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    Jefferson looks for office space for the Department of Foreign Affairs

    Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed as Secretary of State. One page, 8" x 9.75", Philadelphia; September 7, 1790. Letter to Henry Remsen, Jr., Chief Clerk in the U.S. State Department, about finding office space in Philadelphia and asking that he purchase pens and inkpots.

    Dear Sir

    I find some difficulty in getting an office, and therefore leave it in charge with my landlord, Mr. Lieper to procure me one, convenient. when the papers are brought on therefore, you will only have to apply to him, and he will have provided one. he lives in Water street between Arch and Market streets.

    There are at Berry & Rogers's in New York some small pocket inkpots of silver, with a silver pen to them, the whole not more than 4. or 5. inches long, and half or three quarters of an inch diameter in the thickest part. I saw one of them in possession of Mr. Nelson, who tells me he bought it there & that there are others remaining. I will thank you to get me one of the smallest of them, & keep it till I see you. I am with great esteem Dr. Sir Your most obedt. servt.,

    Th: Jefferson

    P.S. Your favor, written a day or two after I left N. York is recieved [sic]. I am now setting out on my journey.

    In 1790, the United States government moved from New York City to Philadelphia, which became the temporary capital of the United States until 1800, when it moved to permanent quarters in Washington, D.C. With the State Department or the Department of Foreign Affairs not having its own building, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had to find office space. As he states in this letter to State Department Chief Clerk Remsen, Jefferson has asked his landlord to find him office space. He asks Remsen to procure him inkpots with pens. He also mentions a letter he received from Remsen soon after he left New York. That letter from Remsen, dated September 2, 1790, contained erroneous intelligence of a recent battle between English and Spanish fleets, where the Spanish lost four ships.

    This is an interesting letter showing that prominent men of government, such as Jefferson, were responsible for finding their own office space and the accoutrements that go with it.

    Henry Remsen, Jr. (1762-1843), from New York, served as Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs under Secretary John Jay from March 1784 to July 1789, when he was appointed chief clerk in the Department of Foreign Affairs. He served in this capacity until December of 1789. In September 1790, around the time of this letter from Secretary of State Jefferson, Remsen was appointed chief clerk of the department, a post he held until March 1792.

    Condition: The letter has two horizontal folds that have been reinforced or repaired on the verso with tape. Otherwise, the letter is in good condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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