Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Jerome Bonaparte, 25 October 1803

From Jerome Bonaparte

George town 25 octobre. 1803.

Mr. Bonaparte aura l’honneur de diner avec le President des Etats-Unis demain 26. Octobre.

Editors’ Translation

Georgetown, 25 Oct. 1803

Mr. Bonaparte will have the honor of dining with the president of the United States tomorrow, 26 Oct.

RC (DLC); addressed (torn): “[. . .]onsieur. Jefferson [. . .] Etats Unis. Washington.”

Jerome Bonaparte (1784-1860), the youngest of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brothers and sisters, was born on the island of Corsica. He was quite young when their father died, and as Jerome matured, Napoleon took over the management of his education. The elder brother was frustrated in his efforts to make Jerome apply himself to his studies. In 1800, Napoleon put him in the navy as a midshipman. Jerome’s connections to the first consul brought him rapid promotion, and by the end of 1802, when he was barely 18 years old, he was a lieutenant de vaisseau with command of a brig. After his arrival in the United States in July 1803, he met Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore, and they married in December of that year (see TJ to Robert R. Livingston, 4 Nov.). Napoleon refused to recognize the union and summoned his brother home to France. Jerome embarked from the United States in March 1805. Against his brother’s wishes he took Elizabeth with him, but when they arrived at Lisbon, Napoleon’s orders prohibited her from going ashore with Jerome or landing in any port controlled by the French. She went to England, where she gave birth to a son in July 1805. Unable to reunite with her husband, she returned to the United States. An ecclesiastical court in France nullified the marriage. Napoleon made the now-compliant Jerome an imperial prince, gave him the rank of rear admiral, and named him to the Légion d’honneur. In 1807, Jerome became king of Westphalia and married Catherine, daughter of the elector of Württemberg (Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 969-71; Glenn J. Lamar, Jérôme Bonaparte: The War Years, 1800-1815 [Westport, Conn., 2000], 2-20; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , “Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte”; Edouard Dentu, ed., Mémoires et correspondance du roi Jérôme et de la reine Catherine, 7 vols. [Paris, 1861-66], 1:293-8).

l’honneur de diner avec le president: Louis André Pichon had urged young Bonaparte to make a visit to Washington to call on the president. The young man arrived from Baltimore with Joshua Barney on 23 Oct. The next day, the chargé d’affaires presented him to TJ, who invited them to return for dinner on the afternoon of the 26th. Pichon also introduced Bonaparte to the heads of departments (the “secrétaires d’État”) then in the capital—probably Madison, Gallatin, Dearborn, and perhaps Lincoln. On the 26th, Pichon brought along two officers from a French frigate that was in the harbor at Baltimore. Bonaparte left Washington to return to Baltimore following the dinner. Pichon reported to his government that “le citoyen Bonaparte” conducted himself well on the visits to the President’s House (same, 140, 232, 239-41).

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