Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from David Humphreys, 1 January 1803

From David Humphreys

George Town Jany. 1st. 1803


In referring to that part of the letter addressed by me, on the 28th. of June last, to the President of the U.S., which relates to the measures I took to avoid recieving without the consent of Congress the Royal Present usually offered to Ambassadors & Ministers who had resided near H.C.M.; I now hasten to give information that Mr. Codman has brought from Europe to this Country a small Package (unaccompanied by any letter or Note) simply addressed on the cover to Mrs. Humphreys. It will be perceived, by inspecting the Ornaments contained in it, that they were designed, by their quality & form, for female use. My Wife will solicit the honour of delivering them into the hands of the President, to be remitted or otherwise disposed of as shall be judged most proper.

I shall only add, that, whatsoever Order shall be given respecting the destination of these Objects in question, will doubtless be applied in its principle to the disposal of the Sabre & Belt mounted in gold, which were sent to me in the Year 1795, as a Present by the Dey of Algiers, after having concluded the negociation for Peace with him; also which are in possession of the Department of State.

With Sentiments of perfect consideration and high esteem,

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Mo. ob: & Mo. hble. Servt

D. Humphreys

RC (DNA: RG 59, DD, Spain); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the U.S. of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Jan. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “refd. to Secy. of State Th: J.”; endorsed for the State Department.

h.c.m.: “His Catholic Majesty,” King Carlos of Spain.

American merchant Richard codman carried official dispatches and other items on a voyage from Spain to the United States (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., 3:481, 483, 486, 560, 561; 4:19, 89, 98).

Madison wrote to Humphreys on 5 Jan. returning the package, which was a case of jewelry sent to Ann Humphreys by the queen of Spain. The president, Madison explained, “thought it most proper” that the gift should be returned to Humphreys and his wife “without deciding how far the Constitution,” which gave Congress the authority to allow officeholders to receive presents from foreign governments, “may or may not be applicable to this particular case.” Humphreys refused to take back the jewelry without approval from Congress (same, 4:239).

For the gift to Humphreys from the dey of algiers, see Vol. 37:671, 675n.

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