Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tench Coxe, 15 September 1787

From Tench Coxe

Philadelphia Septr. 15th. 1787


On the 3d. instant I had the honor to enclose you a letter (of introduction) from the hon. Js. Maddison Jr., and another from myself directed to the person, who will deliver you this. The Nature of my Object did not permit my entering at that time into any explanation of the reasons by which I had been induced to request the favor of Mr. Maddison’s Letter, and at this time I think it will be most safe to leave entirely to the bearer the explanation of the plan we have been on. You will find him intelligent and strictly upright—and both his wishes and my desire will lead him to open himself completely to you. The very high veneration I feel for your Character, as well as the hope I have that you will use your weight, as far as it may be proper, in aid of our views render it extremely desirable as well as necessary that you should have our whole secret reposed in you. I will not therefore trespass on your time by any unnecessary addition to this letter, but shall only observe, that as far as I may presume upon Mr. Maddisons information concerning Me, I beg leave to recommend the bearer and his business to your Countenance, and advice, and if I may venture so far, to your influence and assistance. I have the honor of being with sentiments of the most perfect Esteem, Sir, yr. very respectful & mo. obedt. Servt.

Tench Coxe

FC (PHi: Coxe Papers); entirely in Coxe’s hand; addressed: “His Excellency Thos. Jefferson Esqr Min. pleny. of the United States of America Paris.”

The Bearer was Andrew Mitchell, an Englishman recently resident in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, with whom Coxe had formed a partnership a month earlier—one that was probably inspired by the establishment, around the same time, of the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of Manufactures and the Useful Arts, in which Coxe played a central role. Their plan called for Mitchell to go to Great Britain and obtain models and patterns of “divers machines, moved by water, fire, horses or men for preparing and manufacturing wool, cotton, flax, hemp, metals or any other raw Materials.” Although exporting such machinery from Britain was illegal, Mitchell was to spirit models to France, sell them there to the government or private individuals, and with the proceeds bring prototypes to Pennsylvania for use in constructing factories. Mitchell proved either corrupt or inept, for none of the models he later claimed to have obtained left England. There is no evidence that Mitchell reached France or that TJ received this or the following letter from Coxe (Contract between Coxe and Mitchell, 9 Aug. 1787, and Coxe to Mitchell, 21 Oct. 1787, PHi: Coxe Papers; Cooke, Coxe, description begins Jacob E. Cooke, Tench Coxe and the Early Republic, Chapel Hill, 1978 description ends 102–7).

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