Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Rawle, 15 November 1793

To William Rawle

Germantown Nov. 15. 1793.


You will doubtless recollect the case of the British ship William, taken by the Privateer Citoyen Genet, before the 5th. of June and within the limits of our Jurisdiction, as was alleged. On this allegation she was libelled in the district Court of Pennsylvania, and discharged by the Judge on the ground of incompetence of Jurisdiction. It then became the duty of the Executive to interpose. The British minister exhibited affidavits taken exparte which gave reason to believe that the capture was made within our jurisdiction, and the french minister was desired to shew cause against it, the vessel being in the mean time put into the Hands of the French Consul, on an assurance that she should be forth-coming to answer the determination of the President. The French Minister has now given in contrary evidence, but taken ex parte also. The limits of Jurisdiction having been provisionally settled for Executive cases, and the mode of taking regular testimony as stated in the letter I had the honor of writing you on the 10th. instant, I have now to ask the favor of you to proceed with respect to the ship William according to what was provided in that letter for such cases generally. By a letter of the present date I notify the two ministers of the reference now made to you, relying that they will instruct their Consuls to pay requisite attention to it. I have the Honor to be with great esteem Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

RC (PHi: Rawle Papers); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of text: “Wm. Rawle Esqr Atty. of the U.S. for the District of Penna.” PrC (DLC); unsigned, with day and year added in ink. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, [16 Nov. 1793].

After obtaining Cabinet approval for the substance of this letter and Attorney General Edmund Randolph’s approval of the draft, TJ submitted 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]).

A letter from Rawle to TJ of 22 Nov. 1793, recorded in SJL as received the same day, has not been found.

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