Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Philip Mazzei, 17 April 1802

From Philip Mazzei

Venezia, 17 Apr. 1802.

Car.mo Sig:re e Amico

Avendo dovuto trattenermi in questa disgraziata Città, ò inteso un fatto, che difficilmente credo, e che mi dispiacerebbe molto se fosse vero: Spero, che la presente arriverà a Livorno in tempo da porter partire coll’istesso bastimento che porterà quelle che Le scrissi di Pisa il 10 del corrente.1 Mi è stato domandato il perchè gli S.U. tengono un Console a Trieste, e non a Livorno, che è un porto di tanto maggiore importanza. Avendo io risposto, che vi è stato sempre, dopo che i bastim. Am. frequentano il Mediterraneo, mi è stato soggiunto, che non potevasi credere, poichè un giovane Am. stabilito in Livorno, e che certamente non è Console, à l’incombenza di provvedere a ciò che può bisognare alla Squadra che abbiamo nel Mediterraneo.2 Se ciò fosse, bisognerebbe attribuirlo a qualche intrigo, mentre non procedesse dall’ignoranza o inavvertenza del Ministro della marina.3

Un [tal] procedere non ci farebbe onore; ed essendo vero, non saprei cosa pensar del Console, se non è immediatamente chiesta la sua dimissione. Il tempo mi manca per dirle altre cose, relative a questo paese affliggenti per chi ama l’umanità, [ma] che secondo Lucrezio dovrebbero servir di consolazione agli Americani.

Dulce mare magnum turbantibus equora ventis &c.”

Suo Dev.mo s.o e Aff. Am.

Editors’ Translation

Venice, 17 Apr. 1802

Dearest Sir and Friend

Having had to remain in this wretched city, I have heard something which is difficult to believe, and which would grieve me immensely if it were true. The present letter will reach Leghorn I hope in time to leave on the same boat bearing the letter I wrote you from Pisa on the 10th of the current month. I have been asked why the United States has a consul in Triest and not in Leghorn, which is a port of so much greater importance. Having replied that there has always been one at that post, because American ships frequent the Mediterranean, it was suggested to me that such was hard to believe since a young American, established in Leghorn, and certainly not the consul, is charged with the responsibility to provide for the needs of the squadron we have in the Mediterranean. If this were so, it would have to be attributed to some intrigue, unless it were not to arise from the ignorance or thoughtlessness of the Secretary of the Navy.

Such a procedure would not do us honor, and if it were true, I would not know what to think of the consul, if his resignation were not asked for immediately. I lack the time to tell more of this country, most trying to a lover of humanity, but which, according to Lucretius, should be a source of consolation to the American people.

“Dulce mare magnum turbantibus equora ventis, etc.”

Your very devoted servant, and very affectionate friend.

Dft (Archivio Filippo Mazzei, Pisa, Italy); part of a conjoined series of Mazzei’s drafts of letters to TJ, where it precedes Mazzei’s letter of 3 Feb. 1803 (see Margherita Marchione and Barbara B. Oberg, eds., Philip Mazzei: The Comprehensive Microform Edition of his Papers, 9 reels [Millwood, N.Y., 1981], 6:911–12). RC recorded in SJL as received from Venice on 19 Sep. 1802, but not found.

On 7 Feb. 1798, John Adams nominated Thomas Appleton of Massachusetts as U.S. consul at Leghorn. In a letter to Madison of 15 Jan. 1802, Appleton outlined his activities since his arrival there in 1798 and repeated his desire to be appointed naval agent. He claimed to be the only consul out of 18 at Leghorn who was not “charged with the Concerns of the Marine of their Nation” and the only U.S. consul in the Mediterranean who had “experienced this disgrace.” The firm of DeButts and Purviance had been acting as U.S. agents at the port until Henry DeButts’s death in early December 1801 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:260; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:28, 50–1, 100; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 2:311, 400; DNA: RG 59, CD).

DULCE MARE MAGNUM TURBANTIBUS EQUORA VENTIS: the first line from the second book of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), which loosely translated means, “Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters.”

1Mazzei canceled: “Voglio aggiungere una notizia intesa qui casualmente, la quale merita d’esser verificata da chi tien le redini del governo degli S.U.,” meaning “I would like to add a piece of news I heard by chance here, one that deserves to be verified by the one who holds the reins of the U.S. government.”

2Mazzei canceled: “e che perciò credevasi che non vi fosse. Spero che non sia vero,” meaning “and that, therefore, it was believed there was none. I hope this is not true.”

3Mazzei canceled: “Untale schiaffo dato al Console non ci fa onore mentre il fatto sia come ò inteso,” meaning “Such a slap in the Consul’s face does not do us any honor, provided the truth of the matter is how I heard it.”

Index Entries