To the Cabinet
To—The heads of the Departments and the Attorney General.
Phila. 29th July 1793.
It will not be amiss, I conceive, at the meeting you are about to have today—to reconsider1 the expediency of directing the Custom house Officers to be attentive to the Arming or equipping Vessels—either for offensive or defensive War in the several Ports to which they belong—and make Report thereof to the Governor, or some other proper Officer.2
Unless this, or some other effectual mode is adopted to check this evil in the first stage of its growth, the Executive of the United States will be incessantly harrassed with complaints on this head, & probably when it may be difficult to afford a remedy.
ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. Jefferson’s docket reads “recd July 30. 93.”
1. Both letter-book copies have “consider.”
2. For an earlier attempt to use customs collectors to assist in the enforcement of the administration’s neutrality policy, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 4 May 1793, and note 1. The cabinet met on 29 July to discuss the “subject of the Jane,” a British letter of marque. At this meeting, “Some general principles were agreed upon & the further consideration of the subject put off ’till tomorrow” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 210). The general principles of 29 July were not finalized until a cabinet meeting held five days later (Cabinet Opinion on the Rules of Neutrality, 3 Aug. 1793). On the issues surrounding the presence of the Jane in Philadelphia waters, see Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin’s letters to GW of 5, 10, 27 July, and the cabinet opinion of 12 July. See also Thomas Jefferson’s notes on the 29 July meeting 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 , 26:579–80. During a meeting on 30 July, the cabinet decided that “all new Carriages, port holes, Guns &c. which had been added to the Jane since she came into the Port was contrary to treaty & not to be suffered & that the Collector [Sharp Delany], Surveyor [William MacPherson] & Warden [Nathaniel Falconer] of the Port ought to make strict enquiry into the matter & report facts” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 211). According to GW’s executive journal for 1 Aug., these three officials examined the Jane and found an increase in her armaments and crew. The British minister, George Hammond, “was requested to have her reduced to the state in which she entered the Port.” Hammond’s reply was read at the cabinet meeting of 2 Aug. (ibid., 212). For Governor Mifflin’s response, see his letter to GW of 2 Aug. 1793.