Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Napoleon Bonaparte, 12 September 1801

To Napoleon Bonaparte

Citizen First Consul,

I have made choice of Robert R. Livingston, one of our distinguished citizens, to reside near the French Republic in quality of Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. He is well apprized of the friendship which we bear to your Republic, and of our desire to cultivate the harmony and good correspondence so happily subsisting between us. From a knowledge of his fidelity, probity and good conduct, I have entire confidence that he will render himself acceptable to you, and give effect to our desire of preserving and advancing on all occasions the interest and happiness of the two nations. I beseech you, therefore, Citizen First Consul to give full credence to whatever he shall say on the part of the United States, and most of all when he shall assure you of their friendship and wishes for the prosperity of the French Republic: and I pray God to have you, Citizen First Consul, in his safe and holy keeping.

Written at the City of Washington the twelfth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and one.

Th: Jefferson

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences); in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America, To the First Consul of the French Republic”; at foot of text: “By the President James Madison, Secretary of State.” Tr (NHi: Robert R. Livingston Papers); in hand of Thomas Sumter, Jr.; at head of text: “Copy of letter of credence”; endorsed by Sumter as a copy of the letter delivered to Bonaparte on 6 Dec. 1801. Tr in Lb (same).

Livingston presented the letter of credence to Bonaparte in a public audience on 6 Dec., a few days after Livingston’s arrival in Paris. Livingston reported that in accordance with the “present etiquette” of the French government, the letter was not read on that occasion but was handed to Talleyrand (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:302–3). TJ’s formal letter of appointment of Livingston as minister plenipotentiary to the Republic of France, authorizing him “to do and perform all such matters and things, as to the said place or office do appertain, or as may be duly given you in charge hereafter,” was dated at Washington, 2 Oct. 1801 (RC in NHi: Gilder Lehrman Collection at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in a clerk’s hand, signed by TJ and countersigned by Madison, with seal of the United States; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences, in a clerk’s hand; Tr in Lb in NHi: Robert R. Livingston Papers).

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