George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Simpson, 25 August 1790

From James Simpson

Gibraltar 25th August 1790


I have the honor to transmit a dispatch receivd this morning from Francis Chiappe Esqr. for Your Excelly.1

Having lately been desired to enquire by means of my correspondents at Algiers how many Americans remained there, and the sum would be demanded for their Ransom, I take the liberty of inclosing for your information copy of the return made me,2 and to say that as the Gentlemen encharged me to make this inquiry, wrote in a stile as if the generous & humane Idea of Ransom flowed from a private source, I must fear as the sum demanded is considerable, I shall not have the happyness of being encharged by them with directions for carrying it into execution.

I have much pleasure in availing of this opportunity of makeing a tender of my best services in this place to your Excellency, or to the Congress of the United States, on whatever occasion same may be considered usefull.3 I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Most Obedient and Most Humle Servant

James Simpson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Despatches from Consular Offices: Gibraltar.

1The enclosed letter, in Italian, from Francisco Chiappe to GW, dated Dalla Corte, Fez, 3 Aug. 1790, reads: “Come Incaricato delli Affari Esteri, S. M. Imperiale (C.D.G.) mi da l’onore di scrivere alla Va Sra Eccellentissima per riscontrarle la sua Lettera che vien di ricevere in data del. 1º Decembre dell’Anno scorso, ed intierata del d’essa contenuto mi ordina di dire all’Eccellentissima Vtra, che continuerà in quella buona Pace, ed armonia come in passato, e che in considerazione di essere Li Stati Uniti di America Lontani, non prenderà à male se la venuta del Loro Ambasciatore rittarderà Più quattro Mesi della venuta dei altri Ambasciatori fissati a soli quattro” (DNA:PCC, item 98; see also GW to Sidi Mohammed, 1 Dec. 1789).

2Simpson’s “List of American Prisoners at Algiers 9th July 1790 with the sums demanded by the Regency for their ransom” is printed in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 18:436. For the background to the American captives in Algiers, see Mathew Irwin to GW, 9 July 1789, source note and enclosure.

3On 21 Sept. 1790 Simpson again wrote to GW, stating: “I had the honor of addressing Your Excellency 25th August by a Schooner bound to Salem, when transmitted a dispatch from Francis Chiappe Esqr., that Gentleman has since sent me another which I have the honor now to inclose.

“This I forward by Brig Ann John Marshall—Master for Philadelphia, who has delivered a Cargo at this Port—yesterday the Schooner Rose arrived from Salem; I take the liberty of mentioning these arrivals, to shew that the danger to American navigation is by no means so great as may be imagined.

“The Portuguese Squadron stationed at this Port for the purpose of preventing the Algerine Cruizers from passing to the Westward, certainly do so effectualy, but during the past Summer they have committed many depredations in the Mediterranean.

Muley Yarzid has not desisted from his demand of Ceuta, and is actualy makeing preparations for besieging it, a task I am convinced he is by no means equal to” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from Consular Offices: Gibraltar).

In early December 1790 Tobias Lear delivered to the secretary of state both of Chiappe’s letters, the second of which has not been found, and Jefferson reported to GW on the Algerian captives on 28 Dec. 1790. The president presented the report to Congress two days later (see Lear to Jefferson, 1 Dec. 1790, DLC:GW; Jefferson to GW, 28 Dec. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; and GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 30 Dec. 1790; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:519).

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