Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Abraham Runnels & Son, 5 August 1793

From Abraham Runnels & Son

Philadelphia Markett Street No. 222 5th. Augst. 1793


The Peculiar disagreableness of the business I am at present entangled in and the Extraordinary chain of Circumstances attending it equally injurious to me and offensive to the Neutrality of this Country, obliges me to seek refuge through your Medium from that Power which dispenses equal justice to all.

I beg leave to refer you to the Accompanying Documents for the Particulars of a Capture made (by a French Privateer the Sans Culottes Captn: Mollinery) of an American Vessell, loaden by my Firm at St. Bartholomew a Neutral Port, and bound to another Neutral Port; The Brig and Property are still in possession of the Captors, and who have hitherto shewn no Disposition to restore either. I find myself Honor’d with Liberal Protection from His Swedish Majesty’s Consul and have exerted all the Measures which he Conceived either Prudent or Necessary to preserve my Right of Recovery of Such Damages as shall be Adjudged to have arisen from the unlawfull Capture and Detention of my Property, which has now lasted so long, that Common regard to my Interest Compells me Sir to take a Liberty with you, which nothing but that and the Exigency of the Case could Authorize. It is not for me Sir to Suggest what measures may have now become necessary to Procure Restitution of my Property as well as proper Indemnification for the Disadvantages which have necessarily Accrued from the Detention, but I shall take pains to Represent to you, with that Candor and Integrity upon which only the Interests of my Cause, and the Magnitude it is of to this Country rests, every Circumstance that does in any Wise relate to it, and for that Purpose give me leave Sir to pray you to Appoint me an Hour when it shall Suit you that I may have the Honor of a Personal Interview. In the Interim Mr. Soderstroom was kind enough to say he would sue a Conversation with you and open some few of the Particulars of this business to you.

I shall Consider myself favoured by your interference in the Business which with due defference I conceive to be indispensably Necessary to the obtaining a Decission, as it has long since been under the Investigation of the French Minister and Consul, whose delay is by no means Consistent, with my Interest, as every part of the Cargo of the Vessell Captured, is Perishable. I have the Honor to be with all Possible respect & the most Distinguished Consideration Sir your most obedient & very Humble Svt

A Runnels & son

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); at foot of first page: “The Honorable Jefferson Esqr: Secretary of State &c &c &c”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Aug. 1793 and so recorded in SJL; with note by TJ:

“brig Betsey

taken by Sans Culottes of Marseilles

Swedish property

redress in courts?

turned over to War deptmt.”

Enclosure: Protest of Abraham Runnels, Philadelphia, 24 July 1793, stating, as a Swedish subject and a partner in the mercantile firm of P. H. & Abraham Runnels on St. Barthélemy, that in late April or early May 1793 he and his partner chartered the brigantine Betsy, William Clark master, owned by John Hollingsworth & Company of Philadelphia, to carry from that island to Hamburg a cargo of sugar, coffee, and other articles wholly owned by the two partners; that after being properly cleared the Betsy, on which he was a passenger and supercargo, embarked from St. Barthélemy on 28 May and was captured on 15 June “in or about the Latitude of 36 d: No., and Longitude 45 d. West,” by the French privateer Sans Culottes of Marseilles, but lately from Nantes, flying Spanish colors and commanded by Captain Joseph Mulrinez; and that after taking possession of the ship and its cargo, Mulrinez identified his vessel, announced that France was at war with Sweden, and forcibly transferred him and his servant to the privateer, which arrived in Philadelphia on 23 July, shortly after the Betsy; with subjoined statement of Clement Biddle, notary public, protesting the seizure and detention of the Betsy, its cargo, and Runnels and his servant, and seeking damages on behalf of Runnels from all those involved because their actions were “Contrary to the Rights of Neutrality and to the Law and Rights and Customs of Nations” (Tr in DNA, RG 76, France, Unbound Records; with statement at foot of text signed by Biddle). Other enclosures not found.

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