From Edmund Randolph
Department of State, January 3, 1795. “I beg leave to lay before you a letter of the 25th. ultimo from the Governor of Virginia with its inclosures.1 As they relate to a transaction during the embargo,2 which has been principally connected with the Treasury Department, I must request you to institute such inquiries, or furnish me with such information, as will possess me of the whole affair. I have written to the Governor, that he had better specify any particular objects, which he may have in view.3 But as the general government may be required to examine the case for its own sake, I have considered your department, as the legal channel for this purpose.”
LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives.
1. Robert Brooke’s letter to Randolph merely states that he is sending some enclosures, but does not identify them or discuss their contents (LC, Virginia State Library, Richmond). Their contents, however, are described in the following letter from Brigadier General Thomas Matthews of the Virginia militia to Governor Henry Lee on April 8, 1794: “I hold it my duty to give you every information respecting the steps I have taken to enforce the Act of Congress imposing an Embargo. Last evening I received information that a fast sailing Boat, which had been the property of the British Consul [John Hamilton], and which was said to be by Him sold to Mr. [Alexander] MacCauley, was about to depart the State. I immediately directed an officer to take charge of the Boat & unbind the sails. This was done without violence or injury to the property.
“On enquiry I find the Boat to be the property; of the British Consul, and have in person offered to restore Her to him on condition that His word should be given that the Boat should not depart the State. Contrary to my expectation, the Consul refused to receive Her, alledging that the Boat being his property and taken from his care without his permission, he would represent the case to his Government. I told him he was at liberty to make any representation, but that I know of no exemption in the Act of Congress for his Boat or any other. I have been thus particular in this case that information, if necessary, may be forwarded to the General Government. I have directed the Boat to be secured, and given orders for Her safe-keeping. I shall be happy in receiving any instructions that the Executive may communicate.” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, VII description begins Sherwin McRae and Raleigh Colston, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts, from January 1, 1794, to May 16, 1795, VII (Richmond, 1888). description ends , 103–04.)
2. On March 26, 1794, the Senate and House of Representatives resolved “That an embargo be laid on all ships and vessels in the ports of the United States … for the term of thirty days …” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 400). On April 18, 1794, the embargo was extended until May 25, 1794 (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 401).
3. This is a reference to Randolph’s letter to Brooke of January 3, 1795, which acknowledged the receipt of Brooke’s letter “of the 25th ultimo” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives).