Here’s another spectacular document that made its way to the top of the pile when I was thumbing through huge stacks of Monroe nominations. After scanning it briefly, only Gallatin’s selection made much of an impression on me. Yesterday’s more penetrating look revealed that the first great American novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, is mentioned two lines below! I was expecting to find Cooper’s name on a presidential nomination about as much as John Milton’s. It happened nonetheless:
Cooper was chosen to be the American consul at Lyons, France, three months after The Last of the Mohicans was published. Was John Quincy Adams, that avid consumer of belles-lettres, offering Cooper a stimulating sinecure as he prepared the next installment of his Leatherstocking Tales? I don’t know. I do know that Cooper was one of David McCullough’s subjects in The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, and I’d bet Cooper’s French consulship was the occasion for his sojourning in Paris.
Gallatin had plenty of overseas experience—He lived his first nineteen years as a promising young Genevan scholar, and he ended his thirteen-year tenure as Secretary of the Treasury to negotiate with the British at Ghent in 1814. Gallatin was also the American Minister to France from 1816 to 1823. (In an interesting precursor to the 1870 Senate debate over whether to admit Hiram Revels, a sufficient combination of fourteen Federalist Senators refused to seat the duly elected Gallatin in 1794, arguing that he hadn’t met the nine-year citizenship requirement.)
Two more notes: It’s funny to see a government document locate San Antonio in the “Republic of Mexico.” Secondly, C[hristian] F[riedrich] Goehring, JQA’s nominee to be the first American consul at Leipzig, was then a resident of “Leipzig in Saxony.” Christian Friedrich Goehring is a pretty …Prussian-sounding name. Was Goehring then an American citizen, or was he ever an American citizen? I have no idea. I can only find one website with any information on Goehring, and it’s not very informative. I guess the Constitution doesn’t specifically stipulate that only Americans can be appointed to diplomatic positions. Were there any such statutory or executive regulations on the books in 1826? Surely there are now?
My own Gallatin autograph, purchased before I decided to stop buying signatures orphaned from their parent epistles: