Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 8 August 1803

To James Madison

Monticello Aug. 8. 03.

Dear Sir

If M. Dalbarton be really Jerome Bonaparte, he will have satisfied thereof the minister of his nation, thro’ whom we shall be apprised of the fact, and relieved from all trouble in deciding on it. this may yet be done, perhaps just as a frigate is ready to sail, and accompanied with a request of a passage in her; when no time will be left for consultation. our duty to our constituents would require us to lose no occasion of conferring obligation on the first Consul of France personally, and of procuring by just attentions the advantages of his good will to them. the same duties require us equally to give no just offence to the other belligerent party, & that we should not expose our flag to the humiliation of having a frigate searched by superior power, the search proved rightful by it’s result, and ourselves placed in the wrong. we should therefore be prepared with an answer, yea or nay, should the application be made in proper form, for which reason I ask the favor of yourself, as well as of the other gentlemen of the administration, to advise me as to the answer to be given. I presume there is little time left for it.

I return you mr Dawson’s letter of July 29. 1803.1 mr Pichon’s papers in the case of Cloupet await the information you expect from the Collector of Norfolk. Accept my affectionate salutations and unvarying esteem & attachment

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “The Secretary of State.” PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as a letter to the State Department about Jerome Bonaparte. Enclosure: John Dawson to Madison, 29 July, written at Baltimore, reporting that earlier in the day he had met a “Mr. Dalbart” who is staying with Joshua Barney; Barney informed Dawson that the traveler is actually Jerome Bonaparte, in the United States on his way back to France with his secretary and Jean Jacques Reubell; Barney also informed Dawson that the British naval captain John Murray, who has been refused permission to travel on a United States frigate, is aware of Bonaparte’s identity and knows that the young French officer hopes to sail on an American warship; Murray intends to give the Royal Navy “every information respecting Bounaparte” and says “that every exertion will be made to capture him” (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., 5:247).

Madison probably wrote to TJ about cloupet, the master of a French merchant vessel, on 29 July. According to SJL, TJ received a communication of that date from the State Department on 1 Aug. about “Pichon on importn negroes.” The letter of 29 July has not been found, but it likely accompanied one from Louis André Pichon to Madison of 26 July. In it, the French diplomat asked for the president’s assistance in Cloupet’s case. The sea captain had made a stop at Norfolk on a voyage from Port-au-Prince to Martinique. Authorities in the port put under arrest three black servants who were accompanying passengers on Cloupet’s ship. The three men were released from imprisonment on the condition that they leave Virginia, but despite Cloupet’s assurances that there had been no intention to bring the men into the state, the collector of customs levied a fine of $3,000 on the captain. In addition to asking for the president’s intervention in the case, Pichon requested that U.S. officials take a lenient approach toward the many inhabitants of French colonies, especially Saint-Domingue, who might seek refuge in the United States without knowing that the law prohibited them from bringing their servants with them (same, 232-3). A letter of 31 July from the State Department, recorded in SJL as received 3 Aug. and pertaining to something from Pichon, also has not been found.

information you expect: see TJ to Madison, 29 Aug.

1Date interlined. TJ did not make the change on the PrC.

Index Entries