Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Smyth, 13 June 1801

From John Smyth

Havana 13th. June 1801—:


I hope you will pardon the Liberty I take of addressing you—I had the honor of serving the U.S. as a Clerk in the Department of State under Mr. Randolph & a short time prior to his resignation I went to Madeira, of which Island I am a native, & where my Father had been an eminent Merchant, but failed. Upon my return to Philadelphia in 1798, I addressed myself to Colo. Pickering then Secy. of State but was informed there was no vacancy. I was educated in England & France where I was a College Companion of Maxn. Robespierre’s & Lebon. I speak & write fluently the French, Portugueze & Spanish Language, the latter I have perfected myself in, since my residence here of two years.—

Mr. Randolph can testify as to my knowledge of the two former Languages. As I wish to return to America & should be happy to serve the US. I take this method Sir of requesting your influence in recommending me to a situation as Clerk & Interpreter in the Dept. of State & I flatter myself you will allow the conveniency & utility of having a Clerk in the Dept. of State who is Master of those Languages—Should you honor me with a favorable answer I will immediately repair to the Seat of Government. You will please to address your Letter to John Smyth of Madeira care of the American Consul, Havana—

I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant.

John Smyth

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); addressed: “The Right Honble. Thomas Jefferson—President of the United States of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 4 July and so recorded in SJL.

Smyth, who had served as clerk during Edmund Randolph’s tenure as secretary of state from 1794 to 1795, wrote to Timothy Pickering upon his return to philadelphia in 1798. State Department clerk Jacob Wagner sent a reply to Smyth dated 27 Sep. 1798, informing him that he did not need his services, recommending him to “place your prospects upon some private employment” if his intention was to remain in America, and reiterating that there was no vacancy for him in the State Department (RC in MHi: Pickering Papers).

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