Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Randolph, 2 May 1793

To Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia May 2d. 1793.


Having this moment received and communicated the inclosed Memorial from the British Minister to the President, relative to the Capture of the British vessel the Grange, by a French Frigate, I must ask the favor of you to consider the Case, and to give your opinion of the law arising thereon. These questions seem particularly material—By whom is the validity of the Capture to be decided? By what order are things to be arrested and kept in their present state till the decision? If the Capture be decided to be illegal, by what order or officer is the Prize to be liberated? Does not the liberation of the persons taken on board depend on different principles from that of the vessel and Cargo, and by what order or officer are they to be relieved?

As there is to be a Consultation to morrow morning at 9. oClock on another subject, it is desirable that your opinion could be communicated then. I have the honor to be with great and sincere esteem and Respect, Dear Sir, &c:

Th: Jefferson

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “The Attorney General of the United States.” Enclosure: Memorial from George Hammond, 2 May 1793.

TJ submitted this letter to the President before sending it to the Attorney General this day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 125). The consultation was a Cabinet meeting of the following day on the issue of granting passports to American-owned ships built abroad (see Opinion on Ship Passports, 3 May 1793; TJ to George Washington, 4 May 1793). Randolph must have communicated his opinion orally to the Cabinet, since no written reply by him to TJ’s questions about the capture of the Grange has been found.

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