Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Foreign Ministers in the United States, 10 November 1793

To Foreign Ministers in the United States

German-town, Novr. 10th. 1793


As in cases where vessels are reclaimed by the Subjects or Citizens of the belligerent powers as having been taken within the jurisdiction of the United States, it becomes necessary to ascertain that fact by1 testimony taken according to the laws of the United States, The Governors of the several States to whom the applications will be made in the first instance, are desired immediately to notify thereof the Attornies of their respective districts. The Attorney is thereupon instructed to give notice to the principal Agent of both parties who may have come in with the prize, and also to the Consuls of the Nations interested, and to recommend to them to appoint, by mutual consent, arbiters to decide whether the capture were made within the jurisdiction of the United States, as2 stated to you in my letter of the 8th. inst. according to3 whose award the Governor may proceed to deliver the Vessel to the one or the other party. But in case the parties or Consul shall not agree to name arbiters, then the Attorney, or some person substituted by him, is to notify them of the time and place when and where he will be, in order to take the depositions of such Witnesses as they may cause to come before him, which depositions he is to transmit for the information and4 decision of the President.

It has been thought best to put this business into such a train as that the examination of the fact may take place immediately and before the witnesses may have again departed from the United States, which would too frequently happen, and especially in the distant States, if it should be deferred5 till information is sent to the Executive, and a special order awaited to take the depositions.

I take the liberty of requesting that you will be pleased to give such instructions to the Consuls of your Nation as may facilitate the object of this regulation. I urge6 it with the more earnestness, because as the Attornies of the districts are for the most part engaged in much business of their own, they will rarely be able to attend more than one appointment, and consequently the party who should fail from negligence or other motives to produce his Witnesses at the time and place appointed, might lose the benefit of their testimony altogether.7 This prompt procedure is the more to be insisted on as it will enable the President by an immediate delivery of the Vessel and Cargo to the party having title, to prevent8 the injuries consequent on long delay. I have the honor to be with great respect, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble servant

PrC (DLC); in Benjamin Bankson’s hand, unsigned; at foot of first page: “Mr. Genet.” PrC (DLC); in Bankson’s hand, unsigned; at foot of first page: “Mr. Hammond.” PrC (DLC); in Bankson’s hand, unsigned; at foot of text: “Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes.” PrC (DLC); in Bankson’s hand, unsigned; at foot of first page: “Mr. Van Berckel,” with “Mr. Genet Mr. Hammond & Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes” inserted in ink by TJ. Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; only the most significant emendations are recorded below; in margin at head of text: “4. copies viz for M. Genet Mr. Hammond Mr. Van Berckel Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes. with the press copies”; at foot of text: “Nov. 11. this draught was shewn to Mr. H. K. & R. and approved.” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.); addressed to Genet. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “The Minister pleni: of France”; at foot of text: “Addressed also to Mr. Hammond, Minister pleni: of Great Britain Mr. Van Berckel, Resident from the United Netherlands & Messrs. Viar & Jaudenes, Spanish Commissioners.” Tr (Lb in PRO: FO 116/3). Tr (DLC: Genet Papers); in French. Tr (same); in French; draft translation of preceding Tr; in margin at head of text in Edmond Charles Genet’s hand: “Pour les consuls de Baltimore Philadelphie New york Boston Charleston Norfolk,” with check marks next to the first four cities. Tr (AHN: Papeles de Estado, legajo 3895 bis); in Spanish; attested by Jaudenes and Viar. Recorded in SJPL. The text addressed to Genet is 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 , 92–3. Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, [16 Nov. 1793].

After obtaining Cabinet and presidential approval of the draft of this letter, TJ submitted a copy of the final version to the President on 16 Nov. 1793, and Washington returned it the same day (Cabinet Opinions on Various Letters, [23 Nov. 1793]; Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 248, 251, 252).

1In Dft TJ here canceled “legal.”

2In Dft TJ here canceled “declared by the President for.”

3Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “on.”

4Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

5Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “is.”

6Word interlined in Dft in place of “sollicit.”

7Word interlined in Dft in place of “for ever.”

8Word interlined in Dft in place of “avoid.”

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