Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 23 October 1792

To Jean Baptiste Ternant

Oct. 23. 1792.

Th: Jefferson presents his respectful compliments to M. de Ternant. He has examined again with care the commission of M. de la Forest, and finds it impossible to consider it as any thing more than a Commission of Consul General for N. York, Jersey, Pensylva. and Delaware. If any thing more has been intended, the error has been in those who drew the commission, and this error we are not authorised to correct. Being corrected by a new commission, we shall be very happy to render the Exequatur conformable to that, as the one now inclosed is to the present commission. M. de Ternant will see on the next page an Analysis of the present commission and some observations on it.

PrC (DLC). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 360, DL). Recorded in SJL under 22 Oct. 1792.

TJ’s concern about La Forest’s precise status in the French consular service is understandable. In June 1785 the French government issued a commission granting La Forest interim appointments as “Consul General to the thirteen United States of North America” and as “Consul to the States of Pensylvania and Delaware.” This was superseded in March 1792 by a new commission which was so loosely worded that it could be interpreted as meaning that La Forest had been granted a permanent appointment as either consul general to the middle states alone or to the United States as a whole. Despite TJ’s reservations, it seems to have been the French government’s intent to confer the latter status on La Forest. In any event, the issue became moot after the revolutionary government in Paris decided in November 1792 to recall La Forest (Commissions from Louis XVI to La Forest, 22 June 1785, 2 Mch. 1792, Trs of the first in French and English, and Tr of the second in French, in DNA: RG 360, PCC; Frédéric Masson, Le Départment des Affaires Étrangères pendant la Révolution, 1787–1804 [Paris, 1877], 407–8). In regard to this issue, TJ had written a brief note to Ternant on 18 Oct. 1792, returning “the commission of M. la Forest with the Exequatur” (RC in NBuHi: Warren Autograph Collection).

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