Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Pinckney, 26 August 1793

To Thomas Pinckney

Philadelphia August 26. 1793.

Dear Sir

You will perceive by the enclosed affidavits that an act of piracy has been committed by a certain William James Davis, master of the English merchant vessel the Catharine on board an american Sloop called the Rainbow. He afterwards came with his vessel into Newport in Rhode Island, but having some intimation that process of piracy was issuing against him, he slipt his cable in the night and went off, carrying with him the Baggage of his passengers and leaving his papers at the Custom house. You are desired to endeavor through the medium of our Consuls and their agents in the Ports of Great Britain and Ireland to have a good look-out kept, and in case of the arrival of the said Davis within their Districts to have him arrested and prosecuted for piracy. His own crew will be the most likely to furnish Evidence of the fact, or that of the British Schooner the Olive branch, commanded by Capt. Ayscough, whose affidavit, voluntarily given in here, I inclose you; I am authorized to add that the expenses of prosecution will be allowed by the United States. I have the honor to be, with much esteem, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

RC (CSmH); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of text: “Mr. Pinckney.” PrC (DLC); unsigned. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DCI). Recorded in SJL under 29 Aug. 1793. Enclosure: Deposition of Captain Richard Ayscough, New York, 28 July 1793, stating, in his capacity as master of the British schooner Olive Branch, that he left Kingston bound for New York on 29 June and while in the Gulf of Florida fell in with the British ship Catharine, Captain Davis, bound from Jamaica to St. Andrews, Nova Scotia, but intending to land passengers at Sandy Hook; that off Cape Hatteras they encountered the American sloop Rainbow, which first Davis and then he boarded and on which they found French ladies and gentlemen on their way to Philadelphia to escape the massacres at Cap-Francais; that despite Davis’s statement to him that the Catharine lacked letters of marque or a commission from the British government and notwithstanding Davis’s warning to his men to respect property, he witnessed the transfer of what appeared to be a bag of money from the Rainbow to the boat that had brought Davis to the American ship; that he ascertained from the victims that 16,600 dollars belonging to M. Berniaud and 4,950 dollars and four silver watches belonging to Berniaud’s nephew had been taken aboard the Catharine; that when he expressed disapproval of this to Davis some of Davis’s officers reviled him; and that thereafter they went their separate ways, with the Olive Branch proceeding to New York and the Catharine sailing in a northeasterly direction as if headed for Montauk Point (MS in DNA: RG 59, MLR; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Ayscough and attested by Mayor Richard Varick; with notes at foot of text by Taylor: “sent a Copy to Mr. Pinckney by Mr. West” and [with reference to the enclosures included in Tobias Lear to TJ, 14 Aug. 1793] “press copies of no. 1–9 and copies of Judge Marchants two letters for the district atty. of Rh. Island. Sent in a letter to him of 26 Augt. 1793. No. 3 a 9 & ascough’s deposition for Mr. Pinckney”). For the other enclosures, see Enclosures Nos. 3–9 listed at Tobias Lear to TJ, 14 Aug. 1793.

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