Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Levett Harris, 27 July 1809

To Levett Harris

Monticello July 27. 1809.

Dear Sir

The bearer hereof, mr Smith, is the son of the honble Genl Samuel Smith of Baltimore, of whose revolutionary services you cannot be uninformed, & who has been a distinguished member of our public councils during the present government, first in the H. of Representatives, & latterly of the Senate of the US. the son goes in connection with the American legation to St Petersburg, but on his own foundation, and with a view to his own improvement, & the acquiring a knolege of public affairs on an extended scale. anxious to promote views so laudable and useful in the young men of our country, whose fortune and station of life will procure them a participation in the public administration of our affairs, I take the liberty of recommending him to your particular attentions & civilities, as one who will prove himself entirely worthy of them. and I will further request you to present him, in my name, to such characters at your residence as, either from the personal acquaintance I may have had the advantage of forming with them, or from other considerations, would find, in my recommendation, a motive for favoring mr Smith with their attentions.  to the acknolegement of the obligations you will confer on me by the good offices you may render mr Smith, I add the assurances of my great esteem & consideration for yourself.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Levitt Harris esq. St Petersburg”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in TJ to Samuel Smith (of Maryland), 26 July 1809.

Levett Harris (ca. 1780–1839), a merchant and diplomat from Philadelphia, had been appointed American consul at Saint Petersburg by TJ in 1803 after evidently declining the consulship for Rotterdam earlier that year. In 1813 President James Madison appointed Harris secretary to the peace commission, in which role he traveled to Amsterdam and London before being recalled in 1814 to Saint Petersburg, where he acted as chargé d’affaires in the absence of John Quincy Adams. Harris’s alleged willingness as consul to turn a profit by clearing questionable ships through Russia’s neutrality commission led to a charge of corruption in 1819, followed by an epic libel suit by Harris against his accuser, in which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ultimately awarded Harris only nominal damages. The dispute thwarted Harris’s efforts to become minister to Russia, but in 1833 Andrew Jackson appointed him chargé d’affaires in France. Harris corresponded with TJ during his presidency and retirement, occasionally forwarded books, and visited TJ at Monticelloo several times (Bashkina, United States and Russia description begins Nina N. Bashkina and others, eds., The United States and Russia: The Beginning of Relations, 1765–1815, 1980 description ends , 361–2, 593–4; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:447, 453, 456, 2:353, 390–1, 4:314, 321 [1, 3 Mar., 11, 18 Nov. 1803; 11, 14 June, 19 July 1813, 22, 28 Feb. 1833]; Harris to TJ, 22 June 1814, 2 July 1818, 15 June 1820; Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy [1949], 159n, 169, 188).

Index Entries

  • Harris, Levett; identified search
  • Harris, Levett; letters to search
  • Harris, Levett; TJ introduces J. S. Smith to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction from search
  • Smith, John Spear; as secretary of legation to Russia search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); and letter of introduction for son search