Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Jacob Vernes, 10 January 1790

From Jacob Vernes

Bordeaux 10th January 1790


I have the honour to transmit to your Excy. copy of the letter I took the liberty to write you from Nantes by the Carolina Planter Captn. Trusdale for, under cover to Messrs. Brailsford and Morris and I have since heard with a great deal of pleasure that my letter would meet you much about the time of your arrival in America, being informed by Mr. Short that you left Cowes the 22d. Octr. I should be further very happy to hear of your safe arrival; you will have found in the place to which you were deservedly elevated in your absence, a proof of the esteem of your Country and a recompense for your Services, on which I beg your Excellency to accept my Sincere Congratulations. I cannot say that I compliment you with that pleasure I should if I would not foresee that this office would Keep you distant from this country a great while, and perhaps obliterate from your memory the persons who were so happy as to be near enough to you to evince you of the profound Esteem and respect that you so generaly commanded in France.

I have been in this place for some weeks, and I found a port as rich, active and important for exports and imports as Lorient has become insignificant: after what I have seen, I can only congratulate my self of my removal. I take the liberty to send you some of my circular letters, such as I intend to send to the different parts of the U.S. I sent one to Messrs. Brailsford and Morris. I thought it necessary to go before any informations and indicate among the friends who know my person and my house, the most respectable houses in America that they may be applied to.

I send the present to Mr. Rd. Harrison of Alexa. for which place the Nancy Captn. Cooper will sail. I send to his care a packett which he will forward your Excellency, containing M Gorsas’s Journal, which gives a pretty exact detail of what passes at Paris, and in the interior parts of the Kingdom, and which I think you will peruse with pleasure. As I doubt not you receive the principal foreign papers I thought you would prefer this journal.

I will not mention the town news of Paris, but according to the opinion of People whom I am used to believe, and not withstanding the uncertainty of Mr. de Favras’s affair it appears certain that there has been there endeavours to throw dissentions among the people and corporations of Paris. The public does not mistrust Monsieur. But every1 is employed in forwarding the revolution, and I now look upon it as unalterably fix’d. The report of the Comittie of Finances is begun; It comprehends the entire department, even the detail. The Abbé Montesquiou has done himself great honour by his manner of classing them. The suspension of all pensions above 3000livre tournois till the new settlement that will be made of them by the assembly and the suppression of all pensions and appointments to all persons absent from the Kingdom is the finishing stroke to the aristocratical Troope. The Municipalities and department assemblies will be formd in less than a month and the Constitution will have finally a solid base. The Independance of the Austrian Netherlands is look upon as a settled matter, and it is probable that the Emperor after having made his peace with the Turks will have a new Knot to untie with the King of Prussia and Poland. The embers of revolt (or liberty) are blown up in Bohemia. Even the Polander reclaims the rights of Man, and the commons are forming with rapidity. In fine France has brought liberty into fashion, as formerly its stuffs and language; it will have the honor of promoting it, but perhaps your Country would deserve it.

Your Excellency will perhaps not be displeased to be acquainted with the present Situation of the principal produces of America in the Comercial line. With that Intent I inclose herein a copy of what I write about ‘em to some particular friends. The Consumption of Rice has pretty well augmented in this province these 3 or 4 years. Pine logs squar’d are worth 24 à 25s. per cubic foot, oak planks for ship building 50 à 55s. per do. when of midling proportions; but dearer till 3livre tournois. 10s. and more when they are of a greater size. I have the honour to be with great Respect your Excellency’s Most Obedient and most humble Servant,

J. Vernes

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR). Recorded in SJL as received 23 Mch. 1790. In DLC: Applications for Office under Washington, attached to Dupl of Vernes to TJ, 3 Nov. 1789, f. 4330, there is a concluding part of Vernes’ letter of 10 Jan. 1790 that evidently was intended as an enclosure. It has no designation as such, but internal evidence and TJ’s endorsement showing that it was received 23 Mch. 1790 prove that it belongs to the above letter. It reads as follows: “I have a delicate Matter to touch respecting the Consulship. From a Similitude in the names, I thought before my arrival in this place I knew by reputation and correspondance the Person of this place of whom Your Excellcy. spoke to me. But I was mistaken, and the person is very different from what I first conceived, of which further informations would instruct you. I at Nantes found a very honest and very unhappy American Captain of Savannah (Thos. Newell) who some dishonest french Insurers had kept there for two years, with an absurd law suit which he has at last gained, and which would not have lasted six months if you had had there a respectable agent. And I request Your Excellency to take the necessary informations, to direct you in the Choice of the Candidates if you have adopted the plan proposed in my former. The person here was so unhappy as to fall into the number of people whom according to our commercial law’s, cannot be admitted at the Exchange; and it is from this and from other informations given me that thinking a change in the Sistem of the Choice of the Consuls of your nation necessary, I am so bold as to sollicit your Excellency further for my nomination to the Consulship of this place, and to engage you not to give me a consul here. I have since heard that the Custom of other nations was not to have any consul in the place where the Consul general resides who does the business himself. They have some times but a vice consul.—I met Coll. Eustace here with whom I have often conversed about Your Exccy. I did not think I could find a Safer opportunity to send the packett to Madrid. He will depart for Spain about the latter end of this month. I’ll have the honor to write to the minister himSelf to know whether it has been delivered safe. I dared not take any other method from the severity of the orders in Spain against the introduction of French papers. Sense and genius are constantly objects of contraband in that country. The Bill of excommunication of the Ste. Inquisition against our best publications which you will find in gorsas’s journal is real. You could consider it as a Jock of that journalist.”

Gorsas’s journal: The news publication of Antoine-Joseph Gorsas (1752–1793), issued under various titles from 20 Oct. 1789 to 2 Aug. 1790 and known as Courier de Paris dans les provinces. The information by Mr. Short was in response to Vernes’ inquiry, and reads in part: “When [Mr. Jefferson] left this place his decision was to return in the month of April or May next. My letters from New-York inform me that he is named Secretary of State, an office which includes the home department and that of foreign affairs. It is thought at New-York that Mr. Jefferson will certainly accept the appointment. For my part I still doubt and am disposed to believe he will return here next spring as was his intention” (Short to Vernes, 10 Dec. 1789; PrC in DLC: Short Papers). An entry in SJL for 2 Feb. 1790 shows that TJ received Vernes’ letter of 3 Nov. 1789 under cover of one from Thomas Morris, of Brailsford & Morris, dated 8 Jan. 1790; the latter has not been found.

On 3 Feb. 1790, writing from Bordeaux to the secretary of state, Vernes reported briefly that the National Assembly had admitted “les Juifs Portugais Espagnols et Avignonois à tous les droits de citoyens et d’éligibilité comme les françois,” causing thereby “quelques insultes, icy on les reprime” he also reported that Favras had not been sentenced but would be, and that his guilt seemed proven; that tobacco prices were rising, with grain and flour steadier; and that Necker had recovered (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; this letter was received with another from Vernes & Cie. addressed to TJ, dated at Bordeaux 11 Mch. 1790, saying that they had sent a parcel of newspapers “under cover of Robert Morris Esqr. per the Ship Mary Capn. Moulton,” but that a decree “too interesting not to take the earliest opportunity of sending it to you,” had afterwards come to Bordeaux and was being sent by way of Baltimore; RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; docketed as forwarded from Baltimore 10 May 1790; both letters are recorded in SJL as received 15 May 1790).

1Thus in Ms.

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