Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Monroe, 14 March 1802

From James Monroe

Richmond March 14. 1802.

Dear Sir

I found your favor of the 28th. ulto.1 communicating an extract of a letter from Dupont De Nemours relative to the claim of the artist Houdon to be paid the sum which he lost by the depreciation of the assignats in the last instalment which he recd. for the statue of Genl. Washington. I postponed an answer untill I had taken the advice of council by which I am authorised to inform you that whatever sum you state to be due shall be paid on yr. certificate of the same. I send you a letter of yours to Govr. Brooke, one of Houdon to the Govr. of Virga. and a copy of one from the banker Grand to Houdon certified by the latter, which shew that the contract was in specie, that the assignats were accepted by him with the approbation of Mr. Morris on the principle and in the expectation that they shod. be scaled. I hope and presume that Mr. Morris will be able to establish the facts not known to you, necessary to adjust the account, to your satisfaction, so that we may be enabled to pay the artist what is justly his due. We do not think ourselves authorised to purchase the bust of Franklin, without the sanction of the legislature. We are persuaded its sanction might be had at the next session, tho’ are not authorised to commence a treaty or make any stipulation relative to it.2

The repeal of the Judiciary law of the last session forms an interesting epoch in our affrs. We shall soon see whether the party which created it are disposed and able to convulse the country on pretext of the repeal. I shod. not be surprised [to see?] the court of appls. advancing with a bold stride to effect the object. But I trust its efforts will be fruitless. Sincerely I am yr. friend & servt

Jas. Monroe

RC (DLC); torn; endorsed by TJ as received [19] Mch. and so recorded in SJL. FC (Vi: Executive Letterbook); in a clerk’s hand. Enclosures: (1) TJ to Robert Brooke, 20 Mch. 1796 (Vol. 29:37–8). (2) Jean Antoine Houdon to Brooke, Paris, 8 Sep. 1796, stating that on 8 July 1785 he agreed with TJ, who was acting for the state of Virginia, on terms for the execution of a marble statue of George Washington for 25,000 livres to be paid in three installments; that “at the end of 1792,” the final payment was offered in the form of 9,000 livres in paper assignats, which from the loss of value were worth only 5,625 livres in silver, leaving a balance due of 3,375 livres; he wrote to Gouverneur Morris, who was then the U.S. minister to France, and Houdon now encloses the answer that Ferdinand Grand made for Morris; William Short, Morris, and Monroe all wrote to the state government about this matter but received no answer (RC in DLC; at head of text: “His excellency the Governor of the State of Virginia”; endorsed; see Vol. 8:284n). (3) Extract of Grand to Houdon, 28 Sep. 1792, stating that Morris finds Houdon’s claim to be just, but cannot dispense Congress’s funds without authorization; Morris will seek authorization, but meanwhile advises Houdon to accept the payment on a justified receipt, in which opinion Grand concurs (Tr in DLC; in Houdon’s hand, in French; at head of text: “Copie de la Lettre de Mr Grand à Mr. houdon Sculpteur en datte du 28. 9bre. 1792”; enclosed in Enclosure No. 2).

In 1790, the French government decreed that ASSIGNATS, notes that had been issued against confiscated properties, would be legal tender (John H. Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution [New York, 1951], 159–62).

1Interlined here in Lb: “lately on my return from Albemarle.”

2Text in Lb ends here.

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