Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Jan Ingenhousz, 19 June 1788

To Jan Ingenhousz

Paris June 19. 1788.

Dear Sir

I am late in answering your favor of Jan. 23. but it has not been possible for me to do it sooner. The letter to Doctor Franklin, after which you enquire, came to my hands on the 9th. of October. I sent it under cover with my own dispatches to our Secretary for foreign affairs at New York, and the Count de Moutier, who went minister from this country to America, was the bearer of it. His arrival in America was not known at Paris the beginning of March, when I set out from hence on a tour through Holland and Germany, and this is the first moment since my return at which I have been able to assure you that your letter is safely arrived at it’s destination. Whatever others you may be pleased to have delivered me here for America I will answer for it shall go safely to their address in that country; and those your friends there may send to my care, shall always be delivered, as the present is, to the Count de Merci. Late letters from Doctor Franklin announce his health. We are told he is decided to retire this autumn from all public business. We are at present occupied in some amendments of our federal constitution, which I think will take place, and I have the happiness to inform you that our new republicks thrive well. Accept assurances of the esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be, Dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC).

In a notation on Ingenhousz’ letter of 23 Jan. 1788, TJ stated that he did not know whether the communication to Franklin had been included in the public dispatches carried by The Count De Mountier or went by the November packet (Vol. 12: 530), a statement at variance with the assertion that Moustier Was the bearer of it. TJ may have depended on memory in making the notation; possibly at the time of writing the present letter he referred to his correspondence and found that, more than a week after Moustier left Paris, he acknowledged receipt at Le Havre of the third packet addressed to Jay and placed in his care, proving that at least one packet was made up after TJ had received Ingenhousz’ letter on 9 Oct. (Moustier to TJ, 19 Oct. 1787). Another discrepancy in this letter—that Moustier’s arrival in America was not known at Paris The beginning of March—may also be a lapse of memory; but more probably it was merely the easiest way to avoid making a complicated explanation. TJ barely had time, in the press of business attendant on his sudden departure for Holland, to inform Montmorin of the news of Moustier’s safe arrival, and in his haste he forgot to inform his friend Dupont, whose son was with Moustier on the vessel that had been feared lost (TJ to Montmorin, 2 Mch. 1788; TJ to Short, 29 Mch. 1788). The latter omission gave TJ “infinite affliction”; the failure to give Ingenhousz the mere line of information requested in his letter of 23 Jan.—a request amounting to not much more than the notation that TJ made on that letter—appears to be due not so much to the fact that it had Not been possible … to do it sooner as to the fact that TJ may have been a bit annoyed by the scientist’s premature anxiety.

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