Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Hammuda Pasha, Bey of Tunis, 14 April 1803

To Hammuda Pasha, Bey of Tunis

Great and Good Friend,

Your letter of September the 8th of the last year has been lately received by me, and I observe with pleasure that the Stores and jewels sent you on our part have given entire satisfaction, and that you preserve for our nation those sentiments of friendship which we wish to cultivate and continue: and it is further intimated that the present of a frigate of 36 guns would at this time be acceptable. Altho’ circumstances1 do not permit us to add this to the proofs of our friendship for you,2 yet we propose on this occasion to give you a testimony of the good will we bear you in a way which we hope may be acceptable, and which will be explained to our Consul, whom we shall appoint as Successor to Mr William Eaton.

We continue to recommend to your hospitality such of our vessels of war as may have occasion to enter your harbours for safety or supply, as well as our Merchant vessels resorting to them for purposes of commerce with your subjects, or on other necessary emergencies: and repeating to you assurances of our desire to improve the harmony so happily subsisting between us by rendering you all the good offices which our distance and other circumstances permit, I pray God, Great and Good Friend, to have you always in his safe and holy keeping.

Done at the City of Washington this fourteenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and three3

Th: Jefferson

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences); in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America, To the Most Illustrious and most Magnificent Prince, the Bey of Tunis”; below signature: “By the President, James Madison Secretary of State.” Tr (NN: Cathcart Collection); in James L. Cathcart’s hand, in Italian (see below). PrC (DLC); a Dft, signed “Th:J.”; at head of text: “To the Bey of Tunis &c”; without emendations, but text varies from later version (see notes 1 and 2 below).

testimony of the good will: on 9 Apr., with the same letter in which Madison gave James Leander Cathcart new instructions for negotiations with Tripoli, the secretary of state sent the consul a commission to succeed William Eaton at Tunis. “It is foreseen that the Bey of Tunis will expect to receive periodical payments in like manner as the Bashaw of Tripoli,” Madison wrote, “and we are prepared to arrange them.” He explained that “we wish at once to manifest our good will and liberality to the Regency, to give him an interest in preserving peace, and to regulate at a fixed rate what is now so uncertain as its demands.” Making an arrangement with Tunis would also establish a precedent for negotiations with Tripoli on the question of presents, Madison indicated. The payments to Tunis were not to exceed $10,000 per annum, payable in money, “biennially if it can be so settled.” Cathcart could offer a one-time “Consular present” not to exceed the customary amount, “about 4,000 Dollars” (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- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:495).

explained to our consul: Madison wrote to Eaton on 14 Apr., indicating that Mustafa Baba’s refusal to accept Cathcart as consul to Algiers had presented an opportunity to appoint Cathcart to the post at Tunis and comply with Eaton’s wish to resign. Madison informed Eaton that Cathcart would present TJ’s letter to Hammuda Pasha and that it would mention “certain testimonies of our good will.” Cathcart rather than Eaton would convey the details of that “gratuitous concession” to the bey, Madison explained, so that “the good humour it ought to produce” would benefit the new consul (same, 517). Cathcart’s rendering of TJ’s letter into the Italian language reflects historic commercial ties between North Africa and Italy, and in particular the role of the Grana, Jewish mercantile families that migrated to Tunis from Leghorn. Some of the Grana acted as financial brokers for the Tunisian regime and as intermediaries in diplomatic relations (Kenneth J. Perkins, Historical Dictionary of Tunisia [Metuchen, N.J., 1989], 55–6, 68).

1PrC: “existing circumstances.”

2In PrC remainder of paragraph reads: “yet we shall certainly take care to avail ourselves from time to time of such future occasions as may arise of renewing the testimonies of the good will we bear you, in such a way as shall be acceptable.”

3PrC: “Done at Washington this 14th. day of April 1803 &c.”

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