Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tadeusz Kosciuszko, [on or before 23 March 1798]

From Tadeusz Kosciuszko

[on or before 23 Mch. 1798]


You had the goodness to take me under your care and protection. I beseech to continue to the end—

I send inclosed a Varrant for the letters of Exchange. I live to your jugement in what maner to be done that i may receive without trouble or loss of time. Six hundred eighty four out of the whole money will serve to pay my passage the rest out of this i would wish to have by me in hard Cash. I must know six or ten days before i go to prepare the things and in the maner that nobody should know it—it is requisit that I should have passports on the name of Mr Kann1 from Ministers Engl[ish?] Portugal. Span. French. be so good to send a Pro curation for you to act in my absence not only wyth the money lay’d upon the Banck of Pensylwania but also wyth this that may Come to the Treasurer, for which i send you a letter inclosed. recomend me i beg you to your friend at Lisbon to help me in every thing—and as i am a stranger and will stay few days i would wish if posible that he should take me to his house upon any Condition—not forget to recomend me to the care of the Capitain in whose Ship i will go. in any thing you choose to be informed i beg you write me if you have not time to come to see me i will born all thos letters immidiatly. I take the Liberty to send you a Bear skin as a Token of my veneration, respect and Esteem for you for ever

Humble Servant—

T Kosciuszko

Soon i will got all my Shares upon the Banck of Pensylwania i will have have the honour to send imidiatly—

RC (MeHi: Fogg Collection); undated, but conjectured on the basis of TJ’s correspondence of 23 Mch. 1798 (see below). Enclosure not found.

The youngest son of a family of the Polish gentry, Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Andrzej Bonawentura Kosciuszko (1746–1817) pursued a military career and studied engineering artillery, and drafting at royal academies in Warsaw and France before going to the United States in 1776. During the Revolutionary War he supervised the construction of major fortifications and served under Horatio Gates and Nathanael Greene, achieving the brevet rank of brigadier general at the close of the war. He returned to Poland, and as lieutenant general led that nation’s army in its war with Russia beginning in 1792. Defeated and wounded in October 1794, he spent two years as a Russian prisoner but was freed by Emperor Paul I upon swearing an oath of allegiance in order to effect the release of other Polish captives. Still ailing from his wounds, he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in England in the spring of 1797 and when he arrived in the United States in August of that year. Almost immediately, however, using John Dawson as an intermediary Kosciuszko made contact with Philippe de Létombe, the French minister in Philadelphia, and expressed a desire to go to France, which in 1792 had accorded him honorary citizenship along with Washington, Paine, Joseph Priestley, and others. He also met often with TJ, whom he had previously known only slightly. Years later Kosciuszko attributed to TJ a hope that the Polish hero might help repair ties between France and the United States. Kosciuszko also thought that the French might be sympathetic to a restoration of Polish independence. Fawned over by many Americans, he nevertheless met a chilly reception from the most ardent Federalist newspapers, and he harbored suspicions that his movements were under surveillance. It was generally believed that he would settle on a country estate in America, but TJ clandestinely organized his departure, making arrangements so secret that even Julian Niemcewicz, who had accompanied the general to America, knew nothing of the plan until the last moment and even then had to remain behind. Under the guise of traveling to Virginia for his health, a ruse that was not entirely shattered for some months, Kosciuszko left Philadelphia in the predawn hours of 5 May 1798. TJ accompanied him part way to New Castle, Delaware, where the Pole boarded a ship for Europe. In Paris he met with members of the Directory and lobbied, as did George Logan and Volney, for improved relations with the United States. He remained an exile from his partitioned homeland, residing in France until 1801 and in Switzerland from that year onward. He maintained a warm correspondence with TJ until his death (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Haiman, Kosciuszko description begins Miecislaus Haiman, Kosciuszko: Leader and Exile, New York, 1977 description ends , 31–6, 42–6, 62–4, 73–5, 79–80, 83–7; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:981–2; Stewart, French Revolution description begins John H. Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution, New York, 1951 description ends , 317–18).

In January 1798 Dawson had been instrumental in the passage of an act of Congress that authorized payment to Kosciuszko of six percent interest for the period 1793–97 on $12,280.54 owed him for his service to the United States during the Revolution (Haiman, Kosciuszko description begins Miecislaus Haiman, Kosciuszko: Leader and Exile, New York, 1977 description ends , 70–2; Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Fifth Congress of the United States of America [Philadelphia, 1798], 61; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Claims, 207–8). TJ did not actually receive Kosciuszko’s Treasury warrant, which he used to purchase bills of exchange for the general, until 12 Apr.; see Memorandum to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, [25 Apr. 1798].

Kosciuszko’s request here for passports under an assumed name, in conjunction with TJ’s letters of 23 Mch. 1798 to Carlos Martinez de Irujo and to Létombe, implies that Kosciuszko wrote this letter no later than that day.

On TJ’s advice Kosciuszko entrusted the management of his American finances to John Barnes, who initially invested the funds in 30 shares of the Bank of Pennsylvania (Haiman, Kosciuszko description begins Miecislaus Haiman, Kosciuszko: Leader and Exile, New York, 1977 description ends , 75, 119). that may come to the treasurer: on 13 Mch. 1798 Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott wrote to the Dutch banking firm of Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard to supersede an earlier arrangement whereby Kosciuszko was to receive payment in Europe of part of his claim. Wolcott asked the firm to credit the funds to the United States so that he could pay Kosciuszko in America (Tripl in MHi).

1Altered by TJ to read “Thomas Kannberg.”

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