Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Malesherbes, 30 July 1792

From Malesherbes

Paris, 30 July 1792. He recommends to TJ’s attention M. and Mme. Masson, who have left Saint-Domingue and sought asylum in New York. He does not know them, but has learned of their plight from one of his best friends, M. Secrétier, Mme. Masson’s brother, who was also a colonist in Saint-Domingue before establishing himself in France, where he is busy with public works and farming. He hopes TJ can help the Massons, since they do not know English. M. Secrétier being unknown in America, he takes it upon himself to be their guarantor up to the sum of 10,000 livres tournois in cash. He will obtain a banker’s bond if it is preferred by the lender and promises that he and Secrétier will have credit for the sum among French merchants or bankers.

MS (PHi); 2 p.; in French; at foot of first page: “M. de Jefferson.”

This letter of introduction, Malesherbes’s last surviving communication to TJ before his execution in 1794, never reached its intended recipient. Francis de Masson, its bearer and the object of Malesherbes’s solicitude, was reluctant to call upon TJ’s assistance in his straitened circumstances and therefore withheld it. Sixteen years later, having in the meantime been appointed to the corps of engineers at West Point by TJ, Masson sent Malesherbes’s letter to the President in an apparent effort to curry favor, but it miscarried. In 1815 Masson alluded to the lost letter in seeking TJ’s assistance for an appointment to the American diplomatic establishment in Europe (see Jonathan Williams to TJ, 20 Sep. 1808; TJ to Williams, 28 Oct. 1808; Masson to TJ, 9 Feb. 1815).

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