Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on a Cabinet Meeting, 16 May 1801

Notes on a Cabinet Meeting

May 16. Murder commd by Moorhead & Little, British subjects on a person within the limits of the US.

the case of Govr. Pinckney & Quesade is quoted.

also the demand by mr Liston of Secretary Pickering contra.

unanimous not to demand the accessories to the murder.

but the murderers to be demanded.

Govr. Serjeant not to be reappointed. unanimous.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 112:19297); entirely in TJ’s hand; follows, on same sheet, the Notes on a Cabinet Meeting of 15 May.

In 1791, Charles Pinckney, then governor of South Carolina, drafted a letter to Governor Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada of Florida asking for the extradition of two accused counterfeiters. George Washington referred the question to TJ, the secretary of state. At the time, the United States had no extradition convention with any nation. TJ maintained that the United States must not place itself under obligation to turn over refugees who might be guilty of “acts rendered criminal by tyrannical laws only.” Since the United States would not hand over fugitives in the absence of a formal agreement governing extradition, it could not, TJ argued, make the demand of Spain. Pinckney reluctantly let the matter drop, but not without urging that the United States negotiate an extradition convention with Spain. TJ drew up a detailed proposal, but the two countries were unable to come to an agreement (Vol. 19:433–5; Vol. 22:266–8; Vol. 23:327–32).

Article 27 of the Jay Treaty, which provided for the surrender of murderers and forgers, was the first agreement on extradition between the United States and another nation. Under its provisions Robert Liston, the British minister to the U.S., successfully requested in 1799 that accused mutineer Jonathan Robbins be handed over to British authorities. The case was politically controversial, in no small part due to Robbins’s claim of American citizenship, and TJ lauded a pamphlet that Pinckney wrote decrying the extradition (John Bassett Moore, A Treatise on Extradition and Interstate Rendition, 2 vols. [Boston, 1891], 1:89–90; Larry D. Cress, “The Jonathan Robbins Incident: Extradition and the Separation of Powers in the Adams Administration,” Essex Institute Historical Collections, 111 [1975], 99–121; Vol. 31:226–8; Vol. 32:33–4).

In a letter of 16 June, Madison informed Winthrop Sargent, whose term as governor of the Mississippi Territory expired on 7 May, that he had not been Reappointed. Sargent’s tenure in the office had “not been so fortunate as to secure the general harmony and the mutual attachment between the people and the public functionaries so particularly necessary for the prosperity and happiness of an infant establishment.” TJ privately noted the reasons for Sargent’s removal as “malconduct, & his brutal & odious deportment generally” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:320–1; Vol. 33:669, 671).

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