Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William P. Gardner, 14 November 1803

From William P. Gardner

No. 6 of the Seven Buildings
City of Washington
14th. November 1803.


I trust you will excuse the Liberty which I take in addressing this Letter to you at a time when your Attention is naturally occupied by Concerns important and interesting to our Nation. In the first place I would wish to convey to you my thanks for the honor which you conferred upon me in the Appointment as Consul of the United States for Demerary and Essequibo and tho’ not accepted as such by the Government of those Colonies I shall ever hold it as a mark of your Confidence in my Abilities and integrity, which, while it is flattering to my feelings, claims the Tribute of my unfeign’d Gratitude.—On my Arrival at these Colonies I immediately waited upon Mr. Rousselet, our late Consul, to whom I was handsomely recommended by Mr. Gallatin. Mr. Rousselet informed me that he had never been accepted by the Government as Consul, nor had his predecessor Mr. Brush of New York, and as there appear’d to be no probability that the Government wou’d accept a Consul from this Country he had some time since transmitted to America his Resignation, which was accepted by the President of the United States. I wrote several Letters while in those Colonies to the Secretary of State informing him of these things and stating to him the Nature of the Trade between the Dutch Colonies on the Coast of Guiana and the United States of America. Tho’ not acting officially, yet in my individual Capacity I was the means of rescuing several Americans from an Impressment on Board English and Dutch Ships and considering the mortality which raged on Board those vessels in all probability was likewise the means of saving some of their Lives.

My Expenses in going to Demerary, residing there and returning to America were much more than my pecuniary Resourses could well support and have reduced my Circumstances to a low Ebb.—I believe that I have before mentioned to you that I have been in the Public Employment near Eight Years as a Clerk, two Years of which were with Joseph Nourse Esqr. Register of the Treasury in his own Room and as his Confidential Clerk. To that Gentleman, I with Confidence beg leave to refer you for information respecting me. I left the Treasury Department to accept an appointment in the Bank of Pennsylvania of 200 Dollars per. Annum more than I received in the Treasury. A short time after I Entered the Bank of Pennsylvania I resign’d that situation and went to Europe. On my Return from Europe I again received an Appointment in the Treasury Department, where I continued untill that Event took place of which I have already informed you, as likewise the motives which led thereto. I wrote to Richard Harrison Esqr: Auditor of the Treasury to return me the Recommendations which I deposited with him; in Reply, he informed me, that they were all consumed by Fire in the Treasury Department. I have others, however, equally strong from public Bodies and public Characters in Philadelphia.   My Exertions, however feeble, have always been used in support of the Principles of Republicanism and I can safely declare that those Exertions and the open Avowal of my political principles have been the Cause of considerable personal Loss and Embarrasment to me. I beg leave to observe to you, that it was never my intention to have made another application for Employment, but my necessities at this Time strongly urge me to the Measure and I indulge the hope that you will excuse the Liberty I have taken. I cou’d wish Sir, in case there are any Vacancies in that Line, a pursership on Board one of the Frigates, or some place in New Orleans which would yield me a Livlihood. The best Recommendation shall be furnish’d and so far as regards myself no personal Exertion and Attention shall be wanting in discharge of the Duties.

I beg leave to enclose a Copy of my Letter to Mr. Rousselet, late Consul at Demerary, together with his Answer, by which you will find that he mentions his having sent his Resignation to the Executive and that it was accepted. He told me further, that he informd the Secretary of State, that no Consul wou’d be received in Demerary, a Circumstance which I was not informed of previous to my leaving America.—Mr: Rousselet strove all in his power to injure me in the Estimation of the Governor of those Colonies and not only myself but the present Administration of the United States, by sending to the Governor those News papers which contain’d the most infamous Abuse agt Republicans. When call’d upon for explanation he denied it was with that intent. Mr. Rousselet is not a Citizen of the United States and in other Respects I assure you Sir, is but ill calculated to watch over the interests of our Citizens. The Duty I owe to my Country induces me to mention these things in Regard to Mr. Rousselet, as I understand he has made application for a Consulship in some one of the ports of France.—With the highest Respect and Esteem,

I have the Honor to be Sir, Your most obedt: & most hb: Sert:

Wm. P. Gardner

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “To His Excellency Thomas Jefferson President of the United States of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Nov. and “emploiment” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found.

When Gardner was appointed consul in March 1802, the colonies of Demerara (demerary) and essquibo on the coast of Guiana were under British control. The Treaty of Amiens restored the South American colonies to the Dutch. The British were making plans to evacuate when Gardner arrived at Demerara in September (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 2:167; 3:589-90; Vol. 37:52, 53n).

i was handsomely recommended: for Gallatin’s 24 June 1801 letter to Nicholas Rousselet introducing Gardner, see Vol. 35:75n. TJ was secretary of state when Ebenezer Brush was appointed consul to Surinam in 1790. TJ noted in 1792 that he had not heard from Brush and did not know whether he was admitted by the government and exercising his functions as consul “or whether objections were made” to his admission. In 1793, TJ indicated that Brush had “abandoned” his post (Vol. 17:247, 423-4; Vol. 23:619; Vol. 25:203). transmitted to america his resignation: according to SJL, on 5 Mch. 1802, TJ received a letter from Rousselet dated 21 Dec. 1801, but it has not been found. In his nomination of Gardner, TJ noted that he was being appointed in place of Rousselet, who was “not recieved” by the government (Vol. 36:682; Vol. 37:52).

i wrote several letters: on 18 Sep. 1802, Gardner informed Madison of his arrival at Demerara and his meeting with Rousselet, who informed him that the British governor Anthony Beaujon had refused to recognize him as a U.S. consul because the Jay Treaty “made no provision for the Residence of American Consuls in their foreign possessions.” Gardner also noted that the new governor, Anthony Meertens, appointed by the Batavian government, was expected to arrive shortly. In a letter dated 13 Jan. 1803, Gardner discussed the cases of three impressed seamen. He noted that 200 of the Dutch troops had died and as many more were sick and hospitalized. He also reported that the regulation of American trade remained unchanged but there was some movement to permit the exportation of sugar in U.S. vessels. Governor Meertens wrote to the Netherlands inquiring about the residence of a U.S. consul, but Gardner believed that even if accepted, the consular duties would be very limited. On 22 June, Gardner wrote Madison from Philadelphia, having left the Dutch colonies after Governor Meertens refused his exequatur. Gardner informed the secretary of state that he was officially resigning his commission (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 3:589; 4:253; 5:114-15, 143).

For a previous account of Gardner’s career, including public employment in the Treasury Department, see Vol. 35:699-706. event took place: see same. The fire in the treasury department occurred on 20 Jan. 1801 (Vol. 32:435-6).

he has made application: on 16 Sep., Rousselet wrote Gallatin requesting his intercession with the president for a consular appointment in the south of France. Born in Holland, Rousselet was educated in the French language. He settled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was related to John Langdon by marriage. For health reasons, Rousselet could not return to the “cold Region” of New Hampshire; his delicate constitution required a warm climate. He wished to “flee from the Sultry Atmosphere” of Demerara to France or Italy (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “to be Consul in the South of France”).

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