Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Harrison, 29 October 1779

To Benjamin Harrison

In Council Oct 29. 1779


The Executive in the Month of March 1778, in order to secure the acquisition and proper choice of a supply of Arms, Ordnance, and Military implements sent a Mr. Le Mair of the Kingdom of France their Agent express for that purpose to Europe. He executed his Commission with a zeal and assiduity which we have rarely met with, having traversed for fourteen Months those parts of Europe backwards and forwards where there was a hope of getting the Articles wanted, and after eighteen Months absence returned himself in the last of three Vessels which he charged with Ordnance and other necessaries. His reasonable expences we mean to pay and were about making him a proper pecuniary compensation for his time and great labour but he prays rather to be rewarded with Military rank unattended by either pay or command; expecting to reap greater benefit from this in his own Country to which he is about to return. The Executive apprehending they have no authority to grant brevet Commissions, refer to the general Assembly the expediency of authorising them to give to this Gentleman a Lieutenant Colonels Commission by way of brevet. They shall not indeed then think themselves discharged from making him some pecuniary compensation tho’ a much smaller may be given than they had before proposed. I have the honour to be with great respect Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi). Addressed: “The honourable Benjamin Harrison esq. Speaker of the House of Delegates.” Docketed: “Governors Letter Octor: 30th. 1779. about Brevet Commiss. to lie on table.”

Le Mair: Jacques Le Maire, commissioned by Virginia, 18 Mch. 1778, to procure military stores in France, landed in Boston, 30 Aug. 1779, on a vessel belonging to Penet, d’Acosta & Co. (CVSP description begins Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond description ends , iv, 13). On 5 Nov. 1779 the General Assembly authorized TJ to grant Le Maire a brevet commission (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1779, 1827 edn., p. 42). His accounts were approved 13 Nov. (TJ to Board of Trade, 6, 9–12 Nov. 1779; Board of Trade to TJ, 9, 13 Nov. 1779); however, a satisfactory settlement was not concluded. Le Maire continued his appeals for a settlement of his claim, and was among the first to call on TJ upon the latter’s arrival in France (TJ to Benjamin Harrison, 20 Aug. 1784).

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