I recieved last night your favor of the 11th. requesting letters of introduction to England & France for your son … being shortly to write to Genl. Armstrong in Paris & Colo. Monro in London I will with pleasure ask their attentions to your son … with respect to the pecuniary aid desired in the contingency of his wanting it, this could not possibly be taken from any public funds … no circumstance would authorise me to ask it of Genl. Armstrong or Colo. Monroe … prudent precautions taken by your son would prevent his having occasion for this recurrence …
Thomas Jefferson to Robert Gamble, June 15, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
There are limits to the honest help any leader should give.
Gamble wrote to the President asking for letters of introduction for his 23 year old son, soon to depart for Europe to promote his commercial ventures. Early in his administration, Jefferson decided it was improper for him to give such introductions in any official capacity. On rare occasions, he would write a private note to an acquaintance on behalf of someone. He offered to do that for young Gamble.
Dad also asked for a temporary line of credit, $400-500, should his son find himself in financial distress. Jefferson turned him down cold! Public funds were not an option, and he would not ask the ones receiving the introduction to help out privately. In addition to that, if his son took “prudent precautions,” there should be no need.