Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Vergennes, 21 October 1785

To Vergennes

Paris Oct. 21. 1785.


I have the honour of inclosing to your Excellency a report1 of the voiage of an American ship, the first which has gone to China. The circumstance which induces Congress to direct this communication is the very friendly conduct of the Consul of his Majesty at Macao, and of the Commanders and other officers of the French vessels in those seas. It has been with singular satisfaction that Congress have seen these added to the many other proofs of the cordiality of this nation towards our citizens. It is the more pleasing when it appears in the officers of government because it is then viewed as an emanation of the spirit of the government. It would be an additional gratification to Congress, in this particular instance, should any occasion arise of notifying those officers that their conduct has been justly represented to your Excellency on the part of the United States, and has met your approbation. Nothing will be wanting on our part to foster corresponding dispositions in our citizens, and we hope that proofs of their actual existence have appeared and will appear whenever occasion shall offer. A sincere affection between the two people is the broadest basis on which their peace can be built.

It will always be among the most pleasing functions of my office when I am made the channel of communicating the friendly sentiments of the two governments. It is additionally so as it gives me an opportunity of assuring your Excellency of the high respect and esteem with which I have the honour to be your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.U., xxx; endorsed at head of text: “M. De R[ayneval]”; accompanied by a French translation endorsed at head of text: “Envoyé copie de cette Lettre et de la pièce y jointe à M. le Maal. de Castries le 8. 9bre. 1785.” PrC (DLC); MS faded; date later incorrectly restored by TJ as: “Oct. 11. 1785.” Tr (DNA: PCC, No. 87, i, and No. 107, i); in Short’s hand, similarly misdated. The entry in SJL under 11 Oct. 1785 is also evidently a misdated reference to the present letter. Enclosure: Samuel Shaw to Jay, 19 May 1785 (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxx; endorsed at head of text: “Joint à la lettre de M. Jefferson du 21. 8bre. 1785”). See Jay to TJ, 14 Sep. 1785.

Jay had recommended that Shaw’s account of the Empress of China be transmitted to TJ with instructions “to express to the french Minister the Sense which Congress entertain of the friendly Offices and Civilities shewn by the french Officers … to that american Ship; to request the Favor of him to signify the same to them and to assure his most Christian Majesty that the People of the United States will on their part be happy in Opportunities of acknowledging these pleasing Acts of Kindness, and of cultivating and continuing the same spirit of Friendship, which has hitherto so happily subsisted between the two Nations” (Jay to president of Congress, 1 Sep. 1785; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxix, 673–4). An account of the voyage of the Empress of China had appeared in the Mercure de France, 30 July 1785. Shaw’s letter is printed in Dipl. Corr., 1783–89 description begins The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States of America, from the Signing of the Definitive Treaty of Peace … to the Adoption of the Constitution, Washington, Blair & Rives, 1837, 3 vol. description ends , iii, 761–5. In DLC: TJ Papers, 14: 2464 there is a copy of The New-York Daily Advertiser for 2 Sep. 1785 which includes Shaw’s letter in full, prefaced by comments on Shaw’s service in the American Revolution; this text has a few corrections in TJ’s hand, presumably made after a comparison with the text sent by Jay.

1This word is keyed to a marginal note in RC which reads: “du 19 Mai.”

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