Th: Jefferson … regrets that, having no acquaintance in the mercantile line, at Philadelphia, there is not a single house there of whom he is authorised to ask the favor desired by mr Mery, & that his entire unacquaintance with every person & thing connected with money-matters disables him from indicating any other resource for the advance of money mr Mery may have occasion for. he returns him the note from the Marquis de la Fayette … & presents him his salutations.
To Méry, October 6, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need a diplomatic way to say, “Get lost!”
An unknown Frenchman wrote Jefferson from Philadelphia, asking for money. He said the British had robbed him of his reference letters of credit. He needed cash until more could arrive from home. All Méry could offer to establish credibility was to include with his letter one from the President’s old friend, Lafayette, written to someone else.
Jefferson, who innately desired to be helpful, was diplomatic but uncharacteristically abrupt. He knew of no one or no resource who could help Méry. He was returning the letter from Lafayette with his greetings only, and nothing more.