Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Brown, Benson & Ives, 21 March 1793

From Brown, Benson & Ives

Providence 21st March 1793


The design of this address being of great Consequence to the Commercial interests of our Country, we shall attempt no apology while we beg leave to solicit your attention to the following statement of facts.

On the 15th of Decemr. last we dispatch’d our Brig Commerce Capt. James Munro Jr. with a Valuable Cargo for the French West Inda. Islands, with instructions to the Captain to Proceed to Windward and there dispose of part or all of the Cargo if it could be sold to advantage, but if the sales were not Compleated at Windward he was to Proceed to Cape Francois or Port au Prince, in order to finish the business; the Vessel arriv’d at Martinico where the Captain sold his Codfish only, not being able to obtain the original Cost for the remainder of his Cargo—he therefore in pursuance of our Orders proceeded to Leeward, and unfortunately stopt off Port au Prince, at which Place he landed, in order to ascertain the state of the Markets, but finding no demand for his Cargo, he intended to proceed to the Cape but was forcibly prevented, a Guard being put on board his Vessel and she brought into the harbour, and ’tho he produc’d his Invoice to the Assembly, and offer’d them his Cargo at a Discount of tenperCent from the Cost, they refused to purchase, and Persisted in their refusal to Permit his Departure, in Confirmation of all which, and for a detail of his Proceedings, you will please to peruse two Original Letters which we have received from the Captain, also a Coppy of his Petition to the Municipality which are here inclosed. It appears that many other American Vessels were in the same unhappy situation, and as our Exports to the Islands are usually Compos’d of Perishable articles, which was the Case with the Cargo of our Brig, we need not suggest how ruinous such detention must be to the Voyages, and as the Proceedings are totally repugnant to the Laws and Practice of all Nations, except in Cases of Actual hostility, we Persuade ourselves Sir, that you will impart the Circumstances to the French Minister at Philadelphia, and Prevail on him to adopt such Measures as will speedily and effectually relieve the suffering Americans at Port au Prince, any Delay will Operate very Injurious, and Perhaps Issue in the total loss of many Cargoes, and Cause great injury if not ruin to the Vessels.

As we have not the honour of a Personal acquaintance with you, our Friends Mr. Foster and Mr. Bourne are so Obliging as to Accompany this address with a Letter; Permit us to Commend the subject to your early attention and be assured that We are Sir, very respectfully, Your Obedt. Friends & Servants,

Brown Benson & Ives

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); at foot of text: “Honble. Thomas Jefferson Esq Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mch. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. PrC of Tr (DLC); in a clerk’s hand. Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Enclosures: (1) James Munro, Jr., to Brown, Benson & Ives, Port-au-Prince, 11 Feb. 1793, describing the arbitrary detention of his ship and other American ships by French authorities at this port and calling for action by Congress to obtain redress. (2) Same to same, 23 Feb. 1793, enclosing his petition to the municipality of Port-au-Prince and reporting the continued detention of his ship and that of ten other American ships since his arrival two weeks ago (RCs in DNA: RG 59, MLR; PrCs of Trs in DLC, in a clerk’s hand; Trs in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). (3) Petition of Munro to the Municipality of Port-au-Prince, n.d., requesting permission to sail to Cape François so that he can sell the cargo he has been unable to sell in Port-au-Prince (Tr in DNA: RG 59, MLR, in Munro’s hand; PrC of Tr in DLC, in a clerk’s hand; Tr in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Enclosed in TJ to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 5 Apr. 1793.

The letter to TJ of 21 Mch. 1793 from Senator Theodore foster and Representative Benjamin bourne is recorded in SJL as received from Providence on 30 Mch. 1793, but has not been found. An earlier letter from Foster, dated 31 Aug. 1790 and recorded in SJL as received 26 Sep. 1790, is also missing.

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