name to M. St. Victor. He transferred authority for giving American vessels certification to obtain salt at Honfleur “to my friend Monsieur La Motte by writing,” copy of which he encloses. He hopes that in this he has not exceeded verbal commission given him by TJ. If he went too far, it was because he wished no single American to suffer by the change his leaving made in TJ’s “judicious arrangement. If an American Consul for the Northern District of France had then been actually in that Country, I should have thought my precaution wholly unnecessary.”—He believes that a Frenchman may legally be appointed vice-consul for America, “though a Law of the States of America provides that no one but a native, or one who has been resident for a certain number of years in some one of the States, is eligible to the office of American Consul.” He therefore recommends “Monsieur La Motte, a Partner in the House of H. Le Mesurier & Cie.”—His views “still point toward a residence at Havre,” but wherever circumstances direct his “wandering steps” he will be happy to serve TJ.

At Sea, Lat. 7° 20’ North, Long. 10° 55’ West from London, 30 Mch. 1790. On the 9th they “touch’d in at the Road of Cape Mount on the Windward Coast of Africa,” where he received TJ’s letter of 21 Nov.—“You did me but justice in supposing that I should rejoice to know of your safe arrival in America. Allow me to declare in the Sincerity of Truth that no occurrence since I had the honor of taking leave of you at Cowes has given me half as much pleasure as I deriv’d from the information that the Elements had prov’d favorable to your passage—that was as it ought to be.”—Encloses his letter of 5 Mch. which will explain motives for his voyage, though “my views are now very different from what they were when I first commenced this expedition.” He is “now passing to a point on the Coast of Africa, call’d on the Chart, Isles des Idoles, in order to seek a passage for Europe.” If none offers, he may take a circuitous route back to Le Havre next summer by way of West Indies.—“It seems as if Fortune is determined that I shall ever remain a Stranger in my native Land and a Wanderer in strange Lands.” But “no vicissitude of time or place will ever obliterate” his “profound Respect and sincere Attachment.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esquire, Late Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of Versailles, at New York” endorsed as received 31 Aug. 1790 and so recorded in SJL. The continuation of 30 Mch. 1790 (RC in DLC) lacks address, endorsement, and record entry in SJL: hence, contrary to indication, it must have been enclosed in the former. Enclosures: (1) Cutting’s delegation of authority to Delamotte to ascertain the bona fide character of vessels for which TJ, as “Ambassador,” had “lately enter’d into a Convention whereby American vessels are to be furnish’d with any quantity of Salt from the Magazin des Fermes at Honfleur, under the direction of Monsieur St. Victor, who in a personal conference with Mr. Jefferson” had requested such certification (Tr in DNA: RG 59, CD; dated 2 Nov. 1789; see Memoir on Salt, under 29 Sep. 1789, and Delamotte to TJ, 12 Dec. 1789). (2) Although he did not mention it, Cutting evidently enclosed with this his letter to Martha Jefferson of 30 Mch. 1790; since it remained in TJ’s papers and since it clearly revealed the author’s sentiments, TJ may not have transmitted it to a daughter who had been married six months when it was received. The letter reads: “Dear Miss Jefferson.—On the 9th Currt. in the Torrid Zone, almost beneath a vertical Sun, I was honor’d with your worthy Father’s Epistle, dated at Lyn Haven Bay… which convey’d to me the agreeable intelligence of your having ‘cast anchor on your native shore.’—Permit me to add that this piece of information was more vivifying to my languid spirits than the most delicious beverage would have been to my parch’d palate and exhausted powers. When I had the honor to take leave of you at the Isle of Wight, I was very apprehensive that you would have a long and boisterous passage: I fear’d that you would not arrive on the Coast of America till the northwestern blasts began to rage, which, having no respect to the rich freight your favor’d Bark containd, might rudely drive you far from the peaceful Port you wish’d to gain. Proportionate to my solicitude for your safety is the pleasure with which I now take the liberty to congratulate you on your happy arrival in Virginia. Though you commenced your Tour to Europe at a very early period of life, probably before any amicable attachments were form’d, yet I am sure you could not be insensible to the cordial caresses with which you must have been welcom’d back to that hospitable Country which gave you birth. In course of the short, very short period when I had the pleasure of enjoying your society at Havre and Cowes, I imagined that through all your happy serenity I could discover some emotion of chagrin at the thought of being seperated from the engaging circle of your European acquaintance.—It is very probable that in America you may not soon have an opportunity of forming so extensive an acquaintance with Persons of the same elevated Rank, or the same degree of knowledge in the Etiquette of Courts; but I flatter myself you will there find such respectable examples of Polish’d Taste, genuine affability, and amiable sincerity as will fully compensate for the want of Rank and modish Refinement.—From your native good sense and from that just mode of thought which the conversation and instructions of your Father cannot fail to inspire, I dare venture to presage that you will soon be really happier in America than you ever thought yourself in Europe.—After my best wishes for your felicity, permit me the honor of subscribing myself, Dear Miss Jefferson, Your most obedt & most huml. Servt., Nat. Cutting.” (DLC).

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