Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 24 September 1789

From Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard

Amsterday 24 September 1789

To comply with the request in Your Excellency’s respected favor of 17 Instant, We remit inclosed £66,000,livre tournois to the order of Mr. William Short as specified at foot, to face the Business for which the ƒ30,000 were destined; We are pleased it is in a train of Negotiation, and shall be more so to learn its full Success.

Your Excellency’s drafts on us for the Expence of your journey and Passage, will meet the honor Your signature has ever experienced from us. We congratulate Your Excellency in the Permission You have obtained to visit your native country, sincerely wishing you a speedy fortunate passage and happy Re-union with your Relatives, Connexions and Friends: We perceive with pleasure that even on the other Side the Water, our Relation with Your Excellency will be continued, assuring you it will afford us much satisfaction to renew it on Your Excellency’s return to Europe.

The Exactitude and Attention manifested by Your Excellency to whatever concerns the Credit or Interest of the United States, renders it superfluous to recommend to Your Excellency to lay before the Treasury Department the Subject of our late Correspondence with Your Excellency relative to the State of the Cash of the United States in our hands and their growing Credit here, the importance of which Your Excellency is too strongly impressed with, not to urge its Support with due Weight and earnestness.

We notice Mr. William Short is being appointed Chargé des Affaires of the United States during Your Excellency’s Absence, In which Quality We shall address him when Circumstances may render it necessary. His Bills on us for the current Expences of the Legation shall be duly paid. We are respectfully Your Excellency’s Most obedient and very humble servants

Wilhem & Jan Willink

N. & J. Van Staphorst & Hubbard

RC (DLC); in Hubbard’s hand except for first signature; at foot of text enclosures are listed as “Remittances… to Order of Mr. William Short, at 3 Usances from 24 Septbr 1789”; endorsed as received 20 Nov. 1790 and so recorded in SJL. The enclosures, as listed at foot of text, record five drafts of Westrick & Pool on Tourton & Ravel, three of Texier, Angely & Massac on Veuve Leleu & Cie., and two of Jan & Carl Kasselgreen on Tourton & Ravel, totalling “ƒ22,000 or £66,000 on Paris.”

It is clear from this and previous correspondence that the Amsterdam bankers were much more impressed by TJ’s exactitude and attention than by methods of the commissioners of the treasury, a fact which served to increase their alarm when TJ failed to acknowledge the present letter (Short to TJ, 3 Nov. 1789). But this failure was due to a contretemps that may have been no one’s fault: TJ had given Short specific instructions not to open letters addressed to him personally-a revealing fact in itself-and since spring he had advised correspondents of his impending departure and of the need for addressing letters to the legation rather than to himself; he had specifically informed the bankers that he would leave Paris on the 27th or 23th, that Short was to be chargé d’affaires and would conduct negotiations concerning the prisoners in Algiers, and that the bills should be made payable to him (TJ to Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard, 17 Sep. 1789). But the present letter was addressed to TJ and Short, obeying instructions, did not open it until the bankers wrote directly to him.—The bankers’ experience in dealing with TJ gave them confidence in his punctuality, disinterestedness, and zeal in promoting his “favorite wish”-that of transferring to Holland bankers the American debt to France. Hence, though they do not mention an enclosure, it is almost certain that the letter to the commissioners of the treasury, printed herewith, was in fact enclosed in the present letter. The bankers had already informed TJ that an opportunity for making the transfer might soon occur and had urged him to procure powers “with the least possible delay” for negotiating the matter with the French government (Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard to TJ, 13 Aug. 1789). His letters reveal no response to this appeal, either directly to the bankers or by way of his official dispatches. TJ had long urged such a negotiation for the purchase of the American debt to France in his letters to Jay, to the commissioners of the treasury, to Washington, and to Madison (see Vol. 14: 190–209). The response to these appeals had been a stony silence, even from Madison. In view of this fact, it is quite likely that TJ’s failure to comment on the bankers’ suggestion of 13 Aug. 1789 has a simple explanation-that is, that TJ himself, perhaps in conversation with Jacob van Staphorst in Paris, suggested that a direct appeal from the bankers to the commissioners of the treasury would be more effective than any additional urging on his part. This would have been a characteristic move. The conjecture is given further plausibility by the behavior at this time of Gouverneur Morris, who hoped to make for himself and his associates a profitable speculation by purchasing the debt at a discount. Morris was in London on business when, early in September, he received from Daniel Parker “Intelligence which affects deeply our Plan about a purchase of the American Debt to France.” Within twenty-four hours Morris was on his way to Paris, and his first call was on TJ, who was then on his morning walk, but the visitor awaited his return. After TJ had told him that the loan in Holland was filled, because of “an Apprehension that some other House would be employed, Morris probed for the information he desired: “I cast about to know if any Thing has been done respecting the Debt to France but cannot perceive that there has. Avoid mentioning it to Mr. Jefferson for the present.” The next day, 15 Sep. 1789, Morris called on Richard and Laurent Le Couteulx and asked them about the debt, but received replies that he thought evasive. On consulting Jacob van Staphorst he learned that “Mr. Jefferson would have undertaken to open the Loan for all the french Debt if it could be effected without Loss.” On the 23rd Morris again called on TJ and recorded the interview as follows: “Talk about the Debt. He was willing to open a Loan in Holland for the Installments now due but not for the whole. Would now do it if desired by the Government. He gives me certain Estimates of the Debt which he has sent to America to Maddison.” And again, the next day: “I urge on Mr. Jefferson the going to Holland for the Purpose of opening a Loan to pay the Installments and Interest now due on the Debt to France. He shews me his Instructions which are motivées upon the Impropriety of making Engagements when the Chance of performing them is so remote, and which therefore prohibit him at that Juncture to contribute to the Plan which he had transmitted and which was then in Agitation, for a Transfer of that Debt. I think his main Objection in the present Juncture lies to a Journey which would postpone his Return to America” (Morris, Diary, i, 208, 218–9, 226, 227–8). Morris at least learned that TJ’s plan was then in agitation, but the minister departed without giving further information, so far as can be determined from Morris’ detailed journal.

On 29 Oct. 1789 Short wrote to Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard: “I have received your favor of the 22d. inst. containing the second bills to the amount of sixty six thousand livres. Your letter to Mr. Jefferson containing the first of these said bills arrived here in due time, and was placed among his other letters which he desired at his departure might remain until his return. As he had given notice to all of his correspondents of his departure, he had supposed that no letters on public business would have been addressed to him, and therefore desired they might be detained as private letters until he should come back.” (DLC: Short Papers).

Index Entries