Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elias Hasket Derby, 1 March 1787

From Elias Hasket Derby

Salem, 1st. March, 1787


I have the Honor of inclosing You a letter from Our mutual Friend the Honble. John Sullivan Esqr. President of the State of New Hampshire, Incloseing Copy of a Petition from me to His most Christian Majesty, with depositions of Captain Nichols who had the transacting the bussiness at Port au Prince, and Capt. Tibbetts who was Comander of Capt. Nichols’s Vessell before she was conveyed to Mr. LeMaire the French Merchant there, to support said Petition. And many more depositions may be obtained purporting the same from several American Masters of Vessels that were present at the time. By these papers you will see the method taken by these People to defraud Capt. Nichols of His and my Interest. I will not trespass on your time and patience by comenting on the papers. I have received two papers from the West Indies, Copys of which I now inclose you. One a letter from Mr. LeMaire to Mr. Francis De la Ville Merchant Nantz dated Port au Prince 16th. Augt. 1786, acknowledging the Debt, and directing Him to deliver Vessell, and Cargo, to Capt. Nichols, or to follow his directions relating the Interest. The other an Obligation given by Mr. J. Marc Barrere dated the 31st. Aug. 1786, wherein He obliges Himself to prosecute the Appeal, and supposes there is reason to think that the Judgement will be reversed, and promisses to hold Himself accountable to Capt. Nichols or His order for the same, deducting the charges that may attend the prosecution; compareing these two papers their Art may be seen. Le Maire is the first of the House and Consigns the Vessell, and Cargo to Messrs. De la Ville as by His letter of the 16th. Augt. 86. After she is Condemned, J. Marc Barrere on the 31st. day of August, 86, gives an Obligation to Capt. Nichols to prosecute an Appeal, and account with Him, or Order, for what may be recoverd. I would observe that Monsr. Le Maire was the man to whom Capt. Nichols made over his Vessel, and the only One that He put any confidence in, that taking alltogather there is the greatest Appearance of Fraud, and design, that if the Interest was recover’d the Originall Owners should not be benifited by it. Mr. Le Maire, or Barrere, or both, have had the address to keep every other paper relating the concern from Capt. Nichols’s hand.

J. M. Barrere’s obligation shows that they promised Capt. Nichols to persue his claim to France, and Capt: Nichols has informed me that they promised Him to write Me from Time, to Time of Their Doings, but I have not as yet received a line from them, and by what I hear from that way, I do not expect they will write me on the Subject.

They have all the papers, and vouchers in their possession, and not prosicuting the Appeal to France, I have no remedy left but by Petitioning His Most Christian Majesty, and for that purpose I now inclose to my Son Elias Hasket Derby who is now in France the petition to the King with the several papers accompanying it. Should there be any inaccuracy, in any of the Forms, or Expressions made use of, my Ignorance I hope will be my Apoligy.

Presuming on your Excellencys readiness to Assist the Injured and Oppress’d, especially a Citizen of America, I have directed my Son to wait on Your Excellency, and I flatter myself you will direct a youth unacqainted with the Etiquette of Courts, and seeking redress for an injured Father the steps properest to be taken to lay His complaint at His Majestys feet.

Any Assistance you may Afford my Son in this Transaction, will greatly Oblige, & be highly esteem’d by Your Excellency’s most Obedient, & very Humble Servant,

Elias Hasket Derby

RC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as received 16 June 1787. Enclosures: (1) Sullivan to TJ, 26 Jan. 1787 (second letter), and its enclosures. (2) Notarized copy of Le Maire to Francis de la Ville, Port au Prince, 16 Aug. 1786 (DLC), stating that he owes 160,000 livres to Captain Nichols payable in island produce, but that on account of the scarcity of specie and the prohibition against exporting thence to a foreign port anything but molasses or taffia, he has decided to purchase the Neptune from Nichols; and that the vessel had been “loaded and Consigned to you for, and on Account of Mr. Nichols whose orders I desire you may follow with strictest sense, being persuaded that in Case markets should be low with you he will again reload the same Cargo,” in which case De la Ville was to deliver to Nichols “the Vessel & Cargo in her present situation”; Le Maire reiterated: “I would moreover observe to you that these Goods were shipped for his Account and Risque, my Debt with him being discharged by this Remittance. I again repeat that you are to hold all at his disposal.” (3) Notarized copy of the declaration signed J. Marc Barrere, Port au Prince, 31 Aug. 1786 (DLC), in which he states that as “the Snow Neptune Capt Vavasuer formerly the Lydia Capt Richard Tibbets the property of Capt Ichabod Nichols” had been seized with her cargo and condemned by the admiralty court “on Suspicion of Illicit and Contraband Trade,” and as there was reason to believe an appeal would be made to have the judgment nullified in France, he would do everything possible to have the judgment set aside and, if this were done, he would hold himself accountable to Nichols for the vessel and cargo. (4) A declaration dated at Boston, 22 Feb. 1787, signed by John Lowell, Samuel Phillips, Jr., Nathaniel Gorham, and Elbridge Gerry, stating: “We the undersigners do hereby certify that We are well acquainted with Elias Hasket Derby Esqr. of Salem and do consider him as one of the first Merchants in this Commonwealth for respectability and honor in his dealings, and as a Gentleman to whose representations or declarations full Credit is justly do” (clerk’s copy, signed by those named, in DLC, attested by Gov. James Bowdoin under the seal of the Commonwealth, who certified that Phillips was president of the Massachusetts Senate, Gorham late president and at that time a member of Congress, and Gerry and Lowell late members of Congress; signed by Bowdoin, and also dated 22 Feb. 1787).

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