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Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Official Letter to the Executive Directory of the Batavian Republic, Signed: 1801

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  • Title: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Official Letter to the Executive Directory of the Batavian Republic, Signed
  • Author: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
  • Date: 1801
  • Condition: See bottom of description
  • Inches: Bifolium 18.5" x 11.5"
  • Centimeters: 46.99 x 29.21
  • Product ID: 308092

Jefferson Seeks Friendship and Harmony with the Dutch During the First Barbary War

Exceptionally fine letter with bold signature by Thomas Jefferson, as President and James Madison, as Secretary of State. This letter was sent by Jefferson on behalf of the United States to the Executive Directory of the Batavian Republic (now the Netherlands) to inform them that:

William Vans Murray, their Minister Resident near the Batavian Republic, admitting of his absence, we have yielded to his request to be permitted to return to America...

However, the primary intent of the document was to assure the government of the Batavian Republic of the "friendship" of the United States and the desire for continued "harmony." These assurances were particularly important as the Barbary pirates were putting enormous pressure on United States commerce. Perplexingly, Murray's post was not soon filled by the appointment of a new envoy; in fact, the post remained vacant for well over a decade until William Eustis was appointed as Minister of the United States to the Netherlands in 1815.

This manuscript document was signed by "Th: Jefferson" and "James Madison" on 30 May 1801 in Washington, D.C. The document is addressed on verso "To the Executive Directory of the Batavian Republic" and includes a partial white paper embossed seal with the emblem of the Great Seal of the United States, docketed by secretarial hand in Paris on 9 August, 1801.

The Batavian Republic was proclaimed in 1795 as the successor to the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and lasted until 1806 when the provinces came under French occupation as the Kingdom of Holland and then part of the French Empire. The Kingdom of the Netherlands finally gained independence in March 1815.

Clearly the United States needed close relationships with European allies as the Barbary states were ceaselessly harassing American merchantmen and ransoming their crews.  After the Revolutionary War, American shipping lost the protection of Great Britain and became subject to Barbary predations.  The Barbary pirates captured and enslaved or held for ransom more than one million Europeans between the 16th and 19th centuries.  Just prior to Jefferson's inauguration in 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that "shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct." In the event of a declaration of war on the United States by the Barbary powers, these ships were to "protect our commerce and chastise their insolence—by sinking, burning or destroying their ships and vessels wherever you shall find them."

On Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 (equivalent to $3.66 million in 2022) from the new administration. It was a long-standing tradition that, if a government was changed or the consular was changed, said government would have to pay tribute in the form of ‘consular' gifts, in either gold or in goods, usually military and naval stores to the Barbary powers (in 1800, federal revenues totaled a little over $10 million).  Putting his long-held beliefs into practice, Jefferson refused the demand. Consequently, because of this, along with the Americans not paying the money nor the gifts as stated in the treaty signed in 1796 between Tripoli and America, on 10 May 1801, the Pasha declared war on the United States, not through any formal written documents but in the customary Barbary manner of cutting down the flagstaff in front of the United States Consulate. Algiers and Tunis did not follow their ally in Tripoli.

Condition:  Four leaf bifolium with strong signatures by Jefferson and Madison, issued folding and now flattened with a few short separations and small holes along the folds. There is light soiling, minor toning, and a few spots of foxing.