Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to De Blome, 19 May 1785

To De Blome

à Paris ce 19. Mai 1785.
Cul de sac Tetebout

Monsr. Jefferson a l’honneur de vous faire part qu’il a eu le 17me. de ce mois ses premieres audiences du Roi, de la reine, et de la famille royale en qualité de Ministre plenipotentiaire des etats unis d’Amerique près sa Majesté.

FC (DLC); addressed: “A Monsr. Monsr. le Baron de Blome.” Not recorded in SJL. Similar formal notices were doubtless addressed to all members of the diplomatic corps in Paris (see note to following letter; also Adams to TJ, 27 May 1785 concerning the differences between the two courts in this matter of etiquette).

On 14 May, presumably in a personal interview, TJ communicated to Vergennes the news of his appointment as minister and on the 17th delivered his “letter of credence to the king at a private audience and went through the other ceremonies usual on such occasions” (TJ to Jay, 17 June 1785). Unlike Adams, who of course had valid reasons for giving a particular account of his accreditation at the court of St. James, TJ did not amplify his statement to Jay (see Marie Kimball, Jefferson: Scene of Europe, p. 34–8). Tradition has attributed to this interview a famous remark of TJ’s, but its origin was not so dramatic, though it was, like many traditions, based on truth. TJ himself gave rise to the tradition in his letter to Dr. William Smith of 19 Feb. 1791: “The succession to Dr. Franklin at the court of France was an excellent school of humility. On being presented to <individuals> any one as the Minister of America, the common-place question, used in such cases, was ‘c’est vous, Monsieur, qui remplace le Docteur Franklin?’ … I generally answered, ‘no one can replace him, Sir; I am only his successor.’” This letter was quoted by Smith in his Eulogium on Benjamin Franklin … Delivered March 1, 1791 … before the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, 1792), and from that time on the tradition gained currency, at times the king and at other times Vergennes being designated as TJ’s interlocutor.

Index Entries