Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Robert R. Livingston, 28 October 1802

From Robert R. Livingston

Paris 28th. October 1802

Dear Sir

The enclosed packet marked No 1, was written at the time it is dated—The subject of it is very painful to me, & I have retained it for the reasons mentioned in the enclosed letters No. 1 & 2—by which I trust it will appear how much I sacrificed both of my rights, & my feelings, to prevent this matter from causing you, or the connections of Mr. Sumter any uneasiness—I continued to act with Mr. Sumter presuming that long before this, his resignation would have been accepted, or that he would have changed his conduct with respect to me—but he has all along appeared to consider himself not as my Secretary, but as my coadjutor and when his constructions of my instructions dosse not square mine, he refuses expresly to execute my orders—the enclosed statement shews that he has explicitly discharged himself from the duties of the office, by refusing to perform those I have enjoined to him—I shall accordingly employ a secretary to execute them & shall draw for his pay, making the best bargain I can for the United States—But that I may not be again exposed to what I have suffered from the independence of the Secretary upon his principal I must explicitly request that if it continues to be the system of the government to give the Ministers a secretary of the Legation, & no private Secretary that my resignation may be accepted. It will appear by Mr. Sumters own statement, that he thinks, he is to be judge when I am to interpose in behalf of a citizen of the United States, & when not, and that he is to determine thro’ what channel business is to pass, & when he differs in opinion with me, that he is entitled to refuse to obey my orders—I would observe that the whole duty previous to Mr. Sumter’s last refusal for at least two months has not been such as would have occupied one half hour in a day, so that it has not been of the burthen of business that he has had to complain—

I forbear to mingle any other matter with the disagreeable subject of this letter—

I have the honor to be Dear Sir with the most respectful Esteem, Your most Obt Hble Svt

Robt R Livingston

This letter & the statement enclosed have been submitted to Mr. Sumters inspection—as well as my former letter on the same subject.

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed and postscript added by Livingston; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of the U:S:”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Feb. 1803 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Livingston to TJ, 4 May, and enclosures (Vol. 37:410–16). (2) “Statement of the request made by Mr. Livingston, of Mr. Sumter, & his refusal to comply therewith,” declaring that in August, Livingston “transmitted the inclosed note” to Talleyrand and directed Thomas Sumter, Jr., to subjoin to it the letter of Captain Thomas Newell, “which contained a statement of his case, together with a copy of the decree of the council of prizes and a certificate of the Minister of the Marine, from which it might be infered that the vessel taking Capn. Newlands, had no commission”; Talleyrand replied that “those papers were not in his office”; Livingston “then wrote the enclosed note No. 2” and directed Sumter to make a copy of the original communication and the subjoined papers, to which Sumter replied “that he had no copies of them, & that it was not his business to keep copies of private papers, that they should go to Mr. Skipwith’s office”; Livingston requested Sumter to get copies of the papers from James C. Mountflorence, who had been Newell’s agent; Sumter refused, “alleging that it is a private case & that by the instructions of the Secretary of State, Mr. Livingston, nor he, had nothing to do with it, & that all applications of this nature must come thro’ Mr. Skipwith. Mr. Livingston was accordingly compelled to obtain the papers by personal application to Mr. Mountflorence” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 127:21901; undated; in a clerk’s hand, final sentence in Livingston’s hand); for Newell’s claims against Spain and France for the capture of the brig Fame, see 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 , 4:11, 12n. (3) Livingston to Talleyrand, 20 Aug., regarding the claim of Newell, whose ship was captured after the completion of the Convention of 1800 by a vessel pretending to have authority from the French government; Livingston also complaining of delays in settling all such claims by American citizens (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 125:21642–3, undated, endorsed by Madison: “Note in Capt. Newals case, which Mr. Sumter considering insufficient & one the minr. was not authorized to pursue, refused to procure the papers to have annexed when they had been mislaid in Mr. Tallerands office”; Tr in DNA: RG 59, DD, with dateline Paris, 20 Aug., and “Duplicate” added at head of text by Jacob Wagner, endorsed by Wagner, endorsed by TJ: “refd. to Secy. of state. or has it been already acted on? Th:J. May 9, 1803”; Dft in same, in Livingston’s hand). (4) Livingston to Talleyrand, 21 Vendémiaire Year 11 (13 Oct. 1802), noting that he has not yet received an answer to his communication of 20 Aug. (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 126:21740–1); Talleyrand’s reply of 28 Vendémiaire (20 Oct.), stating that he does not have the papers for the case and asking for copies, is in DNA: RG 59, DD. (5) Livingston to Talleyrand, 29 Vendémiaire (21 Oct.), advising that he has directed copies of the papers to be made for Talleyrand and commenting on the case (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 126:21858–9).

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