Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John R. Smith, 5 March 1801

From John R. Smith

Philada. March 5th. 1801.


It being more agreeable to the feelings of Mr. Caldwell, to whom the enclosed papers relate, to present them in person than through the usual official channels, I have at his request Sir, taken the liberty of introducing his name to you.

The lapse of time & the consequent alterations produced by it in the person, would otherwise perhaps prevent your recollecting in him Sir the adopted son of the Marquis De la Fayette, under whose protection he had sometimes the honor of meeting you during your residence in France.

Be pleased Sir to excuse the liberty here taken, which would not indeed have been assumed had not the writer from his professional concerns with Mr. Caldwell had the most satisfactory proofs of that personal worth & capacity set forth in the respectable testimonials accompanying his present application.

With sentiments of the highest deference & respect I have the honor to be Sir your very obed: Servt:

Jno: R: Smith

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: possibly a memorial or other papers from Elias Boudinot and Benjamin Rush, 21 Feb., not found, not listed in SJL, recommending John Edwards Caldwell for a consulship in the West Indies; see entries for Caldwell in Appendix I, List 1.


John R. Smith was a Philadelphia attorney and a brother of Samuel Harrison Smith (Stafford, Philadelphia Directory, for 1801 description begins Cornelius William Stafford, The Philadelphia Directory, for 1801, Philadelphia, 1801 description ends , 29; Martin’s Bench and Bar description begins John H. Martin, Martin’s Bench and Bar of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1883 description ends , 312; William E. Ames, A History of the National Intelligencer [Chapel Hill, 1972], 16–17).

When Lafayette returned to France from a visit to the United States in 1784, at the request of former Continental Army officers he took with him John Edwards Caldwell, the fourteen-year-old orphan of a Revolutionary War chaplain. In Paris, Lafayette enrolled Caldwell, a Protestant, in a Benedictine school attended by Crèvecoeur’s sons, and with some effort the marquis obtained the youth’s release from the school’s Catholic religious services. Caldwell returned to the United States about 1787. In June 1801 TJ named Caldwell, whose residence was then in New Jersey, commercial agent for the city of Santo Domingo. The following January the Senate confirmed that recess appointment (Harlow Giles Unger, Lafayette [Hoboken, N.J., 2002], 203, 207–8, 226; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 1:346–7, 434; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:401, 405).

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