Enclosure Jean Baptiste de Ternant to Edmund Randolph
from Turner’s lane1 December the 3d 1794
Mr Ternant is sorry that a more immediate answer could not be returned to Mr Randolph’s note of 18th ult. which only came to hand yesterday, owing to its having been carried to a house in town, instead of being Sent directly to Mr Ternant’s own residence.
Mr Randolph saying meerly that he transmits an inclosed letter addressed to the President, on a supposition that Mr T. is acquainted with the subject of it, Mr Ternant must have supposed in his turn, that the said letter was communicated in order to furnish the President with elucidations on its contents: and accordingly, after looking over the journal and notes he used to keep when in office,2 he finds himself enabled to give the following Statement of Mr Le Breton des Chapelles’s claim on the State of Virginia.
That claim, originally of 813 dollars, was the amount of a bill drawn during the american war by Oliver Polluck acknowledged agent for Virginia on Mess. Penet d’Acosta & Co. in favor of Mr favre d’Aunoy who had passed it to the order of Mr Le Breton des Chapelles, his relation and creditor—that bill having been returned protested, Mr de Vergennes, in 1784 charged the king’s minister plenipy in America to endeavour to obtain its liquidation from the debtor State3—Mr Marbois who acted then as chargé des affaires in this country referred the business, as was customary in the course of official functions, to the french Consul in Virginia, Mr Oster, into whose hands it has since remained and was Still at the time of Mr Ternant’s removal from office—In consequence of a resolution from the Council of Virginia, Mr Oster obtained 290,½ 10/72 dollars on account, for which sum, he remitted to Mr des Chapelles in feby 1786, a bill of 1525£ 18s. tournois the amount of which was received by that State creditor.4 the affair remained in that Situation till Mr Ternant’s arrival here in August 1791, when he wrote instantly to Mr Oster and pressed him to urge the payment of the money remaining due to Mr Le Breton des Chapelles: But, notwithstanding every anxious effort used with that view, it was not till february following, that is of 1792, that Mr Oster inclosed to Mr Ternant a letter for Mr Le Breton des Chapelles containing a bill on Paris drawn in favor of the latter to the amount of 1023£ 16s. 4d. tournois, as a full remittance of the monies by him (Mr Oster) received to that day, with a general account, by which it appeared that a balance of 98,2/3 dollars remained Still unpaid by the government of Virginia; and Mr Oster wrote at that time to Mr Ternant that frequent applications had been made in vain for the payement of that trifling balance—that letter of Mr Osters containing the above bill of 1023£ 16.4, with the general account was inclosed in another letter from Mr Ternant to Mr Le Breton des Chapelles, and the whole has been forwarded by duplicate along with an official dispatch of 13th march 1792 to the then Minister for foreign affairs Mr de Lessart—Mr Ternant was since officially informed that the above dispatch, had been received by Mr Dumourier;5 but no answer or letter whatever from Mr Le Breton des Chapelles ever reached Mr Ternant in america, which together with the untoward business of office then on hand, prevented his writing any more to Mr Oster on the subject. Whether the balance due by the State of Virginia has been paid Since or not, Mr Ternant cannot tell—as to the bill of exchange above mentioned, as it was drawn in Mr Le Breton des Chapelles’s own name, the amount of it cannot have been legally paid to any body but himself or his attorney; and if finally the bill did not come to hand, of course Mr Oster can be asked for a renewal or duplicates of the same—But the President will be Sensible that Mr Ternant, cannot without injuring the person he would wish eagerly to serve, address any thing to Mr Oster Consular agent of the french Republic, and much less to Mr fauchet their Minister, on the subject and in favor of an Emigrant—As to pressing the payment of what may yet remain due by the State of Virginia, the same difficulty exists for Mr Ternant, because Mr Oster being officially posessed of the original title (the bill) the balance due thereon can only be discharged into his hands; unless the executive of Virginia by being made acquainted with the peculiarity of the case wuld be prevailed upon to pay it off to another person, as appears fully and consistently practicable—But that neither can be attempted by Mr Ternant, for the President must be convinced, from the recent conduct of the federal government towards him in regard to a most atrocious official calumny, that he cannot expect in a case of this kind to have the least influence or credit with the government of Virginia—It grieves Mr Ternant infinitely not to be in a situation to do what he would wish, on the occasion—But the President may rest assured that no body can be more worthy his generous and humane attention than Mr Le Breton des Chapelles.
AL, DNA: RG 59, Notes from the French Legation.
1. Turner’s Lane was located in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, between the Wissahickon and Germantown Roads.
2. Ternant served as the French minister to the United States from August 1791 to his recall in 1793.
3. For information about the protested bills of Oliver Pollock, see Beauregard and Bourgeois to GW, 14 Oct. 1789, and the source note to that document. The initial creditor probably was Charles Guy Philippe Favre d’Aunoy (1746–c.1780) of New Orleans. The wife of his brother Nicolas Favre d’Aunoy (1747–1814) had a sister who had married Jean Baptiste Césaire Le Breton des Chapelles (1747–1777) at New Orleans. It is possible that GW’s correspondent was Louis Nicolas Gatien Le Breton des Chapelles (1745–1809), a brother of Jean Baptiste, who had returned to France. Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes (1717–1787), was the French secretary of state for foreign affairs from 1774 to 1786.
4. François Barbé-Marbois was stationed at Philadelphia from 1779 to 1785. Martin Oster (c.1741–1827) came to Philadelphia from France in 1778 and was commissioned as vice-consul at Philadelphia later that year. He remained in that post until 1783, when he became vice-consul for Virginia, where he served until recalled in 1792. Oster remained in Virginia after his recall, and he later regained his post as consul (commissary for commercial relations), serving until 1814. On 5 Nov. 1785 the Virginia council directed the state auditors “to issue a Warrant on the Foreign Fund to Mr. Oster, for eighty seven pounds three Shillings and ten pence being in part of a bill drawn by O. Pollock on Penett DCosta & Co. for eight hundred and thirteen Dollars in favor of Philip Favre Dannois & assigned to le’ Gretton Des Chapelles: which warrant is to be receivable in payment for Gosport Lands” (Va. State Council Journals description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia. 5 vols. Richmond, 1931–82. description ends , 3:484).
5. Ternant’s letter of 13 March 1792 about Le Breton des Chapelles can be found in FrPMAE: Cor. Polit., États Unis, vol. 36. For his official dispatch of that date, see Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends , 94–97. None of the other documents have been identified.