Thomas Jefferson Papers

III. Memorandum on Official Etiquette , 12 January 1804

III. Memorandum on Official Etiquette

[before 12 Jan. 1804?]

In order to bring the members of society together in the first instance the custom of the country has established that the residents1 shall pay the 1st. visit to strangers, & among strangers first comers to2 later comers, foreign & domestic;3

When brought together in society all4 are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office.

To the 1st. rule there is a single exception. foreign ministers,5 pay the first visit to the ministers of the nation: which is returned.6

All other observances are but exemplifications of these two principles.7 e.g.

1.  The families of foreign ministers arriving at the seat of government8 recieve the first visit from those of the National ministers, as from all other residents.
3.  No titles being admitted here, those of foreigners give no precedence.
4.  Difference of grade among the diplomatic members9 gives no precedence.
2.  Members of the Legislature & of the Judiciary, independant of their offices, have a right as strangers to recieve the first visit.
5.  At public ceremonies to which the government invites the presence of foreign ministers & their families, a convenient seat or station, will be provided for them with any other strangers invited, & the families of the national ministers, each taking place as they arrive, & without any precedence.
6.  To maintain10 the principle of equality, or pêle mêle, and prevent the growth of precedence out of courtesy, the members of the Executive will practise at their own houses & recommend, an adherence to the antient usage of the country, of gentlemen in mass giving precedence to the ladies in mass in passing from one apartment where they are assembled, into another.

Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 233:41634); undated; entirely in TJ’s hand; TJ drew diagonal strokes through the “observances” that he numbered 4, 2, and 6; endorsed: “Etiquette. this rough paper contains what was agreed on.”

1TJ here canceled “or first comers.”

2Preceding ampersand and five words interlined in place of “or.”

3TJ here canceled “the character of stranger ceasing after the first visits.”

4TJ first wrote “When brought together, it is a principle that all the members making part of a company” before altering the clause to read as above.

5TJ first wrote, “There is one exception to 1st. rule. in the case of foreign ministers, who, from the necessity of making themselves known, and from the usage of all nations” before altering the passage to read as above.

6TJ first wrote “which visit, here, is returned.”

7TJ first wrote “principal rules” before altering the text to read as above.

8Preceding six words interlined.

9TJ first wrote “among the members of the diplomatic corps.”

10Word interlined in place of “give force to.”

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