Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Fulwar Skipwith, 23 June 1790

To Fulwar Skipwith

New York June 23. 1790.

Dear Sir

You will have recieved by the last post your commission of Consul for Martinique, which will include the agencies of Ste. Lucie, Tobago, and Cayenne, the agents to be appointed by yourself of such persons natives or foreigners, resident there, or who may go there, as you please. Any reasonable delay of your departure which may be necessary for you to arrange your affairs here will be allowed you. Instructions will be prepared in the course of the summer, and forwarded to you either here or there. I suppose some small emolument will be allowed on every vessel arriving within your consulate; but of this I cannot speak with certainty. A bill is preparing for that purpose. It’s ultimate form and fate very in certain. Be so good as to keep me informed always where letters will find you. I am with great esteem Dear Sir Your most obedt. humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC). Tr (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 121).

Skipwith replied to this letter 6 July 1790 from Richmond: he would embark a month later from New York, where he would pay his respects to TJ, and would not therefore need instructions before leaving Virginia, adding: “Our Summer has been productive of a fruitfull harvest of Wheat, and of uncommon prospects in other produce. Your friends are well and I believe doing pretty well except my Cousin Skipwith who I am apprehensive will make a much regretted exit to her acquaintances e’er long” (RC in DLC; endorsed as received 13 July 1790 and so recorded in SJL). But on 17 July 1790 Skipwith wrote from Norfolk that the approaching hurricane season and the finding a suitable opportunity there had made him decide to embark the next day. He said he was “in the dark as to any emolument” to which his commission entitled him, requested TJ to send the instructions soon, and added that he had a copy of the Consular Convention of 1788 and would make that the guide of his conduct (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; endorsed by TJ as received 28 July 1790 and so recorded in SJL). On 30 Aug. 1790 Skipwith wrote TJ from Martinique that he still had not received the instructions and that the governor, having received no notification of the Consular Convention from the French government, was not empowered to grant an exequatur, adding: “If in this he is right, it is something strange that his Court or that he should have kept himself officially ignorant of the commercial regulations of his Country” (RC in DNA: RG 59, CD; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Nov. 1790 and so recorded in SJL).

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