Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from DeWitt Clinton, 29 March 1802

From DeWitt Clinton

29 March 1802


Genl. Stevens a Citizen of the State of New York intending to make an application to you on business in which he is interested and which he informs me will come before you officially, I take the liberty at his request of informing you that his standing in New York is respectable, and his character fair: Any justice to which he is entitled will I am certain be dispensed—More he ought not to expect and I am persuaded does not.

I have the honor to be With the most respectful attachment Your most obedt servt.

Dewitt Clinton

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mch. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Stevens.”

New York City merchant Ebenezer STEVENS owned the American-built ship Bellona, which Captain Thomas Watson, without realizing the ship had been “employed in illicit commerce,” had purchased for him in the West Indies after Stevens’s vessel was shipwrecked. Upon arriving from St. Croix with sugar and rum, the ship, in quarantine, was seized by New York revenue officers, condemned, and sold by order of the U.S. district court at New York for the violations committed by the former owners. On 1 Mch. 1802, DeWitt Clinton presented a petition to the Senate on Stevens’s behalf seeking special legislative relief for the losses he had incurred. Clinton headed the committee assigned to consider the case and report to the Senate, but on 19 Apr. the committee was dismissed without having made a report. Stevens’s petition had earlier been considered by the House Committee of Commerce and Manufactures, which had recommended on 12 Feb. against granting the petition (New York Commercial Advertiser, 2 Sep. 1801; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:186–7, 215; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:52, 95–6). On 21 Sep. 1801, the Treasury secretary had advised Stevens that he could not endorse the “principle that the sale, abroad, of a vessel, which had incurred a forfeiture, should release her from the penalty” (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 , 5:772). For an earlier representation in Stevens’s behalf, see Horatio Gates to TJ, 13 Feb. 1802.

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