Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tench Coxe, 13 July 1791

From Tench Coxe

[Philadelphia], 13 July 1791. He received TJ’s note by Pearce and will give his attention “to fix a man who appears of so much importance to the United States. He communicated…very freely, and finding on my cautioning him about foreign seduction that he had been attacked in that way already at New York, I have prevailed on him to deposit his articles at once in the patent office. This will frustrate all attempts and cut off the hopes of getting him away.” He encloses Pearce’s signed order to Mr. Seton to deliver the apparatus to such persons as TJ will direct. He will wait on TJ that evening or next day to “submit the proceeding, which appears proper in the Case,” and will then return the letter to the President, wishing to revise it more carefully than the hours of office afford. Pearce intends to proceed at once to make the frames for his machinery, which he says he can “exhibit at work in a weeks time.”—He encloses the British act consolidating their duties, which TJ desired.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 13 July 1791 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: William Pearce to William Seton, 13 July 1791, requesting him to deliver the two boxes or cases containing his machinery to the order of “the Honorable Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of the United States who is one of the Members of the Board for granting Patents. The two cases which I mean are those directed to ‘His Excellency General Washington, and marked with the letters G. W.’ “(Tr in clerk’s hand, PHi: Coxe Papers, with notes by TJ and Coxe as given below).

TJ’s note of this date introducing William Pearce has not been found and is not recorded in SJL. For comment on the circumstances which caused TJ to introduce Pearce to Coxe, see notes to Washington to TJ, 12 July 1791, and Digges to TJ, 28 Apr. 1791. Coxe, in advising Pearce, took the liberty of having him authorize Seton to deliver the apparatus to anyone the Secretary of State would designate. Even this degree of involvement was more than TJ could accept. On the original of Pearce’s letter to Seton he therefore placed responsibility back upon Coxe with the following note: “Mr. Jefferson is desired to deliver the above cases to the order of Mr. Tench Coxe, by his humble servant. Signed (Thomas Jefferson)” (RC missing; TJ’s undated note appended to enclosure as described above). TJ then returned Pearce’s letter to Coxe, who found himself obliged to add his own directive to Seton authorizing him “to dispose of the within agreeably to a Letter of this 15th July 1791” (same). The rebuff to Coxe is conclusive proof that TJ did not, as has been claimed, write directly to Seton authorizing him to reimburse Pearce for his travel and other expenses (see note to Digges to TJ, 28 Apr. 1791).

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