George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 23 January 1793

From David Humphreys

Lisbon Janry 23d 1793.

My dear Sir.

By my Dispatch of this date to the Secretary of State, you will perceive what measures I have thought it necessary to adopt respecting the subsistence of our Captives in Algiers; as also the reasons why I have judged it highly expedient to go myself to Gibralter to find and take care of the public property which must have been left there by the late Mr Barclay.1 I hope that these proceedings (which I am conscious were dictated alone from a zeal to subserve the public interest) may appear to you in the same light that they have done to me; and, in this case, that your approbation of them may be signified through the Secretary of State.2

There seems to be a wonderful fatality attending all our attempts to treat with the Barbary Powers. It will doubtless be necessary some person should, at least, be named to receive & take charge of the property destined for the Morocco business. I conclude, therefore some appointments will soon be made. Whosoever the Person or Persons may be, should he or they come within the sphere of my Residence, you know how much I should be disposed to afford all the advice & assistance in my power. But in case of a war between England, France & other maritime Powers (an event sufficiently probable at this moment) it appears to me great embarrassments will occur in obtaining a neutral vessel which may carry with safety such a sum of money as will be wanted. I much fear, too, the limited sum (though to us considerable) will not be adequate to the intended purpose. How far this fact can be ascertained, that is to say, how far an ultimatum can be obtained without incurring much expence or ri[s]que, by having some intelligent & discreet Person sent to some neighbouring Port, you can decide better than any other. Had Mr Barclay procured the money he was authorised to draw for, and (after setting out with a single Servant) had he died as suddenly as he did, might not the loss of the property have been considerably endangered? But I suggest these hints to yourself alone, with that freedom & under the sanction of that confidence, which you have had the goodness so many times to authorize me to make use of.

I shall write to the Secretary of State again before my departure for Gibralter & enclose a Memorial & other Papers on the subject of American flour & grain.3

In offering my most respectful Compliments to Mrs Washington & my kind remembrances to my other friends near you; I have the honour to be My dear Sir Your Most obedt & Most devoted friend & humble Servt

D. Humphreys

ALS, DLC:GW docketed as received on 16 Mar. 1793.

1For the letter from Humphreys, the U.S. minister to Portugal, to Thomas Jefferson of 23 Jan., see 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 25:86–88. Jefferson sent GW this letter on 16 Mar., the same date on which GW received his own letter from Humphreys and forwarded it to Jefferson for his consideration (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 91). On Thomas Barclay’s appointment as the U.S. consul to Algiers and his commission to negotiate the release of the American prisoners held there, see GW to Barclay, 11 June 1792, and notes 1–2. Barclay, who had been serving as the U.S. consul to Morocco, died in Lisbon on 19 Jan. 1793, shortly after receiving his new assignment. Humphreys arrived in Gibraltar on 3 February. For his inventory and disposition of the papers, money, and diplomatic gifts in Barclay’s care at the time of his death, see Humphreys’s letter to Jefferson of 8 Feb. in 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 25:159–60. GW subsequently appointed Humphreys to succeed Barclay (GW to Dey of Algiers, 21 Mar., to Humphreys, 23 Mar.).

2Jefferson returned this letter to GW, with a brief cover letter, on 17 Mar. and replied to Humphreys on 21 Mar. (ibid., 420–21).

3For the papers “with respect to American flour and grain” that Humphreys sent from Lisbon, see his letter to Jefferson of 25 Jan., ibid., 93–94.

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