From Edmund Randolph
The Department of State
January 5th 1795.
I informed the President, that you were of opinion, that the public service would not be at all affected by the absence of the Revenue Cutter of Philadelphia, on a voyage to the British West Indies, for the accommodation of those Merchants, who have suffered by spoliation &c: In consequence thereof he instructed me to inform you, that he had no objection that she should be dispatched for the purpose of collecting records, as is contemplated by the Committee of Merchants, of which Mr. Fitzsimons is the Chairman.1 I shall therefore request that Gentleman to call upon you,2 that her departure may be arranged, and must take the liberty of requesting you to confer with him upon the occasion.3
I have the honor to be, Sir, &c:
LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives.
1. Thomas FitzSimons, a Philadelphia merchant, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1795. The other members of the committee of merchants were James Yard, Stephen Girard, James Olden, and Joseph Shoemaker (The [Philadelphia] Pennsylvania Gazette, November 19, 1794).
The committee of merchants had already met with Randolph to discuss the British order in council of August 6, 1794. See Randolph to John Jay, October 11, 1794 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 2, August 22, 1793–June 1, 1795, National Archives). The order in council of August 6, 1794, reads: “Whereas in many of His Majesty’s vice admiralty courts in the West Indies, sentences of condemnation have passed against ships and goods belonging to the subjects of the United States of America: And whereas, from ignorance of the rules respecting the times of appealing, or from inability to find the security required, or from other just and reasonable impediments, the claimants have been prevented from duly entering and prosecuting their appeals from the said sentences: And whereas it hath been represented to His Majesty, on their behalf, that they are desirous of entering and prosecuting the same: His Majesty is thereupon pleased, by and with the advice of his privy council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, that the said parties shall be admitted to their respective appeals, notwithstanding the ordinary times for entering and prosecuting the same may have elapsed; provided the same are entered and prosecuted in a reasonable time, to be approved of by the lords commissioners of appeals in prize causes” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 482). See also the British order in council of November 6, 1793 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 430).
On November 19, 1794, the following notice appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette: “At the special request of the Secretary of State, the Committee appointed by the Merchants of Philadelphia, have undertaken to obtain copies of the proceedings of the Courts in the British Islands, in the West-Indies: Bermuda, the Bahamas, and in their colonies in North America, upon the case of American vessels, and property, tried in the Courts of any of the said Islands or Colonies.
“The Committee therefore give this public notice, that all persons concerned, who have not already obtained authentic proceedings in their particular cases, may furnish the Secretary of State with the names of the vessels and masters, the places w[h]ere the trial was had, the time when, and other circumstances as the nature of the case may require….”
2. In a letter to FitzSimons, dated January 5, 1795, Randolph wrote: “From the inclosed copy of my letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, you will perceive, that the President of the United States, ever anxious to accomodate the merchants, suffering under British spoliation, has assented to your request, relative to the Revenue Cutter of Philadelphia. I must therefore beg you to call upon the Secretary of the Treasury for the purposes therein expressed” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives).
3. For additional information on the claims of the committee of merchants, see Randolph to FitzSimons, November 4, December 16, 26, 30, 1794; January 23, April 15, July 6, October 2, 1795 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 8, December 6, 1794–October 12, 1795, National Archives).