George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 25 July 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia July 25th 1793.


A letter from Colo. S. Smith (of Baltimore) to the Secretary of the Treasury, giving information of the conduct of the Privateers—Citizen Genet & Sans Culottes—is sent for your perusal: after which it may be returned; because contained therein, is a matter which respects the Treasury Department solely.1

As the letter of the Minister from the Republic of France, dated the 22d of June, lyes yet to be answered;2 and as the Official conduct of that Gentleman—relatively to the Affairs of this Government—will have to undergo a very serious consideration (so soon as the Special Court at which the Attorney General is now engaged will allow him to attend with convenience)3 in order to decide upon measures proper to be taken thereupon: It is my desire that all the letters to, & from that Minister may be ready to be laid before me, the heads of Departments and the Attorney General with whom I shall advise on the occasion—together with the minutes of such Official Oral communications as you may have held with him on the subjects of—those letters &ca—And as the Memorials from the British Minister, & answers thereto, are materially connected therewith, it will be proper, I conceive, to have these ready also.4

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. Jefferson’s docket on the ALS reads “recd July 25. 93.”

1Congressman Samuel Smith had written Alexander Hamilton in late May to express concerns about French privateers operating in Maryland waters. During a cabinet meeting on 31 May, GW had given this unidentified letter to Attorney General Edmund Randolph for his opinion (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 156). The information contained in Smith’s letter about the privateers Citoyen Genet and the Sans Culotte was probably similar to that contained in a letter from Otho H. Williams, the collector of revenue at Baltimore, to Hamilton of 28 May 1793 (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 14:489–90).

At the 31 May cabinet meeting, GW requested that Randolph lay before Jefferson the letters from Smith and Williams “& let the President know their opinion of the steps wh. shd. be taken by the Governmt. in this case” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 156). Randolph enclosed these letters with his letter to Jefferson of 31 May 1793 (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 , 26:151–52). For the administration’s reaction to these two letters, see the Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers of 1 June 1793. GW received Smith’s letter with a letter from Randolph of 24 July.

2On Edmond Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 22 June 1793 and the decision to delay a reply, see Jefferson’s memorandum to GW, 11–13 July, and note 3, and Jefferson to GW, 16 July, and note 1, and Randolph to GW, 24 July, and note 2.

3Randolph was attending to the government’s case against mariner Gideon Henfield before a session of the U.S. Circuit Court of Pennsylvania that had convened at Philadelphia on 22 July. On Henfield’s arrest for serving aboard a French privateer, see Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers, 1 June 1793, and note 5. See also Federal Cases description begins The Federal Cases: Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Federal Reporter. 30 vols. St. Paul, 1894–97. description ends , 11:1105–22.

4For some of the relevant documents written by Genet and George Hammond, the British minister, that GW already had received, see Jefferson’s first and second memorandums to GW of 11 July and that of 11–13 July. For written accounts of Jefferson’s conversations with Genet, see Jefferson’s Notes of 10 July, enclosed in his first memorandum to GW of 11 July, and Jefferson’s memorandum to GW of 26 July 1793.

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