From Thomas Jefferson
Philadelphia, February 4th. 1793.
The details respecting the Sum of 66,000 ., which are the subject of Mr. Short’s letter of Nov. 2d. 1792; and of yours of the 1st instant, and which he observes still remains in the hands of Mr. Grand, are as follow.
On the 14th. of February 1785, Congress appropriated a sum of 80,000 Dollars, for the purpose of effecting Treaties with the Barbary States.1 The missions of Mr. Barclay to Morocco, and of Mr. Lamb, to Algiers, were made on this fund.2 On the 18th. of July, and 12th. of October 1787, they gave orders to their Minister Plenipotentiary at Versailles to take measures, through the agency of a particular religious order, for ransoming their citizens in captivity at algiers, and constituted the Balance of the appropriation of February 14. 1785, as a fund for this purpose.3 On the 21st. of February 1789, the Commissioners of the Treasury, drew an order on their Bankers in Holland in favor of the minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, at Versailles for 30,000 florins, supposed to be the Balance aforesaid, which order came to my hands, on the 5th. of April. I left Paris in September following, at which time a part of the Bills for this sum, had been remitted to me; but were not yet due. These I delivered to Mr. Short, to whom bills for the residue were also sent by the Bankers: and the Religious order, which I had engaged to commence the negotiation were notified that the business had devolved on Mr. Short.4 Letters received in 1790, left little to hope from their agency. The State of this business was reported by me to Congress December 28, 1790,5 and I submitted the expediency of adopting some more promising measures, without relinquishing the chance of success by the former: of which, however, having little hope, you will recollect that I proposed to you the application of this money to the payment of our foreign Officers at Paris,6 rather than let it lie idle there, and, more especially, as we might then presume on commanding that sum at any time, should the negotiations at Algiers, call for it, contrary to expectations. You observed to me that you did not think yourself authorized to change the appropriation of this money, without an Act of Congress, but that you were then preparing a report for Congress, which would necessarily comprehend this object. I, accordingly wrote to Mr. Short, on the 23rd. of January 1791,7 in these words “We must still pursue the redemption of our captives, through the same channel, till some better means can be devised. The money, however, which is in Mr. Grand’s hands, will be the subject of a letter to you from the Secretary of the Treasury, as soon as he can have an act of Congress, authorizing the application of it, to the debt of the foreign officers.” Mr. Short, in a letter of March 30. 1791,8 acknowledged the receipt of this letter of mine, which, probably had escaped his recollection, when in that to you of Nov. 2d. 1792, he said he had never received an answer, unless he meant a definitive answer. The subsequent appropriation of 50,000 Dollars by Congress in their act of may 8. 92. c. 41. § 3.9 being a substitute for the sum in the hands of Mr. Grand, the latter became unnecessary for it’s original purpose, and therefore open to any other application.
I must apologize for the minuteness of these details, by the desire I felt of availing myself of the occasion furnished by your letter of possessing the Treasury office with a full statement of a transaction, in which I, among others, had been entrusted, while the particulars are yet in my mind, and on papers in my possession.
I am, with due respect Sir, Your most obedt servant,
The Secretary of the Treasury
Copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters, 1792–1795, National Archives.
2. Thomas Barclay, who was appointed in October, 1785, as an agent of the United States to negotiate a treaty with Morocco, had successfully concluded a treaty with the Emperor of that country in January, 1787. John Lamb had been appointed agent to Algiers in October, 1785, with instructions to negotiate a treaty with that country. The demands of the Dey of Algiers, however, proved so exorbitant that in September, 1786, Lamb was ordered to return to the United States without concluding an agreement. For material relating to the missions of Barclay and Lamb, see Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , VIII, 610–24, and ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 100–04.
3. On February 1, 1787, Jefferson, at that time United States Minister Plenipotentiary to France, had written to John Jay: “If these pyrates find that they can have a very great price for Americans, they will abandon proportionably their pursuits against other nations to direct them towards ours. That the choice of Congress may be enlarged as to the instruments they may use for effecting the redemption, I think it my duty to inform them that there is here an order of priests called the Mathurins, the object of whose institution is to beg alms for the redemption of captives. They keep members always in Barbary searching out the captives of their own country, and redeem I beleive on better terms than any other body, public or private. It occured to me that their agency might be obtained for the redemption of our prisoners at Algiers. I obtained conferences with the General and with some members of the order. The General, with all the benevolence and cordiality possible, undertook to act for us if we should desire it.… I informed the general that I should communicate the good dispositions of his order to those who alone had the authority to decide whatever related to our captives” (Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , XI, 101–02).
On July 18, 1787, Jefferson’s letter was read in the Continental Congress, and he was “authorised to take such measures as he may deem most adviseable for redeeming the American Captives at Algiers, and at any expence not exceeding that which European Nations usually pay in like cases” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXII, 364–65). On October 12, 1787, Congress resolved: “That the balance of the appropriation for the Barbary treaties of 14 feby 1785 not hitherto applied to that Object be and it is hereby constituted a fund for redeeming the American captives now at Algiers and that the same be for this purpose subject to the direction of the Minister of the United States at the Court of Versailles” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXIII, 664). See also ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 100–02.
4. Jefferson’s letter, addressed to “Monsr. Chauvier, General et grand ministre des Chanoines reguliers de l’Ordre de la Sainte Trinité. Rue des Mathurins,” is printed in Boyd, Papers of Thomas Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ). description ends , XV, 430–31.
5. Jefferson’s report on the prisoners at Algiers was presented to Congress on December 30, 1790. It is printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 100–04.
6. For a description of the debt due the foreign officers, see William Short to H, August 3, 1790, note 5. Section 5 of “An Act supplementary to the act making provision for the Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 282 [May 8, 1792]) authorized the President “to cause to be discharged the principal and interest of the said debt, out of any of the monies, which have been or shall be obtained on loan.” For the negotiations on the payment of these officers, see H to Short, August 16, September 13, 1792; H to George Washington, August 27, 1792; Washington to H, August 31, 1792; H to Gouverneur Morris, September 13, 1792.
7. ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
8. ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
9. Section 3 of “An Act making certain appropriations therein specified” reads as follows: “And be it further enacted, That a sum of fifty thousand dollars in addition to the provision heretofore made be appropriated to defray any expense which may be incurred in relation to the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations, to be paid out of any monies, which may be in the treasury, not otherwise appropriated, and to be applied under the direction of the President of the United States, who, if necessary, is authorized to borrow, on the credit of the United States, the said sum of fifty thousand dollars; an account of the expenditure whereof as soon as may be, shall be laid before Congress” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 285).