Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elkanah Watson, 1 June 1802

From Elkanah Watson

Albany 1st June 1802

Respected Sir

Under the Respectable recommendations Inclosed; I feel the less diffidence in Introducing myself to your Knowledge, especially as Lieut. Govr. Van Rensselaer one of Our recent electors & my Intimate friend as well in Social, as in political Life, for a Series of years, Informs Me he has the honour of a personal acquaintence with you.

Haveing resided at Nantes in France Several of the arduous years of Our revolution (an American Merchant) I was in habits of Intimacy with Doctr. Franklin & the principal of Our leading Charecters in Europe as well as in America in the eairly Stages of Our Revolution; but I was Never So fortunate as to See you or be Known by you.

The object of this Introduction, is to Solicit the appointment of Mr. Simon Lynch a respectable Merchant at Nantes in France as American Consul at that Port, Should the appointment remain Vacant.

During the 5 years I resided at that place, I was Well acquainted with the father of Mr. Lynch who was esteemed one of the Most respectable Merchants there.

He is of Irish extraction, in consequence the English language is in a Manner the mother tongue of Mr. L— altho’ born in Nantes. He has made the Tour of the United States, even into the Very Interior upon the Ohio, & the North Western territory. He has extensive personal Knowledge and correspondence with Our principal American American Merchants a’Long our Sea bord; and from my personal Knowledge of him, and his unblemished reputation (which If necessary can be amply Supported by commercial Houses in Several of Our Sea Ports) I am persuaded No person can better Supply the Vacancy—and it Will afford Me peculiar pleasure Should you See Cause from this Statement to honour him with that appointment. I will farther add that Mr. L— is a Staunch Republican in principal. The Last Consul at Nantes Mr. Dobrie—who lately died, was a Guernsey Man, & for many years filled that Station with distinguished propriety. I am aware that Gouverment have wisely adopted a prefference to American Charecters, But from the peculiar advantages of Mr. L— situation, and respectable Standing, & being also Informed, that their is No American Mercht. of Respectability established at that Port; I presume the prefference alluded to cannot in this Instance impair my hopes in favour Mr. L— I make free also to Inclose you a circular-Letter I Recieved from Mr. L— as an evidence that he is already devoted to the Interest of Our countrymen.

Our comptroler Mr. Jenkins (whose father was also one of Our State electors) Informs Me, he Was nominated by the recommendation of Chanceller Livingston for the Office I Now Solicit for my worthy friend Lynch.

With profound Respect and esteem. I have the Honor to be Sir Your He. St.

Elka. Watson

I Should also have accompanied this Letter with a line from my next Neighbour & Intimate friend Govr. Clinton—but for his absence

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr: President United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 10 June and “Simon Lynch to be Consul at Nantes” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Circular from Simon Lynch, dated at Nantes, 8 Jan. 1802, offering his services in presenting claims to the French Council of Prizes “to obtain justice and Satisfaction from the unwarrantable depredations committed on the American trade” (printed circular in same; signed and partially dated by Lynch; at head of text: “Mr. Elkanah Watson Albany”; with a postscript in Lynch’s hand and a note by Watson explaining that a young man referred to in the postscript is his son, whom “I have placed in the House of Mr. Lynch”; endorsed by Watson). For other possible enclosures, see below.

Elkanah Watson (1758–1842) began his career as an apprentice to John and Nicholas Brown in Providence, Rhode Island. He was in Europe from 1779 to 1784. During that time he had business partnerships at Nantes, one of which was with Benjamin Franklin’s nephew, Jonathan Williams. Watson settled in Albany in 1789. He owned farms, was a banker, promoted agricultural fairs, wool production, and turnpike construction, and advocated the construction of a canal from Albany to the Great Lakes (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

RESPECTABLE RECOMMENDATIONS INCLOSED: although Watson’s letter and the two written in its support, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer’s of 3 June and Elisha Jenkins’s of the 4th, all reached TJ on 10 June, TJ’s record in SJL does not show that they arrived as a bundle.

In August 1802, Watson again urged the appointment of SIMON LYNCH to the position at Nantes by writing to Madison and having Van Rensselaer do so also. Madison passed those letters along to the president. TJ named William Patterson, who had Robert R. Livingston’s support and had previously received a nomination as commercial agent at L’Orient, to the position at Nantes. In the spring of 1804, Patterson made Lynch his deputy (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., 3:515, 520–1, 538–9, 555; 7:126–7, 531; Vol. 33:672, 677; Vol. 35:371, 664; TJ to Madison, 10 Sep. 1802).

Livingston thought well of the qualifications of Elisha JENKINS and had suggested him for the post of naval officer at New York City (Vol. 35:62).

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