Thomas Jefferson Papers

From David Bailie Warden to James Monroe, 1 August 1819

Paris 1 August 1819


my silence for the last five years has arisen from an inflexible consciousness of the rectitude of my whole conduct in relation to our government. I did indeed hope that the secret plans of intrigue and calumny, which time has now unravelled, would have long since lost their force; and that the government of the United States, when duly informed, would not have delayed a day in making reparation to one of her most zealous and faithful citizens, for the injustice, which however involuntary, was certainly unmerited.

nevertheless a considerable time has elapsed, and the effects of my disgrace far from being softened or relaxed by time, continue, on the contrary, to affect me with accumulative asperity and intenseness in the midst of the painful efforts of honest industry. The malignity of my enemies seems to have acuminated by the unaccountable forgetfulness and dereliction in which I have been left by the government which I so honourably served during ten years.

In this painful situation an honest man who has exercised important public functions, and who was fortunate enough in receiving at the time the approbation of all parties, in the midst of great political divisions, under circumstances of excessive delicacy and difficulty, is bound to defend his honour when attacked; and to evince not that he was worthy to occupy the place he held, but that he has not deserved to lose it.

It is not my intention, sir, at present, to enter into all the details of a justification, of which the ground-work has been long before you; and I now wait the honour of an answer to render it public.

I would request you only to consider the situation in which I was placed, and the very critical circumstances according it on which I must insist for my justification, for it appears that industrious calumny has profited of these to injure me in my relations to my superiors in office.

The numerous communications which I have forwarded to the Department of State, have enabled the government to know the whole truth: If, as I hope, these documents have been examined cooly and impartially, they will remove even the shadow of culpability. In the affair of Commodore Rodgers, as in the events which followed the death of the minister mr. Barlow, the protests urged against me are so weak and illusory, that is would insult your understanding to call your attention for a moment to them. In the one case, I was supported by the principles and practice of maritime and Commercial Law; in the other, I submitted to the forms and usages of the government by which I was accredited. In both I was disinterested and passive, having neither the power to counteract the nepotism of Madame Barlow, nor to hasten the admission of the letters of credence of mr Crawford, in relation to the chief of the French government, who was there at an immence distance from the Capital in the midst of his Camps. such are nevertheless the only grounds of these suspicions which engendered and fed by rancour and hatred, have at last burst out into a storm so artfully and so long prepared.

How otherwise explain the marked apathy with which my communications were ever received by the government? How divine the dead silence which it still observes towards me? How interpret the terrible reception of mr. Crawford, my destitution, and the violent, arbitrary, and unusual proceedings which accompanied it?

who can believe that the motive of such conduct towards me, was grounded solely on a Claim addressed from pure and loyal motives to our minister, in honour of the arms of the United States suspended and prostituted in different places of the metropolis of France?

With these Circumstances altogether extraordinary, we must not forget that of Which the new minister was the sad and unfortunate organ. I am reproached according to him of having had improper Relations with the French government.

From whatever quarter this injurious charge has proceeded (more disgusting and contemptible than all the rest) I repel it with the pride of innocence and the indignation of contempt.

no doubt the courage with which I uniformly defended the public and private interests of the United States ought to have excited surprise in all upright and honourable minds; but it gave birth to the suspicions of certain men too notorious for their intrigues, cupidity, and dishonourable failures. Such men, to whom money is every thing, will not readily understand, that the love of Science can open to a Diplomatic agent the way to the consideration and esteem of the Chiefs of the government by which he is accredited. It is natural for them to make a crime of that consideration which they do not themselves enjoy, and to view with jealousy its influence when employed to the advantage either of the public or it Individuals.

But, sure I am, Sir, that it is not from such men, nor from such impure source, that you have derived the principles upon which my conduct is to be viewed and canvassed.

In addressing myself to you, Sir, to obtain redress as just as it is essential to my honour and necessary to my repose, I have the firm confidence, that the recollection of former relations is not entirely effaced from your memory. no one is more just than the President of a great Republic, and no one is more capable, or willing than you, Sir, of repairing the injustice of which I am the innocent victim: but if unfortunately my hopes should be disappointed: if the cruel persecution which I experience should be sanctioned by your silence (it is impossible it can be with your approbation) I have no other resource than that of searching into the past, interrogating contemporaries, drawing however reluctantly, my own portrait before the face of my enemy, and of establishing a series of facts which will have at least the merit of justifying me in the eyes of the American Congress, of my fellow Citizens in general, and the distinguished men of Europe, who honour me with their friendship and esteem.—

d. B. W.


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