Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmond Charles Genet, 5 November 1793

To Edmond Charles Genet

Germantown November 5th. 1793


I have the honor to inclose you the copy of a letter from Mr. Moissonier Consul of France at Baltimore to the Governor of Maryland, announcing that Great Britain is about to commence hostilities against us, and that he purposes to collect the Naval force of your Republic in the Chesapeak and to post them as a Van-guard to derange the1 supposed designs of the enemy.

The bare suggestion of such a fact, however improbable, renders it a duty to enquire into it; and I shall consider it as a proof of your friendship to our nation, if you have it in your power and will be pleased to communicate to me the grounds of Mr. Moissonier’s assertion, or any other respectable evidence of such an intention on the part of Great Britain.

In the mean while as we have2 reason to believe it unfounded3 as they have in no instance as yet violated4 the sovereignty of our country5 by any commitment of hostilities even on their enemies within6 our jurisdiction,7 we presume with confidence that Mr. Moissonier’s fears are groundless. I have it therefore in charge to desire you to admonish Mr. Moissonier against the parade8 he proposes of stationing an advanced guard in the bay of Chesapeak, and against any hostile array, which under the profession of defensive operations may9 in fact generate those offensive. I flatter myself,10 Sir, that you will be so good as to join the effect of your authority to that of our government to prevent measures on the part of11 this Agent of your republic12 which may bring on disagreeable13 consequences. I have the honor to be with great respect, Sir Your most obedient & most humble servant

PrC (DLC); in Benjamin Bankson’s hand, unsigned; with correction in ink by TJ (see note 5 below); at foot of first page: “The Minister plenipoy of France.” Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand, unsigned; at head of text: “to be copd. & press copd.”; at foot of text: “Mr. Bankson at the Secretary of State’s office Philadelphia.” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Tr (DLC: Genet Papers). Tr (MHi); 19th-century copy. Tr (DLC: Genet Papers); in French. Recorded in SJPL. Enclosure: F. Moissonnier to Governor Thomas Sim Lee, Baltimore, 23 Oct. 1793, asserting that Great Britain is preparing to attack the United States in accordance with the liberticide system of the European cabinets, regretting that Maryland is not taking defensive actions because French interests will surely be the first victim of the state’s carelessness if it does not put into condition the forts guarding the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, which contains the riches of the commerce of Saint-Domingue and the only hope of the French nation, and advising that meanwhile, in pursuance of Genet’s orders, he was going to form all French maritime forces in the Chesapeake into a vanguard sufficiently formidable to derange if possible the projects of their common enemies (RC in DNA: RG 59, LGS, in French, with penciled marginal notation by TJ: “to be copied & press copied”; PrC of Tr in DLC; Tr in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL; Tr in DLC: Genet Papers; Tr in MHi, 19th-century copy; Tr in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in English). Letter and enclosure printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 89–90; translation of enclosure printed in ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends Foreign Relations, 1, 182.

Governor Lee had transmitted Moissonnier’s letter with a covering letter to Secretary of War Henry Knox recommending that it be submitted to the President and pointing out that he had taken no action other than to acknowledge its receipt (Lee to Knox, 25 Oct. 1793, MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council).

TJ submitted this letter to the President on 7 Nov. 1793, and Washington approved and returned it the same day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 248).

1In Dft TJ here canceled “designs.”

2In Dft TJ here canceled “every.”

3In Dft TJ here canceled “and <to be perfectly satisfied that no hostilities> to be assured that they.”

4In Dft TJ first wrote “that having in no instance violated” and then altered it to read as above.

5Preceding five words interlined in ink by TJ in place of “our rights.”

6Preceding five words interlined in Dft in place of “within our bays or.”

7In Dft TJ here canceled “<they have> we have no grounds to expect that they will <do it> violate them, or attempt any act of hostility by any attempt on our or your vessels <within> in the bay of Chesapeak.”

8In Dft TJ first wrote “this parade of an advanced guard which” and then altered it to read as above.

9In Dft TJ here canceled “become the.”

10In Dft TJ here canceled “therefore.”

11In Dft TJ here canceled “Mr. Moissonier” in the interlineation recorded in the following note.

12Preceding ten words interlined in Dft in place of “manoeuvres.”

13In Dft TJ here canceled “circumstances.”

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