Thomas Jefferson Papers

I. Jefferson’s Draft Memorandum on Consular Vacancies, 21 February 1791

I. Jefferson’s Draft Memorandum on Consular Vacancies

A note of the vacant consulships and of the candidates.

  • Gottenburg, in Sweden. No body applies
  • Amsterdam. Greenleaf was formerly a candidate, but not appointed because from a part of the Continent which has already furnished more than it’s proportion of Consuls; and because it was thought that the kind of character for that place could be better decided, after it shall be decided whether any and what diplomatic appointment shall be made for the Hague.
  • Cadiz. P. R. Randolph [Randall] of N. York, and Richd. Codman of Massachusets were candidates. Also Thomas Thompson, who will be spoken of below. There are no new applications.
  • Canary islands. viz. Teneriffe, Palma, Ferro, Gomera, Canary, Fortaventura and Lancerota. Sarmento a Portuguese who married in Philadelphia was a candidate. I believe he was named by the President and rejected by the Senate. John Culnan asks it. See the letters of John and Jasper Moylan. There is no other candidate, nor is it important to name a Consul.
  • Lisbon. Thomas Thompson, I believe an Irishman. He has resided 17 years as a merchant in Madeira. He came over to Virginia, where he married one of the Pleasants on James river, against consent. He resided there seven years. He is strongly recommended by T. Pleasants of Virginia, and S. Pleasants of Philadelphia: but is a bankrupt and addicted to the bottle. See his letter from Madeira, asking Lisbon or Cadiz. Bulkeley. Recommended by the members from Massachusets. He is an American, but of what state they do not say. He has been long settled at Lisbon, and is among the most opulent merchants. They give him a good character. Colo. Humphreys names him in a note to me as a merchant of integrity.

Mr. Palyert says some think him a native of Engld. some of America. He travelled in the U.S. before the war. During the war he was at Lisbon, a tory. He is now a member of the Eng. factory. Is very rich and has great connections with this country.1

John Telles, whose papers were laid before the President some time ago, is also a candidate. He is well recommended by Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Swanwick. He is not a native, but has very long resided here. His affairs are deranged, if not bankrupt. See letters.

  • Lorient. No new nor proper candidate. Vale [Vail], a bankrupt is the only one.
  • Alicant. Robert Montgomery of America I believe, but I know not of what state. He has a brother in commerce at Boston. He is of old standing in that line at Alicant, has been long a busybody in our affairs, doing more harm than good, and all thro’ an excess of zeal. As yet, no appointment has been made in the Mediterranean, except at Marseilles.
  • Poole in England. That government does not recognise a consul at Cowes, but is willing we should have one at Poole, and will suppose that his residence. A new commission to Thomas Auldjo is requisite for this purpose.
  • Sta. Cruz. Danish West Indies. James Yard of Philadelphia (but a native of N. Jersey) asks the consulship. He is established there, wealthy, and connected by marriage with the Governor of the island. I should rather think one Consul enough for the Danish islands: and if so, St. Thomas’s would be the position. An agent would suffice at Santa Cruz. See Colo. Monroe’s letter.

Th: Jefferson
Feb. 21. 1791

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand. PrC (DLC). Entry in SJPL reads: “[1791. Feb. 21.] Consuls.”

This report—signed, dated, and recorded in SJPL—was ready to be handed in to the President, but TJ then altered it in a number of particulars both in text and substance and employed it as the basic draft for the final version. That this first draft was not submitted is proved by the fact that no file copy was retained in the departmental files. The most significant difference between the two drafts relates to the candidacy of John Telles (see Editorial Note above). But there were other interesting differences: the increased emphasis on the candidacy of John Culnan for Tenerife, the more favorable estimate of Robert Montgomery, the elimination of details about Thomas Thompson, the adverse comment on John Bulkeley, &c.

James Greenleaf: On 25 May 1789 Thomas Dawes, Jr., informed Washington that he had been approached by friends of James Greenleaf, a native of Boston, a partner in the New York firm of Watson & Greenleaf, and a former resident of Amsterdam, urging his appointment. Greenleaf, he wrote, had “married into a family of rank and influence “at Amsterdam and would “do honor to his country in the character of resident or consul at the Hague” (DLC: Washington Papers).

Paul Richard Randall: See Randall to TJ, 11 Mch. 1790, note. Randall had also applied directly to Washington (-May 1789, DLC: Washington Papers). See TJ to Randall, 25 Nov. 1790.

Richard Codman: John Codman, Jr., applied to John Adams asking support for his brother’s candidacy. Adams promised to deliver the recommendation to TJ and Washington and added: “I think it advisable for you to send on to me the best letters … that you can readily obtain, and they shall be communicated too” (Adams to Codman, 10 Oct. 1790, MHi: AM).

Francisco Sarmento: See Vol. 17: 247.

John Culnan: The recommendations of John and Jasper Moylan were dated 13 and 15 Feb. 1791 and recorded in SJL as received 14 and 18 Feb. 1791, respectively, but have not been found. Robert Morris also interested himself in Culnan’s candidacy. On 14 July 1791 John Moylan wrote Morris on the subject and Morris transmitted his letter to Washington or TJ, along with the following, all from Tenerife: (1) Peter de Franchi to Morris, 14 July 1791, recommending his “friend and neighbor” John Culnan to the attention of Morris and his “colleagues in Congress”; (2) John Cologan & Sons to Morris, 16 Aug. 1791; (3) Pasley, Barry & Little to Morris, 14 July 1791 (the last two are almost identical to the first in phraseology and all are written in the hand of the same clerk); (4) attested copy of a certificate dated at Philadelphia, 4 Dec. 1782, stating that Culnan, “a Gentleman from Ireland,” had taken the oath of allegiance as directed by the Act of Pennsylvania of 13 June 1777 (all in DLC: Washington Papers, the first being endorsed by TJ: “Culnan. For Teneriffe. Given in by Mr. R. Morris.”). In 1793 Stephen Moylan recommended Culnan in a letter to TJ: “My knowledge of that gentleman’s honor and integrity interests me in his behalf. It will oblige me to let me know whether any Steps have been taken thereon, if not—what mode will be proper to pursue to forward this business which I have very much at heart” (Moylan to TJ, 30 Dec. 1793, DLC: Washington Papers; endorsed by TJ). Culnan had served during the war as Deputy Clothier General under John Moylan. He was appointed consul at Tenerife by Washington a few months after TJ left office (Washington to the Senate, 28 May 1794, JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, 1828 description ends , i, 157–8).

John Bulkeley: See Humphreys to TJ, 19 Nov. 1790, TJ to John Bulkeley & Company, 13 July 1791. Part of TJ’s information about Bulkeley came from the Portuguese consul general, Ignatius Palyert, who was himself involved in the flour transaction that inspired the candidacy of John Telles (see Editorial Note above and Swanwick to TJ, 14 Dec. 1791).

Aaron Vail: See Vail to TJ, 28 Feb. 1791.

Robert Montgomery: John Montgomery’s letter to TJ of 20 Nov. 1790 may have related to his brother’s desire to be consul at Alicante (recorded in SJL as received 22 Nov. 1790, but not found). On 22 Jan. 1793, John Montgomery, “by the request and special orders” of his brother, presented a memorial giving a flattering account of Robert Montgomery’s influence with the emperor of Morocco and recommending his brother as consul (John Montgomery to TJ, 22 Jan. 1793, enclosing his own undated memorial in behalf of his brother, DLC: Washington Papers; endorsed by TJ as received 31 Jan. 1793 and so recorded in SJL). Shortly thereafter Robert Montgomery was nominated and confirmed as consul at Alicante (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, 1828 description ends , i, 130–1). A year later Robert Montgomery appointed his brother agent at Barcelona (John Montgomery to TJ, 22 Apr. 1794, forwarded from Boston by William Smith to Edmund Randolph, 23 Dec. 1794, DLC: Washington Papers).

Thomas Auldjo: See Documents ii and iv.

James Yard: Washington nominated Yard as consul at St. Croix on 23 Feb. 1791 and the Senate confirmed him on the 24th. TJ issued the commission on the same day (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, 1828 description ends , i, 76; PrC of TJ to Yard, 24 Feb. 1791, enclosing commission, DLC; Yard to TJ, 4 Mch. 1791, acknowledging receipt of commission, DNA: RG 59, CD). Yard served as consul at St. Croix from 13 May 1791 to 31 May 1792. Colo. Monroe’s letter: See Monroe to TJ, 17 Feb. 1791.

1 This paragraph written in margin of MS and does not appear in PrC.

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