Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Rayneval, 20 February 1786

To Rayneval

Paris Feb. 20. 1786.


The bearer hereof is a Mr. Richards, secretary to Mr. Barclay, our Consul and Commissioner for settling accounts, and the same who lately petitioned his Excellency the Count de Vergennes for a Sauf conduit to protect his person against a particular creditor. As he is pressed in that matter he has sollicited me to ask access for him to you, that he may be enabled to explain his case to you, and shew that he is worthy of your favour herein. I take the liberty therefore of troubling you to hear him, after which you will be so good as to decide how far the circumstances of his situation will entitle him to your protection, and to act accordingly. I have the honor to be with very sincere respect and esteem Sir Your most obedient & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

RC (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.U., xxxi); without indication of name of addressee, which has been supplied from internal evidence. Not recorded in SJL.

Mr Richards … who lately petitioned his excellency the count De Vergennes: On 15 Feb. John Richard wrote to Vergennes enclosing “un Mémoire avec un Certificat de la vérité des faits avancés, signé par son Excellence M. Jefferson” and also a letter from Beaumarchais to Vergennes. The memorial stated that Richard had settled as a merchant at Nantes in 1777 and established a firm which his son represented at Philadelphia; that in the decline of commerce with the United States following the arrival of peace, “ils se trouverent envellopés dans la débacle génerale”; that in April 1785 after having made a pro rata payment on a considerable part of their debts and finding it impossible to discharge their obligations entirely, they called together their creditors, “produisant leurs Bilan, et un etat clair de leurs pertes offrant de faire un abandon general de leurs effets mais leurs fonds se trouvant en Amerique les Creanciers ne voulurent pas s’en charger et leurs laissa ce soin comme plus a portee de le faire avec avantage”; that this “permission facile” had not prevented some of the creditors from pressing them in the hope of being given preferential treatment; that he had been attached for some time to the office of Thomas Barclay, who was absent on “un voyage de longue durée pour le Service des Etats, et que dans son absence, il se trouve presque seul chargé de la poursuite d’une operation si importante tant pour les Etats Unis que pour ceux qui ont des prétentions sur eux”; and that he therefore petitioned the king “de lui faire avoir un sauf conduit pour un an,” in which time he hoped not only to conclude this particular business, but also to finish the public mission with which he was charged—a mission “qui souffriroit les plus grands inconveniens s’il était obligé par les poursuittes d’un Creancier d’abandonner un Employ pour la Sureté de sa personne.” TJ’s certification followed the memorial: “Paris Feb. 15 1786. I hereby Certify that the above named John Richard is Secretary to Thomas Barclay Esq. Consul General for the United States of America in France, and that during the absence of M. Barclay the said John Richard is the only person who can proceed in the settlement of accounts between the United States and individuals in this Country. Signé Tho. Jefferson” (Arch. Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., E.-U., xxxi; Tr in DLC). Beaumarchais wrote Vergennes the same day, to which Vergennes replied on 13 Mch. 1786 that he had presented the case to the king who did not deem it proper to grant the request (same)

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