Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin de Chastellier to Thomas Jefferson, 2 May 1821

From Benjamin de Chastellier

New Orleans 2d day of May 1821.

To Thomas Jefferson
 The friend of the American people!

I had the pleasure Sir to pay You a Visit Some time last Summer, Under the humble garb of a pilgrim, I have now finished my Tour and am about to retire to my native Country.

I am in great distress, destitute of Cloathing and of means to pay my passage!

Be it remembered that I am the person Who Sometime in the Year 1814 gave certain information to Mr James Munroe then Secretary of State, respecting the Character of a Certain General Willot, then residing in Baltimore employed in the dissemination of Seductive means of Corruption, to enslave the American people!

It was through his agency that Moreau was Seduced.

It was him who established “the Federal Republican1 in Baltimore, Whose Seditious productions excited the unhappy riot which produced a change in the politicks of Maryland!

The penetration with which I discovered the general plot, my disposition as an American Citizen to make it Known drew on me the general wrath of that infernal assotiation of Villains!

I have by their persecutions become totally ruined! in reputation and in purse! yet I beg leave to assure You, that I am peculiarly attached to the Well thinking portion of the Citizens of the United States of America. I beg leave to request of you Sir, as a favor, to preserve these papers.

And to believe me your obt Servt

Benja de Chastellier

RC (MHi); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ as received 30 May 1821, with his additional notation: “insane,” and so recorded in SJL.

Benjamin de Chastellier, a native of Saint Domingue, was a merchant and broker in Baltimore from 1805 until 1812. He was both imprisoned for debt and released in the latter year, when he was also expelled from his local Masonic lodge and tried and acquitted in Annapolis on a charge of murder. Chastellier was later imprisoned in a penitentiary for fraud. By 1820 he was running a school for young men in the Tidewater region of Virginia. After spending some time in New Orleans, Chastellier moved to Lexington, Kentucky (Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, 20 Feb., 7 May 1805, 13 June, 14 Oct. 1812; Fry’s Baltimore Directory, for the year 1812 [Baltimore, 1812], 17; Baltimore Patriot, 19 Feb. 1813; Early Records of the Grand Lodge of the State of Vermont, F. & A. M., from 1794 to 1846 inclusive [1879], 152; American Beacon and Norfolk & Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, 29 Mar. 1820; Lexington Kentucky Gazette, 11 Mar. 1824).

Alexander Contee Hanson, one of the founding proprietors of the Baltimore federal republican and Commercial Gazette, moved the publication from Baltimore to Georgetown in 1812 after a mob destroyed its offices in response to the newspaper’s attacks against President James Madison and the War of 1812 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, 1947, 2 vols. description ends , 1:235).

1Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Baltimore, Md.; newspapers search
  • Chastellier, Benjamin de; identified search
  • Chastellier, Benjamin de; letter from search
  • Chastellier, Benjamin de; mistreatment of search
  • Chastellier, Benjamin de; Notes on His Mistreatment and Napoleon’s Liberation search
  • Chastellier, Benjamin de; visits Monticello search
  • Federal Republican & Commercial Gazette (Baltimore newspaper) search
  • Hanson, Alexander Contee; as newspaper editor search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); criticized search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); as secretary of state search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Chastellier, Benjamin de search
  • Moreau, Jean; mentioned search
  • newspapers; BaltimoreFederal Republican & Commercial Gazette search
  • War of1812; opposition to search
  • Willot, Amédée; character of search