Thomas Jefferson Papers

Report on Appointment of Consul at Copenhagen, 10 January 1792

Report on Appointment of Consul at Copenhagen

The Secretary of State having received information that the Merchants and Merchandize of the United States are subject in Copenhagen and other ports of Denmark to considerable extra duties, from which they might probably be relieved by the presence of a Consul there;

Reports to the President of the United States: That it would be expedient to name a Consul, to be resident in the port of Copenhagen: That he has not been able to find that there is any citizen of the United States residing there: That there is a certain Hans Rodolph Saabye, a Danish subject and merchant of that place of good character, of wealth and distinction, and well qualified and disposed to act there for the United States, who would probably accept of the commission of Consul; but that that of Vice-Consul, hitherto given by the President to foreigners in ports where there was no proper American citizen, would probably not be accepted, because in this as in some other parts of Europe, usage has established it as a subordinate grade.

And that he is therefore of opinion, that the said Hans Rodolph Saabye should be nominated Consul of the United States of America for the port of Copenhagen, and such other places within the allegiance of his Danish Majesty as shall be nearer to the said port than to the residence of any other Consul or Vice-Consul of the United States within the same allegiance.

Th: Jefferson
Jan. 10. 1792.

PrC (DLC); in Remsen’s hand, except for signature and date; entry in SJPL: “Consul to Denmark.” Tr (DLC: Washington Papers); text incorporated in Washington’s message to the Senate, dated 6 Mch. 1792, and prefaced with these words: “Gentlemen of the Senate—I lay before you the following Report which has been submitted to me by the Secretary of State”; this message is followed by another to the Senate of the same date nominating “Hans Rudolph Saaby, a Danish subject and Merchant of Copenhagen to be Consul for the United States of America for the Port of Copenhagen” (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, 1931-44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxi, 496).

Information on commerce with Denmark came to TJ from Benjamin Peirce of Newport, R.I., and others, in the form of extracts of letters and tables of duties. One of those from Peirce contained the following on saabye: “He is possessed of great commercial abilities and integrity, indeed he is the first mercantile character I ever Knew and at the head of the first commercial house in the Kingdom. I believe he would Accept of the appointment of Consul General in the North of Europe, who will naturally reside at Copenhagen; I have tack’d General to the Consular Appointment thinking it may charm a german who, I am certain if he accepts, will be of Infinite Service to the Commercial Interest of America” (undated MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 236: 42319–22; endorsed by TJ: “Denmark Pierce’s informn.”). In a letter written from Copenhagen on 15 Aug. 1789 and addressed to “His Excellency General Washington President and the Deputies of the united States of North America,” Saabye had solicited an appointment as “Consul-General in the king of Denmark’s Dominions,” citing as qualifications his “very intimate Connection with several Gentlemen merchants in the united states,” the high repute in which his mercantile firm was held, and his “Zeal for the Interest of Your Nation” (DLC: Washington Papers). The Senate approved Washington’s nomination of Saabye the day after receiving it (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , i, 100–1, 105).

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