George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 23 February 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

Feb. 23. 1791.

Reasons for not Reporting to the President, at this time, consular nominations for the following ports.

Gottenburg. } no candidate
Amsterdam Greenleaf.
Cadiz P. R. Randolph, (he has not applied lately)
Richd Codman of Massachusets. and
Thomas Thompson.
Lorient Vale.

It is desireable there should be a greater choice of candidates; and appointments at those ports are not very pressing.

The Canary islands. the recommendations of John & Jasper Moylan in favour of John Culnan are as pointed as could be desired. but themselves are unknown to me, as well as the circumstances of connection &c. which may exist between them & the candidate. if they are so known to the President as to satisfy him, or if the Candidate be otherwise known to him & approved, the nomination might go in the following form ‘John Culnan, citizen of the U.S. late of it’s armies, & now a merchant at Teneriffe, to be Vice-consul of the U.S. for the Canary islands.’ if the President be not satisfied, there will be no harm in taking time, for enquiry, till another session.

Alicant. candidate Robert Montgomery. } appointments are not yet made for the Mediterranean.
Malaga, candidate Wm Kirkpatrick.

whenever they shall be, I know no person for Alicant who stands on better ground than Montgomery. Kirkpatrick would be inadmissible at Malaga, as being a foreigner, and of a nation not in favour in that country.1

Lisbon. Thomas Thompson } candidates.
John Telles

Thompson is a good man: but a drunkard & bankrupt, & not a native.

Telles is a good man & a sober one, but bankrupt & not a native.

Bulkeley is a good man, very opulent, & of long establishment in Lisbon. but the weight of evidence (tho not certain) is that he is an Englishman by birth: he is certainly a member of the English factory at Lisbon, and his sentiments during the war, were those of an Englishman. he travelled in America before the war, & has great commercial connections with it. but his birth and sentiments seem to set him aside.

it rests then with the President to say whether Telles shall be appointed, or let it lie till other candidates may offer. Telles’s circumstances are the great objection to him, for that of his not being a native, could I suppose be got over. the low reputation of our merchants, as to their credit, in foreign countries, will be confirmed rather than relieved by sending abroad as Consuls those who are under difficulties. if the President thinks proper to name Telles, it may be as follows[:]

“John Telles, citizen of Pennsylvania, Consul for the United States at the port of Lisbon in Portugal and for such parts within the allegiance of her most faithful Majesty, as shall be nearer thereto than to the residence of any other Consul or Viceconsul of the U.S. within the same allegiance.”

Santa Cruz. I had thought that as St Thomas’s was a free port, and Santa Cruz pretty much restricted, the former would be the proper position for a Consul, & the latter an Agent. but on further enquiry among mercantile men, I find that there do not go above 20. vessels of ours a year to St Thomas’s, while about 200 go to Santa Cruz⟨;⟩ as it is from thence we draw a great part of our sugars. I am therefore of opinion that it will be more importance to provide a patronage for our vessels at Santa Cruz, because there are more of them, and less protected; those which go to St Thomas’s being protected by the freedom of the port. if this be decided on, I think mr Yard an unexceptionable candidate: and therefore propose a nomination for

“James Yard, of Pennsylvania, to be Consul for the U.S. in the island of Santa Cruz and such other ports within the allegiance of his Danish majesty as shall be nearer thereto than to the residence of any other Consul or Vice-consul of the U.S. within the same allegiance.”2

Th: Jefferson

ADS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ADS (letterpress copy), DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

Jefferson prepared a draft memorandum on the various candidates for consular positions dated 21 Feb. 1791. The most conspicuous difference between the draft version and this final one presented to GW involved Jefferson’s comments on the candidacy of John Telles to be consul at Lisbon. Telles was a native of Portugal who had settled in Philadelphia, where he engaged in a profitable trade with his homeland. In the spring of 1790, Telles had been forced to the verge of bankruptcy by the refusal of a favorite of the Portuguese court to accept a shipment of some 80,000 barrels of flour Telles had contracted to deliver. Philadelphia merchant John Swanwick joined Robert Morris in urging Telles’s appointment as consul to facilitate Telles’s efforts to pursue restitution for his losses in Portugal—efforts that were in the interest of Telles’s American creditors, including the Philadelphia firm of Willing, Morris, & Swanwick. In his draft Jefferson noted that Telles was “well recommended by Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Swanwick. He is not a native, but has very long resided here. His affairs are deranged, if not bankrupt” (Jefferson’s Draft Memorandum on Consular Vacancies, 21 Feb. 1791, 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 19:313–16). GW decided to wait for another candidate. Two days before the third session of the First Congress expired, a group of Telles’s American creditors, including several of the leading merchants of Philadelphia and New York, addressed a letter to Jefferson further urging Telles’s appointment. This appeal was apparently referred by Jefferson to GW (Willing, Morris, & Swanwick, et al. to Jefferson, 1 Mar. 1791, enclosing an undated printed circular outlining the circumstances of Telles’s misfortune, endorsed by Jefferson as received on 2 Mar. 1791, DLC:GW). GW was apparently unmoved by the appeal and made no appointment at Lisbon at this time. Telles continued thereafter to seek the appointment without success.

1William Kirkpatrick, an Englishman living in Spain, was recommended to GW for the consulship at Málaga by George Cabot in a letter dated Beverly, Mass., 29 Jan. 1791. Kirkpatrick, Cabot wrote, was “a member of the house of Messieurs Grivegnee & Co. of Malaga” and “wishes to have the honor of serving the United states in the character of Consul for that port.” Cabot did not claim to be personally acquainted with Kirkpatrick but noted that “having been led by my profession to make frequent visits to Spain, among other intimacies I formed one with the Principals of the commercial establishment to which Mr Kirkpatrick belongs” and “that these have desired my testimony on this occasion” (DLC:GW). Kirkpatrick received no appointment from GW but was appointed consul at Málaga to succeed Michael Murphy by John Adams in January 1800 (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 332).

2GW nominated James Yard to be consul at Santa Cruz (St. Croix) on 23 Feb. 1791 (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 23 Feb. 1791). The Senate confirmed the appointment on 24 Feb. 1791 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 2:120–21). Jefferson wrote to Yard on the same day, outlining his duties (Jefferson to Yard, 24 Feb. 1791, 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 19:319–20). Yard served as consul until 31 May 1792.

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