George Washington Papers

Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers, 17 June 1793

Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers

[Philadelphia] June 17. 1793.

At a meeting of the heads of departments at the President’s this day, on summons from him, a letter from mister Genet of the 15th inst. addressed to the Secretary of state on the subject of the seizure of a vessel by the Govr. of New York as having been armed, equipped & manned in that port with a design to cruize on the enemies of France, was recd as also the draught of an answer prepared by the Secretary of state, which was approved.1

Recd also a letter of June 14. from mister Hammond to the Secretary of state desiring to know whether the French privateers the Citizen Genet & Sans Culottes are to be allowed to return or send their prizes into the ports of the U.S. it is the opinion that he be informed that they were required to depart to the dominions of their own sovereign and nothing expressed as to their ulterior proceedings. and that in answer to that part of the same letter which states that the Sans Culottes has increased it’s force in the port of Baltimore & remains there in the avowed intention of watching the motions of a valuable ship now lying there, it be answered that we expect the speedy departure of those privateers will obviate the inconveniences apprehended, and that it will be considered whether any practicable arrangements can be adopted to prevent the augmentation of the force of armed vessels.2

Th: Jefferson

A. Hamilton

H. Knox

DS, in Thomas Jefferson’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, in Thomas Jefferson’s writing, DLC: Jefferson Papers. GW’s docket on the DS reads: “Opinions June 17th & 20th 1793. On the subject of a Letter from the Minister of France—anothe[r] from the Minister of G. Britain—and a third from the Commissioners of Spain.” The cabinet opinion of 20 June is written on the reverse side of the DS.

1On Saturday, 15 June, GW had asked the cabinet to meet with him at 9 a.m. on Monday to address the concerns raised in letters that Jefferson had received from the French and British foreign ministers (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 178). Edmond Genet complained about the detention by officials of New York State of the French privateer Republican, originally named the Polly, in his first letter to Jefferson of 14 June. For Jefferson’s reply, in which he defended the state’s action, see his first letter to Genet of 17 June (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 , 26:281–83, 297–300). On Gov. George Clinton’s authority to seize this vessel, see Cabinet Opinion, 12 June 1793, and note 3.

2For George Hammond’s letter to Jefferson of 14 June and Jefferson’s reply of 19 June, see ibid., 284–85, 321. For approval of Jefferson’s reply, see Jefferson to GW, 19 June 1793 (first letter), and note 2.

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