Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 7 March 1792

To Jean Baptiste Ternant

Philadelphia Mar. 7. 1792.


I have laid before the President of the U.S. your letter of the 3d. inst. asking a supply of four hundred thousand dollars on account of reimbursements due from us to France, to be applied to relieve the distresses of the colony of St. Domingo. In regretting extremely the cause of this necessity, I have to assure you that the President feels every disposition which the occasion is calculated to inspire, to do whatever we can for the relief of that colony, and that he hopes your demand may be complied with, under such arrangements as may be mutually convenient and agreeable. For the settlement of these I take the liberty of referring you to direct conferences with the Secretary of the treasury, which may shorten the business, and save a delay equivalent perhaps in the present case to a denial. I have the honor to be with the most perfect esteem & respect Sir Your most obedient & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “The Minister P. of France.” FC (DNA: RG 360, DL).

Ternant promptly followed TJ’s advice and on the following day wrote a letter to Hamilton in which he enclosed a copy of the above letter and reiterated his request for an advance of $400,000 on the American debt to France. During a conference with Ternant on that day Hamilton was initially reluctant to comply with this request, pointing out that the United States had already made its regularly scheduled debt payments to France. But Hamilton relented after Ternant convinced him of Saint-Domingue’s desperate need for these funds and agreed to make the advance in four installments of $100,000 each, the first to be paid immediately and the rest at three month intervals beginning on 1 June and ending on 1 Dec. 1792. In accordance with an act of Congress which required that advance payments on the French debt be made on terms advantageous to the United States, however, Hamilton also insisted that France pay an indemnity to cover the cost of transferring these funds from the American bankers in Amsterdam. In the end Hamilton and Ternant mutually agreed to make the precise terms of the indemnity the subject of negotiation between the French government and the American minister in Paris, and TJ instructed Gouverneur Morris accordingly (Ternant to Hamilton, 8, 10 Mch. 1792; Hamilton to Ternant, 8, 11, 12 Mch. 1792; Hamilton to Washington, 8 Mch. 1792, all in Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , xi, 113–17, 122–3, 125, 128; Ternant to Lessart, 13 Mch. 1792, Turner, CFM, p. 89–93; TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 28 Apr. 1792).

Index Entries