Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Duane, 10 September 1793

To James Duane

Philadelphia September the 10th.1 1793.


The inclosed papers relate to an event of national importance and they are transmitted to you by the direction of the President of the United States: the district judges being the officers contemplated by law, as best suited to the execution of the 9th. article of the consular convention he thinks it2 desirable, that all such information, should, if possible be acted upon by the judicial power. I have the honor to be with sentiments of great respect Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant

PrC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, unsigned; date completed in ink (see note 1 below); at foot of text in ink: “The honorable Judge Duane.” Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 93: 16017); in Edmund Randolph’s hand, undated; with emendations, only the most important being noted below; at head of text: “Draught of a letter, proposed to be written by the Secretary of state to the district-judge of New-York”; subjoined to Dft of TJ to George Clinton, 10 Sep. 1793. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Described in SJL as “drawn by E.R.” Enclosures: (1) Edmond Charles Genet to Governor George Clinton, New York, 30 Aug. 1793, reporting that General Galbaud, his aide-de-camp Conscience, and Corporal Bonne escaped last night from custody on board the Jupiter, asserting that they were deserters and that as such the French had a right to reclaim them, requesting that warrants be delivered to the French consul so that they could be arrested and brought to one of the vessels in the fleet, supplying descriptions of the three men, and adding in a postscript that the men did not speak English and that the consul would show the mayor of New York the Jupiter’s muster roll to prove they were crew members. (2) Clinton to Genet, New York, 30 Aug. 1793, stating that in response to Genet’s request he had instructed state judges and officials to give all the aid and assistance for capturing the deserters consonant with Article 9 of the Consular Convention, but adding that although the ship’s roll was a proof sufficient to justify this measure, the convention also permitted those proceeded against to prove that they were not deserters, and that if they did so to a judge’s satisfaction they might be released. (3) Proclamation of Clinton, 1 Sep. 1793, instructing New York judges and officials, pursuant to Article 9 of the Consular Convention—since Genet had shown from the roll of the French warship Jupiter that Galbaud, Conscience, and Bonne were crew members and asserted that they had deserted—to aid in the trio’s capture and imprisonment until they could be returned to the ship, provided that such detention did not exceed three months. (4) Clinton to Galbaud, 31 Aug. 1793, inferring from Galbaud’s letter of this date that he had seen No. 3, observing that he had acted as the Consular Convention stipulated and that if a deception regarding the ship’s roll had been practiced, those responsible were answerable, confirming that his proclamation had been misdated, though the mistake was immaterial since the directions would take effect from the time they were issued and were the duty of magistrates even without the formality of an order, and stating that Galbaud’s claim of protection and hospitality from the state would be honored in all cases but the present one. (5) Clinton to George Washington, 2 Sep. 1793, enclosing Nos. 1–4; stating that the French consul general’s application placed him in “a very delicate situation” where his refusal to interfere might lead to charges of undue denial of aid stipulated by the Consular Convention and of not having done his duty, that the United States District Attorney had agreed that his proclamation was proper, that though the April 1792 federal statute concerning consuls appeared to commit such cases to the exclusive jurisdiction of federal district judges and marshals, the rigorous application of this interpretation would render the convention article respecting the return of deserters a dead letter from the remote residence of the district judge, and that the alleged deserters had been pursued and overtaken in Westchester County but had escaped there and evidently fled the state; relating that he had been unable to detain the Republican, a prize of the English frigate Boston, because it sailed away before he received the relevant letter from Secretary of War Henry Knox; and reporting that the French privateers Carmagnole and Petite Démocrate arrived here yesterday and that appropriate measures will be taken immediately to cause their departure (Trs of Nos. 1–4 in DNA: RG 59, LGS, No. 1 in French, with Nos. 1, 3, and 4 in DeWitt Clinton’s hand, all being endorsed on a separate sheet by George Taylor, Jr., in part: “inclosed in Gov. Clinton’s 2 Sep. 93”; RC of No. 5 in same, in DeWitt Clinton’s hand, signed by George Clinton, endorsed by TJ and Taylor).

For the background to this letter and Edmund Randolph’s authorship of it, see Notes on Cabinet Meetings, 4 Sep. 1793, and note.

According to the 9th. article of the consular convention with France, which TJ had helped to negotiate in 1788, consuls and vice-consuls could have crew members who deserted from vessels of their respective nations arrested and repatriated if they petitioned the competent magistrate in writing and proved from the ship’s roll, subject to proof to the contrary by the men in question, that those demanded were part of the crew. The consuls were to be given all aid and assistance in searching for and seizing the deserters, who could be incarcerated for up to three months after their arrest at the expense of the consuls while arrangements were made to send them out of the country (see Vol. 14: 176). The April 1792 law carrying this convention into effect made United States district judges the “competent judges” for carrying out this article and designated United States marshals and their deputies to serve as the “competent executive officers” stipulated by the convention to assist French consular officials (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , iii, 1360).

1Day inserted in ink in space left blank in manuscript.

2In Dft Randolph here canceled “probable, that the information, now forwarded, may suggest the propriety of forming […], which.”

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