Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 4 September 1785

To John Adams

Paris Sep. 4. 1785.

Dear Sir

Mr. Mazzei, during the war was employed by the state of Virginia to procure them loans of money in Europe. He thinks that in allowing him for his expences they have allowed less than they actually were. You knew him in Paris, and knew of the journies which he made. I would thank you for the best guess you can make of what his expences may have been, according to the stile in which you observed him to live. My object is to have justice done him, if it has not been done, being assured that if the state has failed in this point, it has been from a want of evidence and that they will rectify their error if they find they have committed one. I am with the highest esteem Dr. Sir Your friend & servant,

Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: AMT); endorsed in part in Adams’ hand: “ansd. 11. [Sep.] 1785.” PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ.

The energetic Mazzei had already explained to Adams that his employment by the state of Virginia had resulted in his having to mortgage his effects to European creditors chiefly “to preserve my honor in case of death” and that he had “come over to give them personal satisfaction in regard to my conduct toward them.” He believed that he had suffered more than others by reason of inflation, and added: “From the conversations I had with the Governor who employed me, I understood that I should be allowed 1000 Louis d’ors per annum for my expenditures. Having never received remittances from the state while in Europe, I was obliged to contract large debts, besides having sold in a hurry and consequently to a great disadvantage, two small estates I had in Tuscany. I was obliged to live in Europe in a manner becoming a public Agent, to save the credit of the state, and to facilitate the execution of the business entrusted to me; likewise to undertake many expensive journeys, to entertain and … to import newspapers at a considerable expense (particularly from Great Britain) for the purpose of confuting the falsities spread to our disadvantage by the Enemy” (Mazzei to Adams, 10 Aug. 1785; MHi: AMT). When Adams replied to this, Mazzei plunged into a discussion of politics and trade, praised the Massachusetts Navigation Act, agreed with Adams that Congress should have full and exclusive power to regulate trade, and said that he was then engaged in writing something that Marmontel would translate in order to refute the errors being published about America. He also asked for a copy of the preamble to the Virginia Constitution of 1776 since he was writing a sketch of events between the suspension of the old and the institution of new government. “I can get no assistance from any one of our Virginia Gentlemen in Paris,” he added. “Mr. Jefferson’s memory is not one of the best, and all his papers are in Virginia” (Mazzei to Adams, 5 Sep. 1785; MHi: AMT). When Adams replied to TJ’s request on 11 Sep., Mazzei thanked him and sent him a copy of his essay on sumptuary laws read before the “Virginia Constitutional Society” which he had founded in 1784 because of his firm opinion “that Freedom cannot long subsist in any Country, unless the generality of the People are sensible of its blessings, and tolerably well acquainted with the principles on which alone it can be supported.” He also enclosed with this an eight-page printed account of the Society with a statement of its purpose, members, and proceedings, and concluded this formidable budget of political discussion with the remark that he “would take it as a particular favor if you would with the whole power of your eloquence express to your most worthy Lady the high esteem, respect, and veneration which from your knowledge of me you can easily conceive I must entertain of her, after having been informed by our noble friend Mr. Jefferson of her charming, wonderful, and truly uncommon merit” (Mazzei to Adams, 27 Sep. 1785; MHi: AMT).

Index Entries