George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 11 July 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia July 11th 1793.


Before1 I had read the Papers put into my hands by you, requiring “instant attention” and2 a messenger could reach your Office, you had left town.3

What is to be done in the case of the Little Sarah, now at Chester? Is the Minister of the French Republic to set the Acts of this Government at defiance—with impunity? and then threaten the Executive with an appeal to the People. What must the world think of such conduct, and of the Government of the U. States in submitting to it?4

These are serious questions. Circumstances press for decision—and as you have had time to consider them (upon me they have come unexpected) I wish to receive your opinion upon them—even before tomorrow5—for the Vessel may then be gone.6

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADfS, InU: M. A. I. Blair Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. Jefferson docketed the ALS as “recd July 11. 93.”

1“After” appears in place of “Before” on the draft and letter-book copy.

2The word “before” appears here on the draft and letter-book copy.

3For the papers read by GW, see Jefferson’s first memorandum to GW of 11 July. On Jefferson’s summer home outside of Philadelphia, see Jefferson to GW, 12 June, n.2.

4On the dilemma posed by the outfitting of the British brig Little Sarah as the French privateer Petite Démocrate and by the behavior of Edmond Genet, see Jefferson’s Notes of 10 July enclosed in his first memorandum to GW of 11 July.

5GW had returned to Philadelphia earlier this date after a visit to Mount Vernon. After reading the papers sent by Jefferson, he called a cabinet meeting for 9 a.m. on 12 July (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 190–91). The cabinet had considered the case of the Little Sarah on 8 July, during GW’s absence (Cabinet Opinion, 8 July, and note 8; see also Hamilton and Knox to GW, 8 July). Jefferson enclosed the cabinet’s conflicting opinions in his letter to GW of this date.

6Contrary to the administration’s later instructions, the Little Sarah left port shortly after 12 July (Cabinet Opinion, 12 July, and note 2; George Hammond to Jefferson, 22 July, 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 , 26:547–48).

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