Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Isaac Cox Barnet, 14 July 1802

From Isaac Cox Barnet

Bordeaux July 14th 1802.


Persuaded that my removal from the Agency of this Port was owing to some circumstance connected with the general system of your administration—and not to your personal indisposition towards me.—Conscious that my fidelity and Zeal in the service of my Country during more than five years, still give me a claim on Executive patronage—I have once more presumed to address you on the subject.

You have been made acquainted Sir, with my small pecuniary resources—and that I have a large family to provide for.—

You have been informed of the opinion of the french Authorities & Citizens of Brest & Bordeaux—with regard to me—

I am proud to say it is favourable—more happy if, from the information you have yourself collected—you have found me deserving your own.—for whilst it would honour me, it would also attach the suffrage of my fellow Citizens generally. I am jealous of one and both. But to this sentiment is connected the preservation of a right equally dear to me, and which I am desirous of enjoying as far as is compatible with my residence abroad.—It is that of a Citizen of the United States—which you only can maintain for me Sir; and if I have merited the approbation of the Government—my claim upon you is as strong as that of a child for a Father’s blessing.—

I have lost many months in anxious expectation of an Appointment—and have not received even one Consolotary line on the subject. This state of inactivity, if longer prolonged, would bring ruin and distress upon my family. I have therefore determined to remain no longer “l’oiseau sur la branche”—but to fix myself at Bordeaux—where I am encouraged to hope for a share of the business of my american friends.—

A commission as vice-commercial Agent here, would exempt me from personal taxes—procure me certain politico-local advantages—give me a commercial “relief” in my own Country—secure to my children their rights of Citizenship and to my self, those of our Trade (such as holding a registered Vessel &c)—I therefore humbly ask of you, Sir, the Appointment of vice-commercial Agent at Bordeaux. It would in no wise interfere with Mr: Lee, when present and I conceive myself authorized to solicit it upon the precedentt of Havre, where there has always been a vice-Consul ’till now.—

If it were objected by Mr. Lee or his friends, that such a subappointment might add weight to the competition and militate against his commercial establishment—I must beg leave respectfully to observe, that it would be no consideration in the decision of a Government against it—but on the contrary, would be a strong one in its favour.

Other Governments have in this Port consuls & vice-consuls and precedents may be taken from our own constitution and from the organization of our own supreme magistracies—at least I presume they might be so applied.—

The places of Marseilles & Nantes being not yet filled—and Mr. Dobell continuing his residence in this place so long (though a Mr. l’Hospital, his secretary, represents him at Havre) may I not still hope, Sir, that either by non-acceptance or resignation, it may please you to prefer me to one of them.—and as I cannot return to Brest, and my Agent there, Mr. Aubrée, being on the point of leaving it—I beg Sir, your acceptance of my resignation of that Consulate

I am most respectfully, Sir, Your most obedient and very devoted Servant

I, Cox Barnet

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “Duplicate”; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Oct. and so recorded in SJL.

REMOVAL FROM THE AGENCY OF THIS PORT: TJ considered John Adams’s appointment of Barnet as commercial agent at Bordeaux, France, to be a midnight appointment. TJ gave the post to William Lee. Seeking another appointment, Barnet, who informed TJ of his PECUNIARY situation in a long letter of 10 Sep. 1801, solicited endorsements from merchants and FRENCH AUTHORITIES. When he wrote the letter above, Barnet did not know that TJ had taken steps to put an end to his ANXIOUS EXPECTATION by naming him, in June 1802, commercial agent at Antwerp (Vol. 33:173n; Vol. 35:247–53; Vol. 37: Appendix I).

L’OISEAU SUR LA BRANCHE: the expression, the literal translation of which is “the bird on the branch,” refers to someone in unsettled circumstances.

Originally from Philadelphia, Peter DOBELL was establishing himself as a merchant at Bordeaux when, in the spring of 1801, TJ responded to a recommendation from Caspar Wistar by appointing Dobell the U.S. commercial agent at Le Havre. The person named L’HOSPITAL, who signed himself as the chancellor of the consular office, acted in Dobell’s absence. Dobell resigned his position later in 1802 (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends ., 3:469, 472; 4:100; Vol. 33:556, 557n, 666).

RESIGNATION OF THAT CONSULATE: George Washington had appointed Barnet the U.S. consul at Brest early in 1797. Adams, when he named Barnet the commercial agent at Bordeaux in February 1801, nominated George Rundle for the post at Brest. Rundle did not receive his commission because his appointment, like Barnet’s for Bordeaux, was an end-of-term Adams nomination that TJ did not carry through. That had left Barnet, officially, as commercial agent at Brest. Demand for consular services at that port was so slight, Barnet informed Madison in a letter of 30 June 1802, the office “produced nothing” (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 , 1:226, 381; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends ., 3:352; Vol. 33:173n; Vol. 35:249–50, 252n).

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