Thomas Jefferson to John Jay
Paris Aug. 27. 1789.
I am honoured with your favor of June 19.2 informing me that permission is given me to make a short visit to my native country, for which indulgence I beg leave to return my thanks to the President, and to yourself, Sir, for the expedition with which you were so good as to forward it after it was obtained. Being advised that October is the best month of the autumn for a passage to America, I shall wish to sail about the first of that month: and as I have a family with me, and their baggage is considerable, I must endeavor to find a vessel bound directly for Virginia if possible. My last letters to you have been of the 5th. and 12th instant.3 Since these I have received information from our bankers in Holland that they had money in hand sufficient to answer the demands for the Foreign officers,4 and for the captives:5 and that moreover the residue of the bonds of the last loan6 were engaged. I hereupon wrote to Mr. Grand for an exact estimate of the sum necessary for the officers. He had stated it to me as being 45,653 -11s-6d a year, when I was going to Holland to propose the loan to Mr. Adams, and at that sum you will see it was stated in the estimate we sent you from Amsterdam. He now informed me it was 60,393 -17s-10d a year. I called on him for an explanation. He shewed me that his first information agreed with the only list of the officers and sums then in his possession, and his last with a new list lately sent from the Treasury board on which other officers were set down who had been omitted in the first. I wrote to our bankers an account of this error, and desired to know whether, after reserving the money necessary for the captives they were in condition to furnish 254,000. for the officers. They answered me by sending the money, and the additional sum of 26,000. to complete the business of the medals.7 I delivered the bills to Messrs. Grand & co. to negociate and pay away, and the arrears to the officers to the 1st. day of the present year are now in a course of paiment. While on this subject I will ask that an order may be forwarded to the Bankers in Holland to furnish, and to Mr. Grand to pay the arrearages which may be due on the 1st. of January next. The money being in hand, it would be a pity that we should fail in paiment a single day merely for want of an order. The bankers further give it as their opinion, that our credit is so much advanced on the exchange of Amsterdam that we may probably execute any money arrangements we may have occasion for on this side the water. I have the honor to send you a copy of their letter.8 They have communicated to me apprehensions that another house was endeavoring to obtain the business of our government. Knowing of no such endeavors myself, I have assured them that I am a stranger to any applications on the subject. At the same time I cannot but suspect that this jealousy has been one of the spurs at least to the prompt completion of our loan. The spirited proceedings of the new Congress in the business of revenue has doubtless been the principal one.9
1. ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Julian Boyd in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, XV, 360–61, annotated this letter as follows:
“TJ was in error in saying that the Information From Our Bankers had come after his letters to Jay of 5 and 12 Aug.; that information was in the letter of Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard of 27 July 1789, received on the 31st. The letter that TJ Wrote To Mr. [Ferdinand Le] Grand For An Exact Estimate and Grand’s response (which evidently was in writing) have not been found and not recorded in SJL [Jefferson’s ‘Summary Journal of letters’ written and received, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress].
“The Amsterdam bankers’ Apprehensions That Another House Was Endeavoring to Obtain the Business must have been communicated to TJ in person (very probably by Jacob van Staphorst), for no letter voicing these sentiments has been found. TJ may have been correct in thinking that Congress’ prompt attention to a revenue bill was a Principal factor in bringing about the remarkable change in the bankers’ attitude from that exhibited in their correspondence of the preceding spring. But, as the event showed, the bankers’ shrewd appraisal of the revolutionary situation in Europe, which promised to close that continent to profitable investment for some time to come and to make advisable a new estimate of the opportunities lying in America, was perhaps the decisive factor. The forming of combinations for investment in American funds, lands, canals, turnpikes, and incipient manufactures was going forward in Amsterdam even as TJ made this analysis of the change, and within a few weeks he would be asked to lend ‘Civilities and Countenance’ to the representative of the bankers, Théophile Cazenove, as he departed for the United States to exploit these opportunities.…”
2. Jay’s letter to Jefferson is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
3. These two letters are in the Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Both letters discuss French domestic matters.
5. On September 13, 1788, the Continental Congress
“Resolved That out of the fund appropriated for the redemption of the American captives at Algiers or any other monies belonging to the United States in Europe, the Minister plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of Versailles be and he is hereby authorised to make such provision for the maintenance and Comfortable subsistence of the American Captives at Algiers and to give such orders touching the same as shall to him appear right and proper.
“That Congress approve the instructions heretofore given to Mr. [John] Lamb by Mr. Jefferson their Minister at the Court of France for supplying the said Captives.” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1784–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXIV, 525.)
6. Jefferson is referring to the loan opened in Holland in July, 1788. See Bayley, National Loans description begins Rafael A. Bayley, The National Loans of the United States from July 4, 1776, to June 30, 1880 (Washington, 1882). description ends , 21–22.
7. At various times during the Revolution the Continental Congress had voted medals to be struck as rewards to officers. Robert Morris while he was Superintendent of Finance had been ordered by Congress to carry out these resolves. When David Humphreys was sent to France in 1784 as secretary to the commission for negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign powers, Morris entrusted the purchase of the medals to him. After Humphreys had left France, the duty was assumed by Jefferson.
8. See the enclosure which follows.
9. The remainder of this letter has not been printed, for it does not concern Treasury matters.