Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Drayton, 21 May 1801

From John Drayton

South Carolina
Charleston May 21st: 1801.


Finding that arrangements are making by the Government of the United States, for the exchange of French prisoners; I flatter myself, the public service may be promoted, by addressing you this letter.

To this purpose, I enclose you a copy of a letter written to me, last year, by Mr. William Crafts Navy Agent of the United States; respecting French prisoners, now in custody in this State.   This, was at my requisition on him, to know by what authority the said Prisoners were committed; as I was informed they were suffering much in gaol.   His answer enclosed, prevented my then making any communication on the subject, to the Executive of the United States.   But, as those who remain alive, are still in custody; and, as no arrangements (as far as I understand) have been made here respecting them; I take the liberty of communicating the same to you.   And also at the same time of enclosing you a certificate signed by the Master of the Work House, certifying, the said prisoners by name: and, on what account they have been committed—.

I shall be happy at all times, to cooperate with you, within the sphere of my authorities, in matters relating to the public welfare.   And, have the honor to subscribe myself with high respect

Sir Your most Obedt: Sevt.

John Drayton.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Eqr. President of the United States of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 June and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “referred to the Secretary of the Navy Th:J.” Enclosures: William Crafts to Drayton, 19 June 1800 (not found, but see Samuel Smith to Drayton, 10 June 1801, FC in Lb in DNA: RG 45, MLS). Certificate not found.

Scion of a distinguished lowcountry family, John Drayton (1766–1822) was the son of William Henry Drayton, a leading South Carolina patriot during the Revolutionary War. He briefly attended the College of New Jersey at Princeton, but withdrew following the death of his father in 1779. Admitted to the South Carolina bar in the 1780s, he was elected to the General Assembly three times during the 1790s and was chosen lieutenant governor in 1798. Drayton ascended to the governor’s chair in January 1800 upon the death of Governor Edward Rutledge, and won a full two-year term in December of that same year. He served another term as governor from 1808 to 1810, then was appointed U.S. district judge for South Carolina by James Madison in 1812. In addition to his political career, Drayton was also an amateur botanist and published several works on the natural and civil history of his state, including A View of South Carolina, as Respects Her Natural and Civil Concerns (1802) and a two-volume edition of his father’s Memoirs of the American Revolution in 1821 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; S.C. Biographical Directory, Senate description begins N. Louise Bailey and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985, Columbia, S.C., 1986, 3 vols. description ends , 1:419–21; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 2:262).

On 17 Feb., Benjamin Stoddert informed Philippe André Joseph de Létombe, the French consul general, that officials in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and South Carolina had been directed to turn over French prisoners in their custody to Létombe and requested that he make arrangements for their removal from the United States “as speedily as possible.” On 14 Mch., Stoddert reported to TJ that eight prisoners remained in detention at Charleston. Several weeks later, on 3 Apr., William Crafts, the navy agent in Charleston, informed Stoddert that French officials still had not applied for the prisoners in his custody (NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France, Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 1935–38, 7 vols. (cited by years) description ends , Dec. 1800–Dec. 1801, 125, 182; Stoddert to TJ, 14 Mch. 1801).

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