Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Murray Forbes, 19 February 1802

From John Murray Forbes

Philadelphia 19th. Feby. 1802.


Some pressing objects of business having Called me from the Seat of Government immediately after your nomination of me to the Consulate of Hamburg I Called to tender you an imperfect expression of the Sense I have of the honor you have Conferred on me in thus placing me in a Situation of the highest Commercial importance and responsibility and to pledge to you, Sir, my warmest wishes that I may render myself worthy of your Confidence by a faithful discharge of the duties assigned to me by law and by extending, on every occasion, to the protection of our Country men and Commerce the fullest exertion of my feeble talents and influence—I regret that I was not so fortunate as to procure the honor of a personal interview and beg you to accept this expression of my sentiments and to receive the assurances of my most perfect Respect & Consideration

John. M. Forbes

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.

John Murray Forbes (1771–1831) was born in East Florida but educated in Massachusetts, where he became a friend and Harvard College classmate of John Quincy Adams. Forbes began a law practice in Boston, but then entered into a business partnership with his brother, Ralph Bennet Forbes, and went to France as the firm’s representative. When James Monroe was recalled as minister to France in 1796, both Forbes brothers signed a memorial in his behalf from Americans in Paris. In February 1801, John Adams named John M. Forbes as commercial agent at Le Havre and the Senate confirmed the appointment. However, Forbes’s commission was not sent to him before Adams left office, and TJ appointed another person to the post. Senator Theodore Foster and others urged TJ to appoint Forbes to another position. TJ hesitated after learning of a supposition by Samuel Smith, who did not know Forbes, that Forbes “Cannot be otherwise than Federal,” but TJ in July 1801 made Forbes the consul at Hamburg. He issued a new commission in February 1802 following the Senate’s confirmation of the appointment. In the 1820s, Forbes held a series of U.S. diplomatic posts in South America (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; commission, 4 Feb. 1802, Lb in DNA: RG 59, PTCC; Vol. 33:173n, 411–13, 671, 676, 677, 678; Vol. 34:415, 433; Vol. 35:498).

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