George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 17 August 1793

From Henry Knox

War department August 17th 1793


I have the honor to submit certain papers just received from Governor Mifflin with a desire of being submitted to you.1

I also have the honor of submitting a letter written by me to him in concert with the Secretary of the Treasury.2 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your obedient Servant

H. Knox
secy of war.


1Thomas Mifflin’s letter to Knox of 17 Aug. listed nine documents concerning privateers and prizes that were enclosed for GW’s consideration: (1) Deputy Collector Sharp Delany’s letter to Mifflin of 14 Aug. reported the arrival of the British sloop Hope and the American sloop St. Alodia, both prizes to French privateers. On these vessels, see Knox to Tobias Lear, 17 Aug., and note 1. (2) Mifflin’s first letter to Adj. Gen. Josiah Harmar of 16 Aug. ordered him to “place parties of Militia, consisting of a Corporal and six men each,” on the Hope and St. Alodia, and “to keep the same in safe custody until further orders.” (3) Mifflin’s second letter to Harmar of 16 Aug. instructed him to give general orders to William Linnard, the commanding officer at Mud Island, “to stop & examine all inward bound private Vessels of war & commerce” at Mud Island. If the French privateers Citoyen Genet, Sans Culotte, Vainqueur de la Bastille, Petite Démocrate, and Carmagnole arrived, Linnard should order them “immediately to depart.” Any prizes should be seized and detained until further orders. (4) Dallas’s orders to master warden Nathaniel Falconer of 16 Aug. asked him to “immediately issue orders to the Pilots of the Port” to communicate to the captains of incoming private vessels of war and commerce that they will have to stop at Mud Island for inspection. (5) Linnard’s letter to Mifflin of 16 Aug., written at “Half Past eight A. M.,” reported that the Citoyen Genet had “Just” arrived at Mud Island and that he had ordered her to depart immediately. Capt. Pierre A. Johanene, however, reported that he was not able to comply because his provisions were “entirely out” and his sails “So bad” as to prevent his departing. (6) In a letter of 16 Aug., Dallas informed Linnard of Mifflin’s orders to detain the Citoyen Genet until further instructions. (7) In his letter of 17 Aug. to François Dupont, the French consul, Mifflin wrote: “By the instructions, which I have received from the President of the United States, it becomes my duty, to prevent any armed vessel, which has been, or shall be originally fitted in any port of the U.S. as a Cruiser, or privateer, by either of the parties at war, taking asylum in any port or harbour of the State of Pena. The Citizen Genet a French Privateer, being of this description, and arriving last night at Mud Island, was ordered immediately to depart; but the Captain of the vessel declaring that she was not in a condition to return, her provisions being exhausted, and her sails so bad as to incapacitate her for proceeding to sea, she is detained by the commanding officer at the Fort [Mifflin] till further orders are given upon the subject.

“I am anxious, by every proper effort, to avoid the painful necessity of employing force on this occasion; and, therefore, I request your interposition to induce the Privateer peaceably & expeditiously to depart without attempting to approach nearer to the City.” For the instructions given to Mifflin by Henry Knox on 16 Aug., see note 1 of Knox to Tobias Lear, 17 Aug. 1793. (8) In an affidavit witnessed by notary public Clement Biddle on 17 Aug., Richard Jones Waters, Amos Wilson, and Thomas Nicholson swore that they were the sole owners of the St. Alodia, or “Western Experiment,” a sloop built on the Monongahela River, in Washington County, Pa., which “sailed from thence loaded with flour in April 1792 for the falls of the Ohio.” In December the vessel set sail with a cargo of corn for New Madrid and other ports on the Mississippi, eventually reaching New Orleans, from which she departed on 13 July 1793 with seven hogsheads of tobacco addressed to James Pike at Philadelphia. The remaining cargo of “six tons of logwood and nine bales of peltry” were for Waters. The sloop was seized off the Cape of Delaware on 12 Aug. by the Petite Démocrate and the Carmagnole. (9) Mifflin’s letter to the Philadelphia merchant firm of Reed and Forde of 17 Aug. stated that it could now take possession of the St. Alodia in behalf of its owners. Mifflin’s letter to Knox and its enclosures are at PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790–99. On Reed and Forde of 51 S. Front Street, and this company’s trade with Spanish New Orleans, see “Reed and Forde: Merchant Adventurers of Philadelphia,” Pa. Mag. 61 (July 1937), 237–62.

Knox also sent GW a letter from Mifflin to Knox of 17 Aug. in which Mifflin enclosed a report from Delany “respecting the equipments of the Sloop Spry mentioned by the Master Warden in his communication of the [14] instant but called the Freedom, in the Collectors report. As the information seems to leave no doubt that the vessel is fitting out for War, I have issued an order for taking her into possession by a party of Militia; of which order I likewise enclose a Copy. I shall be glad of an early communication of the sentiments of the President on this occasion.” Delany’s report has not been identified, but Falconer wrote Mifflin on 14 Aug. that he “found a small Sloop at Queen Street wharf, with a Pink [narrow] Stern, that Came into this port a Prize to the Gennet or Sans Culotte the 21st of May Called the Spry. She is newly Graved [the ship’s bottom cleaned and pitch applied to it] and fiting out and to be Commanded by Captain [Gideon] Henfield.” Falconer also reported that the sloop appeared to be “fitting out for a Corsair,” adding cannon, howitzers, and “Stantions for Swivels.” Mifflin wrote Harmar on 16 Aug. with orders for a party of militia to “take possession” of this vessel (all documents, PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790–99).

2Knox also enclosed, for GW’s approval, a letter to Mifflin of 17 Aug. in which the governor was instructed to deliver the Hope and St. Alodia to “the masters or owners,” or in case of doubt, to the foreign minister of the nation to which the vessel belonged when captured (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 222). This letter has not been identified, but according to an article in the 19 Aug. issue of Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia), the St. Alodia already had been returned to its owners. The Hope was restored on 20 Aug. (Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond, 26 Dec. 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 , 27:620–22).

Responding to the report that the Citoyen Genet was unable to depart because it lacked provisions and the sails needed repair, GW directed Knox to inform Mifflin that the privateer could remain in port only as long as it took to provide enough provisions “to carry her to some Port out of the US.” He also instructed Knox to have all communications with Mifflin about privateers and prizes to “be in writing” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 222). For Knox’s later instructions to Mifflin concerning the Citoyen Genet, see GW to Thomas Jefferson, 19 Aug., and note 3.

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