Thomas Jefferson Papers

III. Observations on the Diplomatic Establishment as provided for by Congress, [17 July 1790]

III. Observations on the Diplomatic Establishment as provided for by Congress

[17 July 1790]

The bill on the intercourse with foreign nations restrains the President from allowing to Ministers plenipotentiary or to Chargés more than 9000. and 4500. Dollars for their ‘personal services and other expences.’ This definition of the objects for which the allowance is provided, appearing vague, the Secretary of state thought it his duty to confer with the gentlemen heretofore employed as ministers in Europe, to obtain from them, in aid of his own information, an enumeration of the expences incident to these offices, and their opinion which of them would be included within the fixed salary, and which would be entitled to be charged separately. He therefore asked a conference with the Vicepresident, who was acquainted with the residences of London and the Hague, and the Chief justice who was acquainted with that of Madrid, which took place yesterday.

The Vice-president, Chief justice, and Secretary of state concurred in opinion that the salaries named by the act are much below those of the same grade at the courts of Europe, and less than the public good requires they should be. Consequently that the expences not included within the definition of the law, should be allowed as an additional charge.

1. Couriers, gazettes, translating necessary papers, printing necessary papers, aids to poor Americans. All three agreed that these ought to be allowed as additional charges not included within the meaning of the phrase ‘his personal services and other expences.’

2. Postage. Stationary. Court fees. One of the gentlemen being of opinion that the phrase ‘personal services and other expences’ was meant to comprehend all the ordinary expences of the office, considered this second class of expences as ordinary, and therefore included in the fixed salary. The 1st. class beforementioned he had viewed as extraordinary. The other two gentlemen were of opinion this 2d. class was also out of the definition, and might be allowed in addition to the salary. One of them particularly considered the phrase as meaning ‘personal services and personal expences,’ that is, expences for his personal accomodation, comfort and maintenance. This 2d. class of expences is not within that description.

3. Ceremonies; such as diplomatic and public dinners, galas, and illuminations. One gentleman only was of opinion these might be allowed.

The expences of the 1st. class may probably amount to about 50. dollars a year. Those of the 2d. to about four or five hundred dollars. Those of the 3d. are so different at different courts, and so indefinite in all of them, that no general estimate can be proposed.

The Secretary of state thought it his duty to lay this information before the President, supposing it might be satisfactory to himself, as well as to the diplomatic gentlemen, to leave nothing uncertain as to their allowances; and because too a previous determination is in some degree necessary to the forming an estimate, which may not exceed the whole sum appropriated. Several papers accompany this, containing former opinions on this subject.

The Secretary of state has also consulted, on the subject of the Marocco consulships, with Mr. Barclay, who furnished him with the note of which a copy accompanies this. Considering all circumstances,1 Mr. Barclay is of opinion we had better have only one Consul there, and that he should be the one now residing at Marocco, because, as Secretary to the emperor,2 he sees him every day, and possesses his ear. He is of opinion 600. Dollars a year might suffice for him,3 and that it should be proposed to him, not as a salary, but as a sum in gross intended to cover his expences, and to save the trouble of keeping accounts. That this Consul should be authorised to appoint agents in the Seaports, who would be sufficiently paid by the consignments of vessels. He thinks the Consul at Marocco should most conveniently recieve his allowance through the channel of our Chargé at Madrid, with whom also this Consulate had better be made dependant4 for instructions, information, and correspondence, because of the daily intercourse between Marocco and Cadiz.

The Secretary of state, on a view of Mr. Barclay’s note, very much doubts the sufficiency of the sum of 600. Dollars: he supposes a little money there may save a great deal; but he is unable to propose any specific augmentation till a view of the whole diplomatic establishment and it’s expences may furnish better grounds for it.

MS (DNA: RG 59, MLR); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by Washington: “Respecting Diplomatic and the Allowances made by Congress.” PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 56: 9621–2, 9624); at foot of text there is the following (not in MS): “Th: Jefferson July 17. 1790.” FC (DNA: RG 59, SDC); at head of text: “Observations &ca. respecting Diplomatic matters, and the Allowances made by Congress”; in clerk’s hand, including date and signature. N (DLC: TJ Papers, 232: 41538); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed: “Marocco. Mr. Barclay’s information.” This memorandum, which TJ must have set down after conferring with Barclay, contains interesting variations from the expressions employed in the above observations sent to Washington (see notes below). Enclosures: (1) The copy of Barclay’s note, undated, reads: “Most of the foreign Consuls live at Tangier, the Dutch Consul at Mogadore, and the French at Rabat. They are all furnished at the expence of their several Countries with the means of making the necessary presents, with the expences of Couriers, travelling expences, particularly to and from Morocco.—They charge for authenticating papers, some of them for Consulage on the vessels belonging to their nations; the English Consul in particular charges twelve Spanish dollars for each. Exclusive of which they have the following Salaries.—

English  £800 Sterling per annum
France 19000 Livres per annum, with an addition of 1000 livres made in favor of Mr. De Roché the present Consul General.
Spanish  4000 } Spanish dollars
Danish  4000
Swedish  3000 } Spanish dollars Who is the American Agent at Tangier
Dutch  3,400
Venetian  2,800
Francisco Chiappe at Morocco } American Agents”
Josephus Chiappe at Mogadore
Gérolamo Chiappe at Tangier

(Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 233: 42194; in Taylor’s hand. MS in DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 91; in Barclay’s hand, endorsed by TJ: “Mr. Barclay’s note of the foreign Consuls in Marocco”). (2) Chart in TJ’s hand showing number and rank of diplomatic officers maintained by different countries at the principal European courts (DLC: TJ Papers, 232: 41620; entirely in TJ’s hand in tabular form [see illustration in this volume]; PrC in same; another tabular MS, in TJ’s hand, is in DNA: RG 59, MLR; and another, in clerk’s hand, is in DNA: RG 59, SDC). (3) “Extracts from the Secret Journals of Congress respecting allowances made to their Diplomatic characters, abroad,” containing copies of the following: (i) resolution of 28 Sep. 1776 “that the Commissioners should live in such a stile and manner at the Court of France, as they may find suitable and necessary to support the dignity of their public character,” keeping account of their expenses, which would be reimbursed, and that, in addition, “a handsome allowance be made to each of them as a compensation for their time, trouble, risk and services,” with the secretary of the embassy being allowed a salary of £1,000 sterling; (ii) resolution of 7 May 1778 repeating the substance of the foregoing for the commissioners appointed for the courts of Spain, Tuscany, Vienna, and Berlin; (iii) resolution of 6 Aug. 1779 allowing 11,428 livres, calculated at £500 sterling per annum, as compensation for each of the commissioners, to be computed from the time of their leaving their places of abode to three months after their notice of recall; (iv) resolution of 4 Oct. 1779 allowing ministers plenipotentiary at the rate of £2,500 sterling per annum, and each secretary at the rate of £1,000 sterling per annum, in full for both services and expenses; (v) resolution on report of committee of 10 May 1783, consisting of Williamson, Carroll, and Osgood on letters of Franklin and Adams concerning allowances, that payment of couriers and postage should be charged to the United States exclusive of salaries; (vi) resolution of 7 May 1784 that after 1 Aug. 1784 the salary of a minister at a foreign court should not exceed $9,000 per annum; (vii) resolution of 11 May 1784 that after 1 Aug. 1784 the secretary of a commission or an embassy should not exceed $3,000 per annum; (viii) resolution of 22 July 1785 that Francis Dana be allowed “the sum of four hundred three Dollars and fifty one ninetieths, on account of the charges of Postage accrued whilst he was in a public character in Europe,” and, in addition, “three hundred eleven dollars and twenty three ninetieths on account of travelling expenses … and a loss sustain’d by him on the sale of a Carriage intended for his reception at the Court of Petersburgh,” plus the “necessary expence for a private secretary,” all to be exclusive of salary; (ix) resolution of 27 Dec. 1782 approving purchase John Adams had made of a house at The Hague for the use of the United States; (x) extract of letter from Arthur Lee to the secret committee, 2 Apr. 1778, stating that his account of expenses had been kept as minutely as possible and that, including two journeys, they had not exceeded the sum allotted, “tho’ the being acknowledged will necessarily augment the expence”; (xi) extract of letter from Lee to the committee, 1 June 1778, stating that he agrees with Adams “that it would be better for the public that the appointment of your public ministers were fixed, instead of being left at large and their expences indefinite,” and adding: “From experience I find the expence of living in that character cannot well be less than three thousand pounds sterling a Year, which I believe too is as little as is allowed to any public Minister above the rank of a Consul. If left at liberty I believe most persons will exceed this sum”; (xii) extract of letter from John Adams to John Jay, 13 May 1785, reporting on his conversation with the British ambassador concerning the presentation of himself and family t the king and queen of England, and adding: “I hope, Sir, you will not think this an immaterial or a trifling conversation, when you consider that the single circumstance of presenting a Family to Court will make a difference of several hundred pounds sterling in my inevitable annual expences. This is not the first serious Lecture that I have had upon the subjects of Etiquette, and even dress. I have formerly related to you in conversation another much more grave, which I had five years ago from the Count de Vergennes. I believe I have also reported to you similar exhortations made to me even by the best Patriots in Holland. There is a certain appearance in proportion to rank, which all the Courts of Europe make a serious point of exacting from every body who is presented to them.—I need not say to you, Sir, because you know it perfectly, that American Ministers have never yet been able to make this appearance at any Court. They are now less able to do it than ever. I lament this necessity of consuming the Labour of my fellow Citizens upon such objects as much as any man living: but I am sure that the consequences of debasing your Ministers so much below their rank, will one day have consequences of much more importance to the Husbandman, artisan, and even Labourer.” At this point the following note is appended: “Note. Mr. Adams at this period received 9,000 Dollars per annum”; (xiii) extract from Jay’s answer to the foregoing, 3 Aug. 1785, stating that the expenses of presentation at court would doubtless be considerable and that he had long felt Adams’ salary was not equal to what it should be, adding: “Custom and fashion often exact a Tribute which however just and virtuous to refuse, is often very expedient to pay. In short, your salary is more than what a private Gentleman may with care live decently upon, but is less than is necessary to enable you to live as other Ministers usually and generally do. Whether Congress will make any alterations in this respect is very uncertain. There are men in all the States who make a merit of saving money in small matters without sufficiently attending to the consequences of it”; (xiv) extract of a report by Robert R. Livingston to Congress, 29 Apr. 1783, on a peace establishment for the department of foreign affairs, reading: “The Ministers of the United States at foreign Courts should in my opinion be of the second and third Orders, that is Ministers Plenipotentiary and Ministers. Ministers Plenipotentiary derive some advantage from their station in conversing with the great; they are more readily admitted to audiences, and obtain easier access at Court. For which reason as well as on acount of the compliment to the Prince to whom we are so greatly indebted, I would maintain a Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, where even after the War we shall have very important matters to settle, and where our Commerce and our Debts will leave us many points to discuss. I would pursue the same measure with Spain—her Trade—the vicinity of her Territories and the intimate connexion between the branches of the House of Bourbon, render an influence at the Court of Madrid important to us. The pride and ceremony of the Nation induces me to believe that a Minister Plenipotentiary will best obtain it. At London, Lisbon and the Hague, I conceive the interests of the United States may be as well attended to by a Minister of the third order, as by one of higher rank.—The salaries of the Ministers must depend upon their characters and the places at which they reside. A Minister Plenipotentiary in France or Spain ought, I should conceive, with proper œconomy to be supported for about Ten thousand Dollars. A Minister in England, Portugal and Holland for about seven thousand Dollars, inclusive of house hire and all contingent expences, except the Postage of Letters and the purchase of public prints, which I would give them no inducement to œconomize in”; and concluding (xv) with the following note: “Dr. Franklin in a Letter dated Philadelphia 29th November 1788 and directed to the President of Congress mentions that he has settled his accounts with Mr. Barclay but had not finally closed them, because he had some equitable demands for extra services respecting which he wished the opinion of Congress, Mr. Barclay not conceiving himself empowered to allow them. He refers to and encloses in this letter, one he wrote to Mr. Barclay dated Passy 25 June 1785 wherein he claims and continues to charge for his salary under an Act of Congress of 5th October 1779. £2500 sterlg per annum; and says that the subsequent Act which reduces the salary of a Minister Plenipotentiary to £2000 can only relate to such plenipotentiaries as should be afterwards appointed, as he conceives that Congress after promising a Minister £2,500 a year and thereby encouraging him to live in a certain stile for their honor, which that salary only can support, could not think it just to diminish it one fifth, and leave him under the difficulty of reducing his expences proportionably, a thing scarcely practicable.” (DNA: RG 59, SDC.)

1N reads: “considering the smallness of our fund.”

2N reads: “… at Marocco, viz [Francisco] Chiappe, who is one of the Emperor’s Secretaries and sees him every day.”

3N reads: “… and give to the Consul 600 Doll. to answer expences of couriers &c. and ever more if necessary, and to let him know that nothing can be allowed to the agents.”

4N reads: “He thinks it will be better to make that Consulate dependant altogether on the Chargé at Madrid, and let him correspond with him altogether; to send a new Consular commission to Mr. Carmichael for [Francisco] Chiappe.”

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