Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joshua Johnson, 4 April 1791

From Joshua Johnson

London, 4 Apr. 1791. Encloses accounts of the Greenland fishery for 1789 and 1790, the former perfect but the latter not, due to incomplete “returns of success,” though an exact copy of that given parliament; also list of ships fitted out for Southern fishery in 1789, though it is impossible to foretell their success since some may be out two or three years. These accounts procured after “considerable trouble and expence.” His next object is to get account of success of outgoing ships for. 1790 and incoming for 1789 and 1790.—He has not been unmindful of the cod fishery, but these accounts will be voluminous and as he fears TJ will think expense in getting them too great he will await further orders.

“The situation this Government has placed herself in, gives me full employment in watching their Movements, and protecting the citizens of the United States; from the Number of ships put into Commission, and the Scarcity of Seamen, they have been obliged to adopt, their usual arbitrary System in pressing, and of course some of our Seamen may be laid hold of; tho’ no longer than Saturday, I received an assurance from the Duke of Leeds’ office, that any one under that predicament, should be immediately liberated on demand.” He has taken precaution to grant protections to crews of American ships that choose them.—He is awkwardly situated as to appointment of agents as he does not know the President’s intentions concerning vice-consuls. Consuls for other countries depute agents accountable to them. Since these will be useful during armament of British fleet, he will do the same unless directed to the contrary.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); endorsed by TJ as received 21 June 1791 and so recorded in SJL. Dupl (same); in margin: “per Colo. Smith in Packett.” Enclosures: (1) “A List of Ships on the Greenland and Davis’s Straits Whale Fishery 1789,” showing a total of 178 ships, 52 of which were from London, which accounted for a total of 553½ whales (the half being credited to Norfolk out of Yarmouth) and 5,101 tons of oil (Tabular list of vessels, captains, dates of arrival, and cargoes in DLC: TJ Papers, 53: 9025; another copy in DNA: RG 59, MLR). (2) Similar list for 1790, but incomplete (DLC: TJ Papers, 59: 10111). (3) “A List of Ships, cleared out for the Southern Whale Fishery,” between 1 January and 31 December 1789, showing a total of 46 ships, 42 of which were from London, and giving the amount of tonnage and number of men but no cargoes (DLC: TJ Papers, 53: 9024; endorsed by TJ).

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