Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Zebulon Hollingsworth, 14 November 1793

To Zebulon Hollingsworth

Germantown, Novemr. 14th. 1793.


After much remonstrance with Mr. Genet against the usurpations by the French Consuls, of jurisdiction unpermitted by the laws or treaties of the United States—and especially against their assuming to exercise admiralty jurisdiction1 to try and condemn vessels, and that too in cases where others besides french Citizens were interested—finding that instead of repressing, he sanctioned the proceedings, I gave notice by letter of Sept. 7. to the several Consuls of that nation, that the Exequaturs of such of them as should repeat the usurpation after that date, would be immediately revoked.

It being now suggested that M. Moissonnier has since that date undertaken to2 try and condemn as lawful prizes the British Ship Roehampton taken by the French privateer the Industry; and the British brig Pilgrim taken by the French privateer the Sans Culottes of Marseilles, and to order their sale,3 I am to ask the favor of you to inquire into these facts with the circumspection which may be necessary to prevent that alarm which might lead them to a concealment of them, and to procure for me the most unquestionable evidence of them, if they be true. The most conclusive would be copies of the proceedings or at least of the sentences, authenticated under M. Moissonier’s own hand if to be procured.4 I have the honor to be with esteem & respect Sir, Your most obed servt.

PrC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, unsigned; at foot of text: “Zebulon Hollingsworth Esqr. Attorney of the U.S. for the district of Maryland at Baltimore.” Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; subjoined to Dft of first letter to Hollingsworth of this date above and referred to in the note at foot of text recorded there; with penciled marginal note by TJ: “to be sent by the return of the rider.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Recorded in SJPL. Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, [16 Nov. 1793].

After obtaining Cabinet approval for the substance of this letter and Edmund Randolph’s approval for the rough draft, TJ submitted a text of the final version to the President on 16 Nov. 1793, and Washington 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 , 252; Cabinet Opinions on Various Letters, [23 Nov. 1793]).

1In Dft TJ first wrote the remainder of the clause as “and to condemn vessels and under that semblance of law to ensnare our citizens into purchases of them” before altering it to read as above.

2In Dft TJ here canceled “condemn and authorize the.”

3Clause interlined in Dft in place of “and to authorize other sales.”

4In Dft TJ canceled a marginal note he had keyed for insertion here: “If the Pilgrim has not been sold I shall be obliged to you.”

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