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Little mention of Denmark[1], its people, or its culture can be found in Jefferson's correspondence. While American minister in France, Jefferson began negotiating a treaty of amity and commerce with Denmark, with its representative, the Baron de Blome. No treaty was signed, however, during Jefferson's European stay.

The rankling issue of Denmark's return to Britain of three ships captured by John Paul Jones during the American Revolution also remained unsettled, even during Jefferson's years as Secretary of State. In that post, Jefferson appointed the first American consul in Denmark, a Dane named Hans Rodolphe Saabye. He asked Saabye in 1792 to assure his government that "we are desirous to cultivate a reciprocation of favors, good offices and interests with them, and to encourage a mutual commerce on the most liberal grounds. Their subjects participate here of every right of the most favored nations, and we rely on their justice and friendship to receive ours with the like favor."[2]

After Jefferson's inauguration as President, the Danish charge Peder Pedersen was the first diplomatic envoy to be received by the new executive. There is no record that Pedersen was offended by Jefferson's informal attire, including slippers, as was British minster Anthony Merry some time later. Pedersen became a part of the Monticello family folklore, when he upset the dessert course on his head while dining at the President's House.

Jefferson's Library

Jefferson had at least three works on Denmark in his library. One of them, Robert Molesworth's Account of Denmark (1694), was famous among American revolutionary patriots for its exhibition of how the preservation of liberty was dependent on the vigilance of the people.

  • Lord Robert Viscount Molesworth. Lord Molesworth's account of Denmark. Glasgow: Printed by R. Urie, 1752. Sowerby, 1:112.
  • Paul Henri Mallet. Histoire de Dannemarc. Geneva, 1763. Sowerby, 1:113.
  • Frederik Thaarup. Statistic of the Danish Monarchy. Udgave, Kiobenhavn, 1794. Sowerby, 3:43.

Primary Source References[3]

1786 May 12. (Jefferson to John Jay). "In the month of February, the Baron de Blome, minster plenipotentiary at this court from Denmark, informed me that he was instructed by his court to give notice to the ministers from the United States, appointed to negotiate a treaty of commerce with them..."[4]

1788 November 14. (Jefferson to John Jay). "I have received no answer yet from Denmark on the subject of the prizes: nor do I know whether to ascribe this silence to an intention to evade the demand, or to the multitude of affairs they have had on their hands lately."[5]

1790 August 26. (Jefferson to William Short). "Mr Campbell... asked me when a minster would be appointed to that court [Denmark] or a character sent to negotiate a treaty of commerce...that with respect to Denmark particularly, I might safely express to him those sentiments of friendship which our government entertained for that country..."[6]

1821. (Autobiography-As Minister Plenipotentiary in Paris). "Denmark and Tuscany entered also into negotiations with us."[7]


  1. This is based on Lucia Stanton, Monticello Research Report, June 1991.
  2. PTJ, 24:620.
  3. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  4. 'PTJ, 9:514-515.
  5. Ibid., 14:62.
  6. Ford, 6:137.
  7. Peterson, Writings, 57.
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