Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Aaron Vail, 28 [February] 1791

From Aaron Vail

Philadelphia 28 March [i. e. Feb.] 1791
North Second Street No. 62


With an apology for intruding on your valuable time I beg leave to address you once more on a subject on which I have troubled you already several times.

I have sir, some time past determined on residing some years in France where I have found some commercial, and other connections that, to me are very flattering. The owner of the packets a very respectable merchant at St. Malo, and myself have entered into a copartnership to establish an American house at L’Orient under my direction with a capital sufficient to carry on a considerable commerce between that port and this country.

Under those circumstances I beg leave to submit to you a few hints on the utility of a Consul at that port and the preference that I flatter myself you will think me intitled, in Case you should think me quallified for the trust.

I have sir, at a considerable pains and expence introduced into most parts of Britany, and some parts of Normandy, the article of American flaxseed in which I have had to contend with the prejudices of the peasants and the jalousy of the dealers in that article, but by persiverence have so far succeeded that we may in future find a market for five or six cargoes annually consequently furnish voyages for so many American vessels. I have likewise made myself acquainted with the port, dockyards, and magazines of Brest, where with attention and perseverance we may find a market for large quantities of our ship timber Masts and other lumber, and sometimes provisions. In short, we may vend the above articles, rice tobacco, iron and naval stores, in the various ports in that province and its neighbourhood to which we intend to pay great attention and wherein I hope I shall have it in my power to render a service to my country as well as render the trade profitable to myself. There are many other commercial advantages that might be forwarded by the residence of an industrious merchant in that part of the country, but should I be fortunate enough to enjoy the confidence of the executive so as to have the appointment of Consul at L’Orient I flatter myself that I should have it in my power to render services to my country for which I feel a patriotic zeal, as that place has in its district many places to which American vessels will resort, and moreover L’Orient being the seat of the packets and no Consul appointed that will probably be a constant resident between Bordeaux and Havre de Grace I hope sir that I shall be so fortunate as to find those observations correspond with your opinion in which case I beg the favour of you to propose me for that place to the executive, and I hope by my future conduct you will be convinced that your confidence has not been misplaced.

I have sir mentioned to several Senators of my acquaintance my intention of addressing you on this subject who approve of my plan and promise me their friendship.

I have sir one object wherein I promise myself a material advantage in receiving this appointment before my return to france, which I would relate to you in confidence in case I should be honoured with a personnal interview, and I should almost promise myself your friendship.—I have the honour to be Sir Your Most Obedt Humble Servt,

Aaron Vail

RC (DLC: Washington Papers); endorsed in an unidentified hand: “this is the person recommended by Mr. Laurence of the Senate”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Feb. 1791 and recorded under that date in SJL, but TJ’s entry, which sought to correct Vail’s error in dating, made another: “[1791. Feb. 28.] Vail Aaron Phila. Mar. [for April] 28.”

There is no evidence that TJ replied or took action on this application. Nor does it appear that he responded to Vail’s offer from New York a few months later: “I take the liberty to inform you that I shall sail on sunday next for france, in the packet, and to acquaint you that if you have any packets at [present] or any other time that you would wish to intrust to a private conveyance, or at least not in the mail, I shall request my friend Mr. Lewis Moore with whom I leave the directions of the packets in this place to pay particular attention to your command and you may depend on their being attended to at L’Orient, or should you at any time have occasion to procure any article from france that requires particular care you may forward your commands with certainty of their being chearfully obeyed” (Aaron Vail to TJ, 6 July 1791; RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; endorsed by TJ as received 8 July 1791 and so recorded in SJL).

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