Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Leonora Sansay, [28 March 1802]

From Leonora Sansay

Sunday [28 Mch. 1802]

An american Lady who is on the point of sailing for Port au prince presumes to solicit of Mr Jefferson a letter of Protection for that place. she is highly sensible of the greatness of the honour she solicits, but is also convinc’d that the name of Mr. Jefferson alone will preserve her from every inconvenience—

Lov’d by the subjects he makes happy, honour’d by admiring nations crown’d with political & literary glory—he stands foremost in the rank of eminent men, his name extends to the utmost borders of the globe & he shines with Distinguish’d superiority the wonder of the universe—Would Mr Jefferson accord Mrs. Sansay the honour of an interview at 12 or any other hour of this day she will more fully explain her motives for making the request, & esteem as the greatest happiness of her life the honour of having been admitted to the presence of Mr Jefferson

RC (MHi); partially dated; endorsed by TJ: “Sansay mrs.” Recorded in SJL as a letter of 28 Mch. received the same day.

Leonora Sansay (1781–?) may have been the daughter of Philadelphia innkeeper William Hassall. As early as 1797 she was introduced to Aaron Burr, with whom she developed an intimate relationship that continued even after her marriage in 1800 to Louis Sansay, a French-born merchant grocer residing in New York. In March 1802, Madame Sansay traveled to Washington to visit the vice president, who mediated in the couple’s troubled marriage and helped her obtain several letters of introduction for an upcoming trip to the West Indies. Although she accompanied her husband on a journey to reclaim his Saint-Domingue coffee plantation, she remained in contact with Burr, sending him semi-autobiographical accounts of the island flirtations of a woman referred to as “Clara.” Leonora Sansay later returned to the United States, settling in 1807 in Philadelphia, where she made artificial flowers and wrote two novels (Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 2:702–4; Nancy Isenberg, Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr [New York, 2007], 240–1, 479; Phillip S. Lapsansky, “Afro-Americana: Rediscovering Leonora Sansay,” Annual Report of the Library Company of Philadelphia for the Year 1992 [Philadelphia, 1993], 29–46; Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo, in a Series of Letters, Written by a Lady at Cape François, to Colonel Burr [Philadelphia, 1808; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819, New York, 1958–63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 15201]).

LETTER OF PROTECTION: a letter or certificate, attesting to American citizenship, and guaranteeing protection, exemption, or immunity for the holder (OED description begins J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

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