Little mention of Denmark, its people, or its culture can be found in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence. While American minister in France, Jefferson began negotiating a treaty of amity and commerce with Denmark, through the Danish minister to France, 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 Saabÿe. He asked Saabÿe 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 recieve ours with the like favor."1
After Jefferson's inauguration as U.S. President, the Danish chargé d'affaires, Peder Pedersen, was the first diplomatic envoy to be received by the new executive. 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.2
Thomas 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.
1786 May 12. (Jefferson to John Jay). "In the month of February the Baron de Blome, minister plenipotentiary at this court from Denmark informed me that he was instructed by his court to take notice to the Ministers from the U.S. appointed to negotiate a treaty of commerce with them ... that they were sensible of the advantages which would arise to the two countries from a commercial intercourse ... [and] desirous of continuing on the terms of the strictest harmony and friendship with them."3
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."4
1790 August 26. (Jefferson to William Short). "Mr. Campbell ... asked me when a minister 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, and assurances that the king’s subjects would always meet with favor and protection here ...."5
1821. (Thomas Jefferson Autobiography: Minister Plenipotentiary in Paris). "Denmark and Tuscany entered also into negociations with us."6
- Lucia Stanton, 6/1991
1. Circular to Consuls and Vice-Consuls, November 14, 1792, in PTJ, 24:620n. See paragraph (10). Transcription available at Founders Online.