Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 8 October 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Treasy. Depart. 8 Oct. 1801


The enclosed letter from Mr Dallas, received this morning, showeth that the Brit. Consul has not agreed to the restoration in the case of the prize vessel “Harmony.” The instructions sent yesterday to the Collector do not, however, seem to require any alteration.

Mr D. seems to have supposed that, had the capture been made before the exchange of ratifications, a restoration might have been claimed under the law of nations, which, in that case, would have protected American property on board an English vessel. It is so difficult to define with precision what was the political relation of the U. States & France from the date of the treaty to that of the exchange, that a decision on that ground would have, perhaps, been inexpedient.

Mr Hancock hinted something of the kind: my answer was that our interference in his favour went no farther than to permit a restoration if all the parties were agreed & the Brit. Consul did not object; but, that if he thought he had a legal claim, we meant not to bar his pursuing it before the courts in such manner as his counsel might advise, nor, on the other hand, to interfere by an exercise of executive authority. He asked whether we considered the French convention as ratified; my answer was in the affirmative.

With great respect

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Oct. and “the Fame & Harmony” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

Phineas Bond served as British consul general for the middle and southern states, but the surviving correspondence on the case of the Harmony is between Edward Thornton, the acting British chargé d’affaires, and Madison (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 , 2:173–4, 234–5; Vol. 26:398; Vol. 33:190). Instructions Sent Yesterday: Gallatin’s letter to George Latimer, customs collector at Philadelphia, has not been found, but eight days later the Treasury secretary wrote Madison: “By direction of the President, I had written to the Collector that without pretending to decide on the application of treaties to this specific case, he might admit to an entry such part of the cargo owned by Mr Hancock an american citizen as the captors were willing to restore, provided the British Consul made no objection to it” (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 , 2:177). On 12 Oct., Thornton wrote Madison from Philadelphia that he had been informed only an hour earlier that Hancock had “made such terms with the captors as to be enabled to recover his property without great loss, and that there will be a permission granted by the Government of the United States for the landing of that part of the cargo, provided no objection shall be made on my part.” Thornton agreed to the request with the stipulation that as soon as Hancock’s property was landed, the Harmony and the remainder of her cargo would be ordered to sea. On 15 Oct., Gallatin received a letter from Latimer with the news that Thornton would allow the restoration of the cargo as long as the case was not used as a precedent. With that information Gallatin thought Latimer “would have been justifiable in suffering Mr Hancock’s property to be restored” (same, 2:173–4, 177–8). Later that day, Gallatin wrote the Philadelphia collector: “The President being satisfied, from the assent of Mr Thornton, in the case of the prize vessel ‘Harmony,’ that there is no collusion, directs me to instruct you, to admit to an entry & to permit to be landed & delivered to Mr Hancock, or to his agent, such part of the cargo of the said vessel, as has been stated to be his property, and as the captors may be willing to restore; the same being, under those circumstances, considered, by the President, as bona fide american property.” Latimer informed Gallatin, on 20 Oct., that the Harmony had sailed before he received the instructions (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:859, 899).

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