Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Sylvanus Bourne, 25 August 1790

To Sylvanus Bourne

New York August 25th. 1790.


I enclose you herein sundry papers containing a representation from Messrs. Updike & Earle of Providence, who complain that their Sloop Nancy was seized in the Island of Hispaniola, and though without foundation as her acquittal proved, yet they were subjected to the payment of very heavy expenses. It is to be observed that in no Country does Government pay the costs of a defendant in any prosecution, and that often though the party be acquitted, there may have been colourable cause for the prosecution. However this may have been in the present case, should the parties think proper to endeavour by their own agent to obtain a reimbursement from the Government or from individuals of Hispaniola, I take the liberty of recommending their cause to your patronage so far as evidence and law shall be in their favor. If they address the Government, you will support their demands on the ground of right and amity. If they institute process against individuals, counterpoise by the patronage and weight of your public character, any weight of character which may be opposed to their obtaining of justice. I am Sir &c.,

Thomas Jefferson

FC (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 121); followed by listing of the three enclosures, as follows: (1) John Updike and William Earle to Theodore Foster, 25 June 1790, concerning seizure of Nancy by French officers. (2) Protest of John Russell, master, before notary public, Providence, 19 June 1790. (3) Account of costs and damages sustained by owners of Nancy as a result of the seizure.

On this same day TJ wrote Messrs. Updike & Earle saying that he had received the papers in the case of the Nancy and had laid them before the President, adding: “It is concluded that the only proper way in which Government can interfere, will be through the Agency of Mr. Bourne, now at Boston, who is going out as our Consul to Hispaniola‥‥ I enclose you a copy of my letter to him, and recommend to you to concert with him before his departure, the steps it may be expedient for you to take” (FC in DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 120).

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