Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Josiah Parker, 8 August 1790

From Josiah Parker

New York, 8 Aug. 1790. John Cowper, Jr., of Portsmouth requested him “to name him as a candidate for a Consulship at … London, Bristol, Lisbon, or Bilboa.” After obtaining “a more than common Education,” Cowper was sent to Liverpool to be educated in the mercantile line, where he served in house of Crosbie & Greenwood for five years. He then returned to Virginia to conduct “the Mercantile concerns of his Father Mr. Wills Cowper of Portsmouth” until the spring of 1789 when he went to Bordeaux “long enough to acquire a tolerable knowledge of the French language” and their mode of business. He would prefer Bordeaux, but does not offer himself for that as a consul is already appointed there. He “is a young Gentleman of address and abilities and supports a very good Character.” Mr. William Stokes of Virginia also desires to be made consul “at a port in St. Domingo or at Bristol”; he has been unfortunate in business but “conducted himself in such a manner as to support an unblemishd Character. Both these Gentlemen are attached to their Country and the present Government of it.”—TJ “will please to name those Gentlemen to the President.”

RC (DLC: Applications for Office under Washington); at foot of text: “Secretary of the States”; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Aug. 1790 and so recorded in SJL (since there were several other entries on this date, not in alphabetical order, the error in date was probably that of Parker). To the endorsement TJ added “for Lisbon,” but neither Cowper nor Stokes is mentioned among the recommended candidates in the list of vacancies submitted to the President on 23 Feb. 1791. Parker’s use of the imperative in the final sentence may reflect his view of prerogative as a member of the Virginia delegation in the House of Representatives. There is no evidence that TJ responded to the above letter and the silence on these two candidates may be due to a feeling in the administration that Virginia and Maryland already had a full share of the appointments, particularly those for such key ports as London, Liverpool, Bordeaux, and Martinique (see documents on the Consular Establishment under 21 July 1790 and notes there).

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