Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Pinckney, 11 May 1793

From Thomas Pinckney

Great Cumberland Place London 11 May 1793

My Dear Sir

Mr. Harriott is so obliging as to take charge of your news papers up to the present date—with these I inclose a copy of the instructions given to the commanders of Vessels carrying letters of Marque, on which it will be necessary for our Merchants to observe that the property of all persons resident in the Dominions of France is liable to capture and the decisions of the British Courts of Admiralty last war established that if a partner of any mercantile house is a resident in France his proportion of any property belonging to the house which may be captured is liable to condemnation.

On the subject of impressments I am referred till the arrival of answers to enquiries directed to be made by Mr. Bond for the conclusion of permanent regulations: in the mean [time]1 impressment has not fallen so heavy on our trade as on former occasions, the masters of some of our Vessels have informed me that they had not been boarded by any press gang during their stay here and I inclose a copy from a mercantile house at Leith which shews that though some irregularities have taken place it has not met with the countenance of Government. I am informed by Mr. Van staphorst that he has two large packets of news papers for me from America but does not know how to forward them as they are too bulky for the post. I shall esteem it a favor if you will in future direct my papers to be sent to the Consul at either of the Ports of this kingdom with directions to forward them immediately by the mail coach which is an expeditious and not expensive mode of conveyance. I have the honor to be with sincere respect My dear Sir Your most faithful and obedient Servant

Thomas Pinckney

RC (DNA: RG 59, DD); at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Aug. 1793 and so recorded in SJL.PrC (ScHi: Pinckney Family Papers). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DD). Enclosures: (1) Instructions for the Commanders of such Merchant Ships or Vessels Who shall have Letters of Marque and Reprisals [London, 1793] (printed pamphlet in same, with notations by Pinckney on third page giving 14 Feb. 1793 as date of instructions; Tr, with numerous copying errors, in Lb in same). (2) Ramsay, Williamson & Company to Pinckney, Leith, 3 May 1793, advising that impressment officers here distressed American vessels so much that they sought and obtained relief from the Judge Admiral for Scotland, and that the Admiralty has now given an order that will prevent future trouble (Tr in same, in the hand of William A. Deas; Tr in Lb in same, with penciled note in a clerk’s hand: “The original not found”). Enclosed in John Harriott to TJ, 1 Aug. 1793.

Phineas Bond had recently returned to America to assume the office of British consul general for the middle and southern states. During his stay in England he prepared a report on the subject of impressments for Lord Grenville, the British foreign minister, in which he defended the continuance of this practice as essential for the security of British navigation, while suggesting the use of certificates of citizenship and registries of crews to protect American seamen from its worst abuses. Upon instructions from TJ, Pinckney rejected these proposals during a subsequent conference with Bond prior to his departure for America, and there is no other evidence that Bond was under formal instructions from his superiors to make enquiries about impressment after his return to America (Bond to Grenville, 1 Feb. 1793, AHA description begins American Historical Association description ends , Annual Report [1897], p. 524–7; Pinckney to TJ, 13 Mch. 1793; Neel, Phineas Bond description begins Joanne L. Neel, Phineas Bond: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1786–1812, Philadelphia, 1968 description ends , 95–8; Samuel F. Bemis, “The London Mission of Thomas Pinckney, 1792–1796,” AHR description begins American Historical Review, 1895- description ends , xxviii [1922–23], 233–5; Charles R. Ritcheson, “Thomas Pinckney’s London Mission, 1792–1796, and the Impressment Issue,” International History Review, ii [1980], 529–34). TJ submitted this letter to the President on 3 Aug. 1793 and received it back two days later (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 213, 214).

Pinckney also wrote another letter to TJ this day, introducing John Harriott—whose acquaintance he had enjoyed since his arrival in England and who was removing with his family to settle in some part of the United States—and asking TJ to arrange for Harriott to pay his respects to the President in person (RC in DNA: RG 59, DD, in the hand of William A. Deas, with complimentary close and signature by Pinckney, at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; Tr in Lb in same).

1Word supplied.

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