Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from François Barbé de Marbois, 24 June 1801

From François Barbé de Marbois

Paris, le 5. Messidor an 9. de la République.
[i.e. 24 June 1801]


Je desire que la lettre ci-jointe parvienne Surement à mon frere et j’espere de l’ancienne amitié dont vous m’honorés que vous excuserés la liberté que je prens de vous l’adresser.

Je crois que vous ne doutés pas de la Satisfaction que j’ai eue de vous voir placé par vos concitoyens a la tete du gouvernement des Etats unis. heureux le pays dont les destinées sont entre les mains d’un Sage.

Agreés, Monsieur, mon profond respect

Barbé marbois

Il Se peut que l’adresse de la lettre pour mon frere ait besoin d’etre changée et je la recommande a vos Soins obligeans.

editors’ translation

Paris, 5 Messidor, Year 9 of the Republic


I desire that the enclosed letter securely reach my brother, and I hope that the lasting friendship with which you honor me will excuse the liberty that I am taking in addressing it to you.

I think that you have no doubt about the satisfaction it gave me to see you placed by your fellow-citizens at the head of the government of the United States. Fortunate is the country whose destiny is in the hands of a wise man. Accept, Sir, my deep respect.

Barbé marbois

It is possible that the address of the letter for my brother may need to be changed, and I commend that to your kind care.

RC (DLC); English date supplied; on printed letterhead of Conseil d’État of France (see illustration), with blanks for day and year filled by Barbé de Marbois; endorsed by TJ as received 10 Sep. 1801 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found. Enclosed in George Izard to TJ, 30 Aug. 1801.

Mon frere: Pierre François Barbé de Marbois, François Barbé de Marbois’s younger brother, had recently been made France’s temporary vice commissary of commercial relations for the states of New York and New Jersey. He had performed a similar role before, acting as vice consul for New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, 1791–92, and prior to that as vice consul for Pennsylvania and Delaware beginning in 1785. The United States recognized his new appointment on 8 May 1801 (FC in Lb, DNA: RG 59, Exequaturs; Abraham P. Nasatir and Gary E. Monell, French Consuls in the United States: A Calendar of Their Correspondence in the Archives Nationales [Washington, D.C., 1967], 549–50, 566; Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser. description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983–, 48 vols.: Presidential Series, 1987–, 12 vols. description ends , 8:215n; E. Wilson Lyon, The Man Who Sold Louisiana: The Career of François Barbé-Marbois [Norman, Okla., 1942], 34, 48; Vol. 14:65n, 66n).

L’ancienne Amitié: François Barbé de Marbois held diplomatic posts in the United States in the early 1780s, acting successively as secretary of legation, chargé d’affaires, and consul general. In 1780 he circulated questionnaires asking for general information about the states, and TJ wrote Notes on the State of Virginia as a reply to those queries. Following his service in the United States, Barbé de Marbois was the colonial administrator for French possessions in the Leeward Islands, including Saint-Domingue. He subsequently held elective office in France but fell under suspicion as a royalist, and after the Fructidor upheaval in September 1797 the government exiled him to French Guiana. He was able to return to Paris after the Brumaire coup. A good relationship with the third consul, Charles François Lebrun, led to Barbé de Marbois’s appointment as councillor of state and director of the treasury. In September 1801, he became minister of the public treasury (Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, new ed., 45 vols. [Paris, 1843–65], 3:45–8; Dictionnaire description begins Dictionnaire de biographie française, Paris, 1933– , 19 vols. description ends , 5:247–9; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, 161, 484; Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, Chapel Hill, 1955 description ends , xii; Vol. 4:166–7; Vol. 5:58–9).

Barbé de Marbois wrote to TJ from French Guiana on 4 Dec. 1798, but that letter, recorded in SJL as received from Sinnamary on 2 Feb. 1799, has not been found.

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