George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 26 July 1790

To Thomas Jefferson

United States [New York] July 26th 1790

The President of the United States transmits to the Secretary of State, to report thereon,1 a memorial2 of Monsr deletombe,3 Consul of France, to the Legislature of Massachusetts, respecting certain parts of the Consular Convention agreed upon by and between his most Christian Majesty and the President of the United States—together with a Resolution4 of that Legislature upon said memorial; and a letter from Governor Hancock to the President5 enclosing said memorial & Resolution—and

A Representation,6 addressed to the President & Senate of the United States, from sundry Merchants and Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, of the inconveniencies resulting to Americans who settle in the French West India Islands, from the Droit d’aubaine prevailing against them there; and praying an interference on the part of the United States with the Court of France on this subject. Four other papers7 attesting the facts stated in the Representation accompany it.8

L, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers.

For the background to the Franco-American Consular Convention signed by the American minister to France, Thomas Jefferson, on 14 Nov. 1788, see Moustier to GW, 1 May 1789, n.2, GW to the U.S. Senate, 11 June 1789 and note 1, Ratification of the Consular Convention, 9 Sept. 1789, Proclamation, 9 April 1790; Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 14:66–180.

1For Jefferson’s consultations with the president on the consular convention, see GW to John Hancock, 28 Aug. 1790 and notes.

2John Avery, Jr.’s 7 June 1790 copy of Philippe de Létombe’s memorial to the Massachusetts legislature is written in French and English in parallel columns and can be found in DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers. The French consul at Boston complained about a clause in the ninth article of the Consular Convention stipulating that all deserters from the French navy whom he might arrest be freed if they were not returned to France within three months. Létombe also requested that the state pass legislation to facilitate execution of the twelfth article of the convention empowering consuls to determine all differences and suits between French subjects under their jurisdiction without local or state interference and with appeals only to French tribunals.

3Philippe-André-Joseph de Létombe (b. 1738) had studied law at the University of Douai and was appointed French consul general to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut in December 1779, arriving at Boston in June 1781. Ill health forced his return to France on a leave of absence from July 1785 until the summer of 1786. Rhode Island College (Brown University) awarded Létombe an honorary Master of Arts degree in September 1791, and he was recalled with most of the French consular corps in December 1792. He returned to the United States as consul general in June 1795 and served as minister plenipotentiary from May 1797 to June 1798 (Nasatir and Monell, French Consuls in the U.S., description begins Abraham P. Nasatir and Gary Elwyn Monell. French Consuls in the United States: A Calendar of their Correspondence in the Archives Nationales. Washington, D.C., 1967. description ends 12, 13, 35, 37, 38, 43–44, 54, 563).

4The legislative resolution of 24 June 1790, attested to by secretary John Avery, Jr., requested the governor to transmit to GW Létombe’s 7 June memorial in order that “the President of the United States may take such order thereon, as the importance of the subject justly deserves” (DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers).

5Hancock’s 20 July 1790 letter to GW reads: “I have to acquaint you that Monsr deletombe, Consul of France presented a Memorial to the two branches of the Legislature at their late Session, & after a full investigation they resolved to refer the subject to your Consideration that such order may be had thereon as its nature & importance may require—Inpursuance of their request I have the Honor to transmit to you a Copy of his Memorial & their resolution.” The cover, which has been separated from its letter, bears a note in Jefferson’s hand: “Consular convention, explanatory law” (DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers).

6The undated representation to GW and the U.S. Senate was signed by Stephen Gorham, David Sears, Henry Higginson, James Bowdoin, Jonathan Jackson, Joseph Hurd, Caleb Gibbs, Russell Sturgis, James Lowell, Thomas Handasyd Perkins, and forty-three other Massachusetts merchants who were alarmed at instances of French West Indian officials ignoring the exemption from the droit d’aubaine granted American citizens in French territory by the eleventh article of the Franco-American treaty of amity and commerce (DNA: RG 59, Duplicate Despatches). Silvanus Bourne wrote Jefferson from Boston on 8 July 1790: “Since my return here I have been surprised to hear that the French Govt in the West Indies have lately put in practice the droit d’Aubines, in one or two instances Contrary both to our treaty of Commerce & the Convention lately published—a petition or memorial on the subject addressed to Congress is now in Contemplation with our merchants here. Monsieur L’Etombe I am also informed is about to request of Govt that some provision should be made directing in what manner the decrees of Consuls shall be put in force by the Executive Power where they reside” (DLC:GW). Jefferson received Bourne’s letter on 14 July and passed it on to the president.

7The enclosed papers have not been completely identified but probably included the 22 April 1790 affidavit of James Perkins, Jr., of Boston that Jefferson sent to American chargé d’affaires William Short in France a month later (see GW to Hancock, 28 Aug. 1790, source note; Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 17:434n.).

8For GW’s reply to Hancock’s letter of 20 July 1790, see GW to Hancock, 28 Aug. 1790.

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