Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Preble, 23 October 1801

From Henry Preble

Bordeaux 23d. Octobr. 1801


I hope I shall be excused in addressing you when the cause of it so nearly regards my interest.

I had the honor to deliver to your Exy:, in Jany: last, a letter of introduction from Coln. Humphreys recommending me as a proper person to be appointed Consul of the U.S. at Cadiz.—Very contrary to my expectations I was appointed to that office by Mr Adams … for I had not the smallest promise of any thing of the kind;—but on the contrary, Mr Marshall told me, that he thought there would be no change in the Consulate at Cadiz at that time, but when there should be, as I was well recommended, no doubt I should have the appointment.—My commercial concerns obliged me to embark from the U.S. in March, soon after I heard of my appointment to the Consulship of Cadiz, otherwise, I should have waited on your Excy: and solicited a confirmation of that appointment, or some other, that might have been vacant. I wrote to the acting Secy: of State on the subject, but did not receive his answer ’till some time after my arrival in Europe.—

I flatter myself that your Exy. will believe me when I declare, that from the partiality I have always entertained for your sentiments & political opinions, I had more hopes of receiving an appointment from you, than from the former President of the U.S.; and I cannot but think, that had it been in my power to have visited Washington, before my departure from the U.S., I should have had the honor to receive some Consular appointment from your Excy.—

It was my intention to have embarked for the U.S. this Autumn, but understanding that the Consulship of Cadiz has been given to Mr Forbes, great part of the object of my personal attendance there, no longer exists.—And as the person & property of any foreigner who may settle in a Port of Spain, who is not protected by a public office from his Govt:, or as a Roman Catholic, is not altogether secure, I have concluded not to settle in Spain, as I intended. I have therefore concluded to establish myself in France; and as it is, I believe, certain that the Government of France will not permit Mr Cathalan or Mr Dobree, as french citizens, to hold any employ in France under a foreign Govt:, there being a law to prevent it—I have humbly to solicit the appt: of Commercial Agent of the U.S. at Marseilles or Nantz, when your Exy. shall be officially assured that Mr Cathalan and Mr Dobree cannot hold any employ in France under the U.S.—

I flatter myself that my character is unimpeachable; and that there is in the Secy: of State’s office a sufficient recommendation, from the Minister of the U.S. at Madrid, of my competent abilities to fill the office of Consul in any part of the World.—

With the highest consideration and respect I have the honor to be Your Exy. Mo: Obt. & Mo: huml Servt

Henry Preble

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The President of the U.S. of America, &c &c &c Washington City”; ellipses in original; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Dec. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be consul at Marseilles, Nantes, Cadiz.”

Henry Preble (1770–1825), an American-born merchant in France, had been acting consul at Madrid and David Humphreys’s secretary there. Preble, who was a younger brother of the naval officer Edward Preble, made “a general application” for a consulship by August 1800, hoping in particular for a position at Cadiz or Marseilles. In January 1801, he was in Washington and complained to then-Secretary of State John Marshall about the consul at Cadiz, Joseph Yznardi, Jr., in the case of a ship owned by Preble that had been captured by a Spanish privateer. On 18 Feb., John Adams appointed Preble to replace Yznardi as consul. The Senate, however, did not confirm the appointment in the closing days of the congressional session. In 1802 and after, Preble continued to seek a consular appointment. According to James Monroe in 1804, Preble was “not altogether in political sentiment” with TJ’s administration. “M. says he is a federalist,” TJ wrote in the filing endorsement of a letter from Preble to Monroe in January of that year. In 1819, Preble finally obtained a consular appointment at Palermo, Sicily, but he found the compensation inadequate and resigned the position (George Henry Preble, Genealogical Sketch of the First Three Generations of Prebles in America [Boston, 1868], 59, 265–71; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 4:241; 6:50, 55–6n, 517; 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 , 3:342n; 6:531, 532n; Frank Landon Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys: Soldier—Statesman—Poet, ‘Beloved of Washington’, 2 vols. [New York, 1917], 2:279; Vol. 32:162–3; Humphreys to TJ, 8 May 1801; Preble to TJ, 26 Aug. 1802, Preble to Monroe, 2 Jan. 1804, and Preble to Madison, 19 June 1805, in DNA: RG 59, LAR).

The letter from Humphreys was dated 23 Sep. 1800 and received by TJ on 8 Jan. 1801 (Vol. 32:162).

Wrote to the Acting Secy: of State: on 31 Mch. 1801, Preble had written to the secretary of state from Boston, where he intended to embark for Europe, to ask if his commission as consul at Cadiz “would be forwarded to me or not” (DNA: RG 59, LAR). He apparently wrote on the previous day on that subject as well. At the time, Levi Lincoln was acting secretary of state.

Stephen Cathalan, Jr., hoped to obtain U.S. citizenship to enable him to be a consul. Pierre Frédéric Dobrée, who died in 1801, had been appointed vice consul at Nantes in 1794. According to the December 1799 French constitution, acceptance of an appointment or pension from a foreign government meant a loss of French citizenship (Stewart, French Revolution description begins John H. Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution, New York, 1951 description ends , 769; 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 , 1:351n; 2:19n, 211; Cathalan’s letter to TJ of 14 June). On 5 Oct. 1801, William MacCreery, writing to [Robert?] Smith from Baltimore and unaware of Dobrée’s death, recommended that Dobrée be reappointed as vice consul at Nantes. Smith passed MacCreery’s letter along to TJ (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; torn; endorsed by TJ “Mcreery to mr Smith,” which he canceled and endorsed “Dobree to be Consul Nantes.”

Minister of the U.s. at Madrid: that is, Humphreys, who had since been recalled.

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