Alexander Hamilton Papers

Conversation with George Hammond, [January 1794]

Conversation with George Hammond1

[Philadelphia, January, 1794]

I have the honor of informing your Lordship, that Mr. Shoolbred communicated to me in a letter dated the 9th of January last, which I received towards the end of that or early in the beginning of the succeeding month, the circumstance of certain British seamen, who had been captured on board of the ship Friendship, by the French sloop of war the Lascasas, (and who with the vessel were brought into Charleston) having been removed from the sloop of war into another vessel, which had been fitted up as a prison ship. Mr. Shoolbred farther stated to me the measures he had pursued for obtaining in the first instance the enlargement of the prisoners, and the very spirited and judicious remonstrances, which he had addressed to the Government of South Carolina on this flagrant breach of neutrality. Immediately on the receipt of Mr. Shoolbred’s letter, it was my intention to have submitted the substance of it to the Secretary of State; but I was induced to suspend that intention, in consequence of a previous incidental conversation which I had with Mr. Hamilton, and in which that Gentleman informed me, that the general government having received intimation of a design on the part of the officers and crews of the French privateers in Charleston to establish a prison ship in that port; positive orders had been about ten days before issued to the Governors of South Carolina instantly to oppose the execution of it.

D, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Series 5, Vol. 5.

1This conversation has been taken from Hammond to Lord Grenville, June 8, 1794, Dispatch No. 23.

On April 3, 1794, Lord Grenville wrote to Hammond: “I send you inclosed Copy of a letter from Commodore [Rupert] George of His Majesty’s Ship Hussar to Mr. [James] Schoolbred the Vice Consul at Charleston.… As the object which Commodore George had in view when he wrote the Letter in question namely the confinement of many of His Majesty’s Subjects in a Prison Ship by the french in the Harbour of Charleston was of great importance,… you will … enquire into the fact itself, and, if you shall find it to be true,… you will make the necessary Representations upon it to the American Government” (Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1936 (Washington, 1941), III. description ends , 53).

In his letter to Lord Grenville on June 8, 1794, Hammond wrote that “the crews of one ship and of a small schooner only were confined for about a month in the prison ship, and … every complaint that I could have made on the occasion was anticipated by the general government with a promptitude and decision, which I should have been happy to have seen more frequently exerted.” Hammond observed, however, that “the prisoners on their removal to the Sloop of war, were immediately put in irons, and most cruelly treated in conformity to directions from Mr. Genêt to the French Consul at Charleston [Michel Ange Bernard de Mangourit], and in retaliation, as he asserted, for the treatment experienced by a person … who was captured by the Boston frigate” (D, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Series 5, Vol. 5).

On February 21, 1794, Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet, the former secretary of the French Executive Council, arrived in Philadelphia to replace Edmond Charles Genet as French Minister to the United States. On May 26, 1794, he wrote the following letter to Antoine-Louis Fonspertuis, who had become French consul at Charleston on March 8, 1794: “I have learned with equal pain and indignation, the treatment given by citizen Mangourit, to some English prisoners in retaliation for what the French have suffered in the English islands. Immediately on the receipt of my letter you will repair on board the vessel in which they are confined; you will break their irons, you will treat them as brethren, for they are men, and they are disarmed; you will make them publicly that raparation to which they are entitled; you will assure them that the conduct hitherto observed towards them is repugnant both to the principles and views of the National Convention …” (The [New York] Daily Advertiser, May 26, 1794, Supplement).

To this letter Fonspertuis added the following note: “… After causing these unfortunate prisoners to be immediately set at liberty, I conceived it a reparation justly due to them, to publish the letter which the minister plenipotentiary wrote to me on their account” (The Daily Advertiser, May 26, 1794, Supplement).

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