Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Broadbent, 15 April 1801

From John Broadbent

Messina 15 April 1801—


Thy fellow Cityzens assembled in this Port (whose names appear in the inclosed Document) having done me the honor to appoint me Agent of Commerce for the United States of America in the Island of Sicily, I avail myself of the first Oppertunity for informing thee thereof, in order that, if my Services should be thought useful to thy Country Men in this Part of the World thou shouldst confirm the appointment—

I introduced the American Flag into this Island for the first time about two years ago and I have lately had the pleasure of seeing eight or ten Vessels at a time in this Port—

With best wishes for thy Happyness and the Prosperity of the Nation of which thou art now placed at the Head I remain a Cityzen of the World—

John Broadbent

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “To the Hble Mr. Jefferson President of the U:S. of America. Washington town”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 June and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be consul of Messina. see Caveat by Jos. Barnes.” Dupl (same); enclosed in Broadbent to TJ, 23 Sep. 1803 (see below). Enclosure: Statement signed at Messina, 27 Feb. 1801, by Robert H. Rose, Joseph Barnes, and ten other American citizens, noting “the great increase of Commerce between our Country and this Island” and appointing “our friend John Broadbent (a man equally recommended to us by his affection for the United States, and his honesty and activity)” as commercial agent for the United States for the island of Sicily (MS in same, in Rose’s hand, signed by him and eleven others, signed additionally in attestation by seven other people with notations in Italian; Dupl in same, in an unidentified hand, omitting the additional names in attestation, at head of text: “Copy,” enclosed in Broadbent to TJ, 23 Sep. 1803).

John Broadbent was an English merchant residing at Messina, Sicily. In 1805 TJ named him U.S. consul at Messina, and Broadbent remained in the position for more than 20 years (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 , 2:7, 13; 3:573; Joseph Barnes to TJ, 14 Feb., 18 May 1801).

In May 1801, Joseph Barnes, who sought a consular appointment for himself, intimated to TJ that the enclosure to the letter above “purporting” to make Broadbent an American agent of commerce had been intended merely as a device to allow the Englishman to remain in Sicily after the eviction of the British from the island. Broadbent’s use of the certificate signed by Rose, Barnes, and the others to seek an actual appointment was, according to Barnes, “a violation of our confidence” (Barnes to TJ, 7, 18 May 1801).

Broadbent wrote to TJ again from Messina on 23 Sep. 1803. In that brief letter Broadbent renewed his offer of services as commercial agent or consul general, enclosed the duplicates of the letter printed above and its enclosure, and concluded: “Being hitherto deprived of the honour of a reply, and as no one has made his appearance here in the above capacity I renew the offer of my services and have the honor to be thy friend” (RC in same; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Dec. 1803 and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Consul at Messina”).

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