Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 26 March 1786

From William Short

March 26. 17861

Dear Sir

Since writing you I have received two Letters from Messrs. Desbordes of Brest. The first informed me that the Letter inclosed them was not sufficient, as I had apprehended, for the Liberation of the American Prisoners. They desired me to obtain without Delay something more absolute. I immediately wrote to Mr. Reyneval communicating this Circumstance, and two or three Days after received the second Letter from Messrs. Desbordes which I inclose. You will see by that Sir the present Situation of the Prisoners, and the Request made me by Messrs. Desbordes. I shall write to them to day that I have no Authority to enlarge the Powers you have given them with Respect to the Advances of Money, and inform them at the same Time that I have enclosed you their Letter on this Subject. I should have done it the first Moment of its Receipt, but that I awaited an Answer from Mr. Reyneval; although it has not yet come I suppose it best not to wait longer as every Day is of Importance to the Prisoners.

After sending my Letter which I wrote you some Time ago to the Marquis de la Fayette, another from London arrived to your Address accompanied by a Map of Virginia. I kept the Map and gave the Letter to the Marquis de la Fayette (whom I saw that Evening at Madame de Tesse’s) as he told me that the Gentleman has not yet left Paris.

This Letter will go by Post so that I hope you will receive it very shortly. I am the more anxious as I see no Reason to expect that the Prisoners will be liberated until you can take some Measure in the Affair. The Letter however which I inclose will put you in Possession of all that I know respecting their present situation.

I have nothing more to communicate Sir than the Assurances of that perfect Friendship with which I shall ever be Your &c.,

W. Short

RC (DLC); endorsed. Noted in SJL as received “while in London.” Enclosures: Borgnis Desbordes, Frères to Short, 13 and 17 Mch. 1786 (RC, DLC); the first is noted under Rayneval to TJ, 5 Mch. 1786; the second informs Short that the farmers-general have notified their comptroller at Brest to release the American prisoners from St. Pol de Léon provided they give up their ship and cargo and pay costs of judgment, jailing, food, &c.; that the farmers-general will not require the 300 fine for each of the men and that Borgnis Desbordes wish authorization to pay all expenses charged to the prisoners.

Another from London… . accompanied by a map of Virginia: This was probably a (missing) letter to TJ from James Lyons, whose letter of 27 Feb. 1786 had been received on 5 Mch., conveying the information that he had been disappointed in obtaining the map from Faden. Lyons evidently succeeded in time to send it with another letter from London. Lafayette must either have been mistaken in thinking that the person who carried Short’s and his letters of 19 Mch. had not yet left Paris or else the letters were given by that person to another; for TJ recorded both as having been received on 25 Mch. and he actually replied to Short’s on 28 Mch.

1Short wrote: “March 86th 1786.”

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