Thomas Jefferson Papers
Documents filtered by: Volume="Jefferson-01-22"
sorted by: editorial placement

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Church, 12 August 1791

From Edward Church

Bordeaux, 12 Aug. 1791. Being greatly alarmed by what he learned on arrival, he expressed his fears in his of the 27th, sent by brig Hetty, Captn. Drinker, for Philadelphia.—This day his fears confirmed by letter from Carmichael, a copy of which he encloses. He is thereby arrested at the threshold, unable to advance or retreat. He cannot in any sense hold TJ responsible, but appeals to him as a fellow citizen: honored with public office, tempted by climate, having flattering prospect in trade at Bilbao, confiding in the justice of his country for annual compensation (far more acceptable because more certain than profits in trade), and having in pursuance of orders, duty, and inclination left home with his “last scanty gleanings,” is now cast “or more properly wrecked on a foreign shore, with a Wife, four daughters, one Son, and other necessary dependants … without prospect or means of redress, except only, from one source.” In this truly forlorn extremity he has written the President and TJ to extricate him and “devise some means of future employment and support.” Friends known to TJ will freely give every possible satisfaction regarding his character and conduct: Wingate, Trumbull, Gerry, and others in Congress contemporary with him at “the University of Cambridge in … Massachusetts,” as well as those in the highest offices in that state who knew his easy circumstances prior to the war. Since the peace he resided four years at Savannah and the Georgia delegation, particularly Gen. Wayne, will be voluntary sponsors of his character.—He entreats TJ to answer as early as possible, addressed care of Fenwick, with any letters the President may condescend to offer.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); 4 p.; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Oct. 1791 and so recorded in SJL. Tr (PHi); at head of text: “(Copy)”; unsigned. Enclosure: Carmichael to Church, Madrid, 4 Aug. 1791, informing him in response to his of the 20th that, by privileges accorded the Biscayners, no foreign consul is admitted at Bilbao; that, though sometimes attempted, the effort has always proved abortive; that he is extremely concerned for his situation; and that his brevity must be excused as he is “on the recovery from a dangerous Malady” (DNA: RG 59, CD). Another copy (missing) was transmitted in Tobias Lear to TJ, 9 Nov. 1791 (PrC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; FC in DNA: RG 59, SDC). On 8 Sep. 1791 Church, employing an amanuensis because he was recovering from a violent fever and still too weak to write, sent a duplicate of the above (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Feb. 1792 and so recorded in SJL).

When the Spanish refused to allow him to serve as consul at Bilbao, Church remained in Bordeaux, and sought to curry favor with TJ by suggesting that the United States pay its debt to France in depreciated assignats. He also called upon his Harvard classmate, New Hampshire Senator Paine Wingate, to use his influence with the President to secure his appointment as consul to Lisbon or Cadiz. The Senate approved Washington’s nomination of Church as consul to Lisbon on 5 May 1792 (Church to TJ, 16 Dec. 1791, 1 Jan. 1792, 13 Apr. 1792; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , i, 121, 122). John L. Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, in Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University (Cambridge and Boston, 1873–1975), xiv, 389–93, offer the most careful study of Church’s career, although they erroneously state that he was so dissatisfied with his appointment as consul to Bilbao in 1790 that he remained in the United States and “campaigned for a better job” until he received the post in Lisbon.

Index Entries