Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Philippe Reibelt, 30 November 1802

From Philippe Reibelt

Norfolk ce 30 Novembre 1802.

Monsieur le Président!

Je suis chargé de la part de Madame Felix et de Mr. le Général Kosciusko de remettre à Votre Excellence le Douple de l’acte de Cession faite a cette dame par le Général de sa Terre sur le Scioto, et de recevoir de vos mains non seulement les Titres originaires du Général et autres Papiers y relatifs en Original, mais aussi les Ordres, et Instructions pour la prise de Possession au Nom de cette dame.

C’est en Consequence de ces Commissions amicales, et dans la Probabilité que Vous n’ayez point avec Vous les dits Titres qui d’ailleurs me peuvent être adressés dans la suite, je dois prier Votre Excellence d’ordonner en attendant l’Expedition des Pieces necessaires à la Prise de Possession.

J’ose joindre la Lettre par laquelle Mr. le Général à bien voulú solliciter pour moi, et mes Compagnons de Voyage votre Protection particuliere, et Vous prie de vouloir bien faire expedier en même Tems une Recommendation pour Mde. Felix, pour moi, et les Autres à Mr. le Gouverneur du Territoire de l’Ouest.

Je parts d’ici Lundi prochain pour Alexandrie. Je serai Probablement dans sept à huit jours à Federal City, Aussitot que j’y serai arrivé, je demanderai de Votre Excellence la Permission de Vous presenter mes Respects personels. Ce n’est que ce devoir qui m’engage à préférer cette Route à celle plus direct pour l’Ohio ou mes Affaires m’appellent incessament.

En attendant je prie Votre Excellence de vouloir bien Agreer les Assurances par Ecrit du Respect le plus Sincere et profond dont un Homme puisse être penetré pour votre Caractére privé, et public, et dont je le suis Constamment depuis que l’on connoit votre Nom en Europe. J’ai l’honneur d’etre Votre Excellence Très obeïssant Serviteur

Philippe Reibelt
Natif Allemand du Palatinat
sur la rive gauche du Rhin
nouveau francais par la
reunion de ce paÿs a la France

Editors’ Translation

Norfolk, 30 Nov. 1802

Mister President!

Madame Felix and General Kosciuszko have asked me to give Your Excellency the duplicate of the transfer deed from the general for his land on the Scioto River, and to receive from you the general’s original titles and related documents, as well as orders and instructions so Madame Felix can take possession of the land.

Fulfilling this friendly mission, and assuming that you do not have the land titles with you (they can be sent at a later time), I beg Your Excellency to provide in the meantime the other documents necessary for Madame Felix to take possession.

I take the liberty of enclosing a letter from the general requesting your special protection for my travel companions and myself. When you send the other documents, could you please include a recommendation to the governor of the Western Territory for Madame Felix, the others, and myself?

I shall leave here next Monday for Alexandria and shall probably be in the Federal City in seven or eight days. As soon as I arrive, I shall request permission from Your Excellency to present my regards in person. This is the sole commitment that prompts me to travel by this route rather than the more direct one to Ohio, where urgent business calls me.

Until then, I beg Your Excellency to accept in writing this assurance of the deepest, most sincere respect a man can feel for your public and personal character, which I have felt since your name has become known in Europe. I have the honor of being your very obedient servant.

Philippe Reibelt
German native of the Palatine lands
on the left bank of the Rhine,
now French because of
the reunion of this region with France

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 14 Dec. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found.

Philippe Reibelt (d. 1809), educated in German universities, spoke German and French and also knew Latin and Greek. He had served under various European governments, holding such positions as director of archives of the Helvetic Republic, political officer attached to a French army, and the Directory’s agent overseeing a Rhineland principality. He was acquainted with Frédéric César de La Harpe, who like Reibelt had ties to revolutionary Switzerland (see Thomas Cooper to TJ, 25 Oct. 1802). TJ described Reibelt as “a strong republican in principle” and “a man of excellent understanding and extensive science” (to W. C. C. Claiborne, 27 Apr. 1806, 3 Feb. 1807). In Baltimore from 1803 to 1806, Reibelt marketed books as the agent of a Parisian firm. He sold volumes to TJ and to the State Department. He also sought to obtain seeds of hard-to-find grain crops and garden plants for TJ. As early as the autumn of 1803, Reibelt hoped to obtain some public office or private position that would allow him to relocate to New Orleans. After a visit to Monticello in September 1805, he expected to buy a farm in Albemarle or Augusta County, but before he could carry out that plan he asked for an appointment as an Indian agent. TJ and Henry Dearborn made him the factor of the government trading house at Natchitoches, but Reibelt put off going there and asked TJ for some other appointment in the western territories. Early in 1807, Dearborn and TJ retracted the appointment. W. C. C. Claiborne, then the governor of Orleans Territory, appointed Reibelt judge of Avoyelles Parish, where he had bought a farm. Reibelt, however, had assisted James Wilkinson in collecting intelligence about Aaron Burr’s associates and activities. When, in 1808, a resolution of the territorial legislature forced Claiborne to remove Reibelt from the judgeship for misuse of authority, Reibelt saw the legislature’s action as retribution against him by cronies of Wilkinson’s political enemy, Daniel Clark. Nevertheless, TJ refused to consider Reibelt for another appointment. He took his family to Havana, where he died a few months after their arrival in 1809 (Reibelt to TJ, 18 Dec. 1802, 30 Sep., 31 Oct. 1803, 12, 18, 31 May, 1 Oct., 16, 19 Dec. 1805, 2, 13 Jan., 3 Feb., 8, 15, 29 May, 5, 26 June, 24 Aug. 1806, 16 Jan., 28 Mch. 1807, 25 Feb., 10 May, 12 Dec. 1808, 15 Feb. 1809; TJ to Reibelt, 7 Mch., 21 June 1805, 10 Jan. 1806, 3 Feb. 1807, 25 Feb., 28 Oct. 1808; TJ to John Barnes, 19 Sep. 1805; Claiborne to TJ, 4 June, 12 Nov. 1806, 3 May 1807, 5 Mch., 16 Apr. 1808; TJ to Claiborne, 3 May 1807; Wilkinson to TJ, 16 July 1808; 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–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 8:421n; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934-75, 28 vols. description ends , 9:749; Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766-1824, Philadelphia, 1944 description ends , 305, 356, 367; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767-1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1138, 1143, 1147, 1171; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004- , 8 vols. description ends , 1:504–5; 2:394).

sur le scioto: in 1800, TJ arranged for the surveying and patenting of 500 acres of military bounty land for Tadeusz Kosciuszko. At that time, Kosciuszko expected to rent out the property, but in July 1802, he sold it in Paris to Louise Françoise Felix, with Robert R. Livingston witnessing the transaction (Miecislaus Haiman, Kosciuszko: Leader and Exile [New York, 1977], 129–30; Vol. 31:560, 561n; Vol. 32:101).

recommendation pour mde. felix: when TJ received a letter from Reibelt’s wife in 1805, he recorded her name as L. F. F. Reibelt, which suggests that Reibelt married Louise Françoise Felix. The letter, recorded in SJL as written on 2 Oct. 1805 and received the next day, has not been found. Little is known about Reibelt’s wife; when she wrote to TJ following her husband’s death, she used only her last name (RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004- , 8 vols. description ends , 2:394–5).

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