Thomas Jefferson Papers

P. de Valltone to Thomas Jefferson, 17 July 1817

From P. de Valltone

Charlottesville ce 17 Juillet 1817

Respectable Monsieur:

Veuillez je vous prie vouloir bien m’excuser sur la liberté que je prends de m’adresser a vous sans avoir l’honneur d’en être connû, mais j’ose me flatter d’avance que vous serez assez bon que de me pardonner cette demarche en faveur du motif qui me guide et m’anime;

Je me plais a croire que vous vous rappelez encore du souvenir de mr Etienne Cathalan à Marseille;—Etant parti de France pour me rendre en ce pays-ci, et ayant essuyé des malheurs sans nombre, qui m’ont empechés de faire mes petites affaires, a pouvoir retourner dans ma patrie; j’ai cru propre de pouvoir m’obtenir un peu de terre dans le Tombegbee River, ce que je fis, vû les circonstances malheureuses ou je me reduit en ce moment; ayant cru m’embarquer a New York pour Mobile, j’eu l’honneur de vous faire achéminer une lettre, que me donna mon Cousin Cathalan, pour vous remêttre, et que je mis à la poste, incluse dans cela que je vous ecrivis alors vous faisant part des details des circonstances de mes affaires, et que je ne doute pas que vous ayez reçu en leurs temps;—Le navire n’étant pas parti pour la dite destination, j’ai mieux faire aulieu d’attendre de m’achéminer par Christiansburgh la, ce que j’executais a pieds jusqu’ici, et ayant sçu que vous demeuriez aux environs, je prends la liberté de vous écrire ne pouvant pas marcher: afin d’obtenir de vos conseils sur le pays que je vais parcourir, n’ayant aucunes connoissance, attendant votre bonté d’acquiescer a ma demande—J’ai l’honneur d’être—

très Estimble Monsieur avec une parfaite Consideration & Respect—Votre devoué & hble Serviteur

P. de Valltone

Editors’ Translation

Charlottesville 17 July 1817

Respectable Sir:

Please be so kind as to forgive the liberty I take in addressing myself to you without the honor of being known by you, but I dare flatter myself in advance that you will be so good as to pardon this step on account of the motive that guides and animates me;

I believe that you still remember Mr. Stephen Cathalan of Marseille;—Having left France to come to this country and suffered innumerable misfortunes, which have prevented me from attending to my affairs and returning to my homeland, I thought it would be right, given the unhappy circumstances to which I am reduced at the moment, to acquire some land on the Tombigbee River, which I did. Thinking that I was going to embark from New York for Mobile, I had the honor of forwarding to you a letter given to me by my cousin Cathalan, which I have put in the mail, enclosed in the one I wrote to you then informing you of the detailed circumstances of my affairs, and I have no doubt that you received them at that time;—The ship not having left for the said destination, rather than wait I proceeded via Christiansburg, and have come all the way here on foot. Having learned that you live nearby, I take the liberty of writing you, being unable to walk, in order to obtain your advice regarding the country through which I am about to travel, since I have absolutely no knowledge of it. Waiting in the hope that you will kindly approve of my request—I have the honor to be—

Very estimable Sir, with full consideration and respect—Your devoted and humble servant

P. de Valltone

RC (MHi); between dateline and salutation: “L’Honorable Mr Thoms Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 July 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Translation by Dr. Genevieve Moene.

P. de Valltone also signed himself “Alexr P. Wallona” and was known by TJ’s correspondent Stephen Cathalan as “Alex Paulian Wallong.” According to Valltone, he became secretary to the French minister at Madrid in about 1808 and afterwards served as a supercargo on merchant vessels. He suffered reverses when one of his ships was captured by the British in 1815 and another was subsequently wrecked off the coast of France. Valltone embarked on a third ship for New York but had to be rescued when it was lost in a storm. In 1816 Valltone was in France attempting to claim property that had been owned by his father in the latter’s native city of Nîmes. He soon made the acquaintance of Cathalan, who attempted to assist the young man. The following year Valltone unsuccessfully sought a position as secretary or clerk to an American minister or consul abroad (“Alexr P. Wallona” to James Monroe, 24 Apr. 1817 [DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1817–25]; Cathalan to TJ, 30 Mar. 1818).

TJ did not record receipt of a lettre of introduction from Cathalan or any previous letters from Valltone in SJL or elsewhere, and no such letters have been found. Cathalan later denied that he had written TJ on Valltone’s behalf (TJ to Cathalan, 2 Aug. 1817; Cathalan to TJ, 30 Mar. 1818).

Index Entries

  • Alabama Territory; French settlement in search
  • Cathalan, Stephen (Étienne) (1757–1819); family of search
  • French language; letters in, from; P. de Valltone search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Valltone, P. de search
  • Valltone, P. de; as S. Cathalan’s alleged relation search
  • Valltone, P. de; identified search
  • Valltone, P. de; letters from search
  • Valltone, P. de; proposes to settle in Alabama Territory search
  • Valltone, P. de; visits Monticello search