Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edmund Randolph, 5 September 1793

From Edmund Randolph

German Town Sepr. 5. 1793.


The interruption, which the contagious disorder now prevailing in Philadelphia, has given to my residence there, is the cause of the delay, which has occurred in my examination of Mr. Hammonds last memorial on Pagan’s case.

I beg leave to refer you to my former communications on this head; that I may not repeat them here unnecessarily.

It is true, that I considered an application to the Supreme fœderal court, indispensable; and that it has been unsuccessful. Whether it was pressed in the most advantageous form, I undertake not to decide; but while I shall ever acknowledge the abilities and integrity of Pagan’s counsel, I still adhere to my former representation.

It is no less true, that the refusal of a writ of error1 evinced the sense of the judges, that the case was not of a nature susceptible of relief by process of law,2 issuing from the Supreme court of the U. S.

It is then reduced to its original State; namely, a question began in the courts of Massachusetts, where it has run thro’ all the forms of proceeding, and has been decided against a British Subject. He complains of injustice; but of no conduct in the judges3 founded on impure motives. To this point my quotation from the argument4 on the Silesia loan is applied; and farther I must remark, that5 if the judges have erred, and there be an appeal, it is the business of Mr. Pagan to appeal; if there be no appeal according to the laws of Massachusetts, no fœderal authority can give one,6 and therefore no relief can be had in our courts.

Such, sir, is the state of our jurisprudence with respect to this case; and as Mr. Hammond seems now to make it an affair of negotiation, upon the ground, that the American courts ought not to have assumed a jurisdiction over it, and that, if they might, the Armistice was misinterpreted, the subject is no longer7 within the Sphere of my office. If however you mean to discuss these two questions, and my aid can be useful, it is at your command. I have the honor &c

Edmd. Randolph

RC (DNA: RG 59, Letters from and Opinions of the Attorneys General); at head of text: “To the Secretary of State”; with penciled notation by TJ: “to be copd. & press copd.”; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Sep. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. PrC of Tr (DLC); in a clerk’s hand. Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Tr (Lb in PRO: FO 116/3). Tr (same, 5/1). Enclosed in TJ to George Hammond, 13 Sep. 1793.

Hammond’s last memorial: Hammond to TJ, 19 Aug. 1793. Argument on the Silesia loan: see Randolph to TJ, 12 Apr. 1793. See also note to Hammond to TJ, 26 Nov. 1791.

1Preceding four words interlined in place of “relief.”

2Randolph here canceled “But by what process of law? By process.”

3Preceding three words interlined.

4Sentence through “argu” interlined in place of “The […] is made to correct.”

5Preceding six words interlined in place of “for.”

6Remainder of sentence inserted.

7Randolph here canceled “of a judicial nature.”

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