Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Justus Erich Bollmann, 11 December 1802

From Justus Erich Bollmann

Philada December 11th 1802

Dear Sir,

I flatter myself from the known Kindness and Liberality of Your Character that You will excuse my taking the liberty of addressing You, though I am scarcely known to You, for the Purpose of saying a few Words in behalf of Mr. Jams Yard my particular Friend. You are no Doubt informed that He is a Man of distinguished Talents and of a very cultivated Mind; that He has been extensively engaged in Business; that He has been unfortunate and that He was obliged about a Twelve Months ago to stop Payment, principally on Account of the bad Result of Shipments to the Spanish Main.—His Character has rather gained than be impaired by his Misfortunes since they became an Opportunity of evincing that He had Principles and also Strength enough to remain true to them though pressed by Difficulties. In the Month of May last He went to Spain for the Purpose of endeavouring to recover some of his confiscated Property in lima and He is still engaged in that Pursuit.

It has occurred to some of his Friends that He would be eminently qualified, as well from his Talents generally as His Acquaintance with the Spanish language, to be appointed One of the Commissioners to defend the Claims of American Citizens on the Spanish Government and a Petition for that Purpose is now circulating in the City which has already been signed by a considerable Proportion of its most respectable Inhabitants.

As the Petition itself can not well be sent off1 from hence before Tuesday next I have ventured to give You this previous Intelligence of it for fear that its Purpose might be defeated by an earlier Appointment.

Knowing that You will yield to the Wishes of the Petitioners if You should deem the Appointment an expedient and proper One I have only to add that I am

with great Respect Dear Sir Your obt. hble. St.

J. Erich Bollmann

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR), endorsed by TJ as received 15 Dec. and “Yard James to be Commr. to Spain” and so recorded in SJL.

Justus Erich Bollmann (1769–1821) was a German physician who gained renown for an attempted rescue of Lafayette from imprisonment in Olmütz in 1794. Two years later he settled in Philadelphia, where in partnership with a brother he became a merchant. In addition, he invested in a steam-powered rolling mill and served for a time as the Danish vice-consul in Philadelphia. After the failure of his business in 1803, Bollmann shifted his entrepreneurial activities to New York, maintaining the esteem of the president, who offered him at different times a consulship in Saint Domingue and the factorship in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Bollmann also became an associate of Aaron Burr, who in 1806 made him a party to his plans to lead a military force into Mexico. Bollmann was arrested in New Orleans as one of the principal conspirators and shipped to Washington, where he related everything he knew about Burr’s plans to TJ and James Madison. Refusing a pardon, Bollmann was saved by Burr’s acquittal. He then moved back to Philadelphia, where he attempted to gain a foothold in several manufacturing enterprises and published pamphlets on banking and international commerce. After returning to Europe in 1814, he worked as a chemical manufacturer and at various times as an agent for Baring Brothers, the British banking concern (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928-36, 20 vols. description ends , 2:421–2; Kline, Burr description begins Mary-Jo Kline, ed., Political Correspondence and Public Papers of Aaron Burr, Princeton, 1983, 2 vols. description ends , 2:870–1, 970, 973, 976–7, 980–2; Fritz Redlich, “The Business Activities of Eric Bollmann,” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society, 17 [1943], 81–91, 103–12; Exequator for Bollmann, 2 Aug. 1802, FC in DNA: RG 59, Exequators).

For the efforts of Philadelphia merchant James yard to seek redress from Spanish authorities for the seizure of a valuable shipment of goods to Peru, see 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., 3:48–9.

1MS: “of.”

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