Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Hepzibah Clarke Swan, 20 May 1801

From Hepzibah Clarke Swan

Boston May 20. 1801

Be pleased to excuse the Liberty I have taken in addressing your Excellencey on the part of Mr Swan whose desire to obtain the Consul, Genoral, Ship at Paris has I believe through the Vice President been made known to you—The respectability—Confidence—and friendship, which Mr Swan has attained of that Goverment—by his fidelity and Zeal in their Affairs—is now fully acknowledged. from this, and the present State of his finances which would enable him to live in a Style which might add—respectability to that Station, and his intimacy at this time with the different administrations of Goverment are such, as be assured No Man could more essentially serve the interest of the Citizens of the United States in that Office than himself—His perfect knowledge of the Language—his residence for ten Years in that Country and the Esteem which they honor him with as well as the high estimation in which he holds that Nation—will I doubt not sway your Excellency in his favor, in case No one is Yet Appointed—or Nominated to that Office—Be your decision in his favor, or not, I shall ever be impressed with the highest sense of your superior Judgment in this, as in every instance of your Judicious Administration—Your Goodness will pardon I hope the freedom I now take in the absence of Mr Swan—and If I can be honoured by one Line it will ever be remembered with that lively Gratitude I shall ever retain for the prosperity and happiness of your Excellency—I have the Honor to

Subscribe My self Your Obedient Servant

H C Swan

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 26 May and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off” but as a letter dated 21 May.

Hepzibah Clarke Swan (1757–1825), wealthy Boston heiress and wife of James Swan, was a close friend of Henry Knox and Henry Jackson and a patron of the arts, especially encouraging the careers of Gilbert Stuart and Charles Bulfinch. Her husband speculated in lands using an inheritance of his wife in the 1780s, obtained profitable contracts while residing in France for some years after that, returned briefly to the United States, and in 1808 was thrown into debtor’s prison in Paris, where he remained for the final 22 years of his life. His wife, left to tend to her family and affairs in New England, offered to pay his debt and release him from jail. He refused on principle, arguing that it was an unjust debt, and his wife provided the financial support that allowed a modestly comfortable life in prison (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends , 18:234; Eleanor Pearson DeLorme, “The Swan Commissions: Four Portraits by Gilbert Stuart,” Winterthur Portfolio, 14 [1979], 361–95; Vol. 33:666).

In the absence of Mr Swan: Swan wrote to TJ from Paris on 25 Dec. 1800 asking to be appointed consul general (Vol. 32:354).

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