Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorandum from Edmund Randolph, [ca. 28–30 May 1793]

Memorandum from Edmund Randolph

[ca. 28–30 May 1793]

Minutes of reasons, which operated with E. R. in advising the expulsion of the Genet privateer.

1. That it is the prerogative of every1 nation to prohibit acts of sovereignty to be done2 within its limits by another nation, except where treaties otherwise provide, or those acts relate to the privileges of ministers.

2. That it is the peculiar prerogative of every neutral nation,3 to4 prohibit such acts of sovereignty, going to the injury of one of the warring powers.

3. That the granting of a commission within the limits of the U.S. is an attack upon their sovereignty.

4. That the granting of a commission to citizens of the U.S. within their limits, who are liable to punishment, is an attack upon their sovereignty.

5. That for an attack on their sovereignty, the U.S. are judges of the measure of satisfaction; and it seems to be a satisfaction, allied to the attack,5 that the vessel, which has been thus illegally commissioned, and illegally manned in part,6 should be put out of the protection of the U.S.

6. That reasons of expediency may concur, to enforce these reasons of right; as it is always adviseable for a neutral nation, to avoid even a suspicion of the faith of its neutrality.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 87: 15001); entirely in Randolph’s hand; undated and unsigned; endorsed by TJ: “Randolph Edmund May. 1793.”

Although the provenance of this document is unrecorded, this elaboration of the Attorney General’s reasons for supporting a Cabinet decision of 20 May 1793 to expel from American ports French privateers commissioned in the United States was almost certainly prepared at TJ’s request to provide guidance for his reply to a 27 May 1793 letter from Edmond Charles Genet disputing the decision, which TJ had conveyed orally to the French minister (see Notes on the Citoyen Genet and Its Prizes, 20 May 1793, and note). It seems unlikely that TJ would have solicited this communication prior to his receipt of Genet’s letter on 28 May—though it is not clear whether he submitted the missive to Randolph for that purpose—or that Randolph would have set down these notes later than 30 May 1793, the day before TJ received the Attorney General’s reaction to the draft of his reply to Genet, which incorporated some of the language used above by Randolph in arguing that the commissioning of French privateers in the United States was a serious violation of American neutrality (Randolph to TJ, 31 May 1793). For the approval of the draft by the President and the Cabinet, and for the final text of the reply to the French minister, see TJ to Genet, 5 June 1793, and note.

1Word interlined in place of “a neutral.”

2Word interlined in place of “exercised.”

3Randolph first wrote “of neutral nations” before altering the passage to read as above.

4Randolph here canceled “exclud.”

5Word interlined in place of “offense.”

6Preceding two words interlined.

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