George Washington Papers

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson, 18 August 1793

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia, c.18 August 1793]1

Th: Jefferson on examination of the subject finds that the resolution for restoring or compensating prizes taken by the proscribed vessels was agreed to by the heads of departmts & Attorney Genl on the 5th. there was a difference of opinion how far it should be communicated to mister Hammond; the President was pleased to call at the office of Th: J. and to decide in favor of a full communication, on the same day (between 2. & 3. oclock he believes)2 Th: J. on considering the subject, found it would require caution of expression in both letters, that is, to mister Genet & mister Hammond. he took therefore till the next day to prepare the draughts. the President called on him in the country the next morning (the 6th) and after his departure, Th: J. went on with the beginning of the letter to mister Gouvr Morris, which he had begun, and had read a part of to the President. he was therefore later than usual in going to town. when he arrived there he sent the two draughts of letters to Genet & Hammond for the President’s approbation.3 whether they did not come back to his office till he had left town, or whether they could not be copied4 in time, he does not recollect; but he finds the press copy of the letter to mister Genet, in mister Taylor’s handwriting, dated Aug. 7.5

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Tobias Lear’s docket on the AL reads “From The Secy of State without date—But must have been written about the 18 or 19 Augt 1793.” A similar notation appears in the letter-book copy.

2Jefferson is referring to the Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers and Prizes of 5 Aug. 1793, in which the cabinet was divided in its opinion regarding the content of a proposed letter to British minister George Hammond respecting the restoration of British ships that were seized as prizes by French privateers and brought into American ports. For GW’s conversation with Jefferson, in which he expressed his agreement with the position held by Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox, see Jefferson’s Notes of Cabinet Decisions, 6 Aug. 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 , 26:627. Jefferson’s office was at the State Department, 287 High Street, Philadelphia.

3For Jefferson’s letters of 7 Aug. to Edmond Genet, the French Minister to the United States, and George Hammond, see Jefferson to GW, 7 Aug. (first letter), n.1. Jefferson’s summer residence was a small house just outside of Philadelphia, near Gray’s Ferry and on the east side of the Schuylkill River (Jefferson to Moses Coxe, 7 Mar. 1793, ibid., 25:332). For Jefferson’s Notes of a Conversation with GW on 6 Aug., see Jefferson to GW, 31 July, n.3. Jefferson was working on the draft of a letter to Gouverneur Morris, the U.S. Minister to France, of 16 Aug. 1793, in which Morris received instructions to request the French government to recall Genet (Cabinet Opinion, 23 Aug. 1793, and note 2). For Jefferson’s submission of his letters to Genet and Hammond for GW’s approval, see respectively Jefferson’s first and second letters to GW of 7 Aug. 1793.

4This word is missing from the letter-book copy.

5The letterpress copy in the hand of State Department clerk George Taylor, Jr., is at DLC: Jefferson Papers. GW may have wanted copies of the Genet and Hammond letters to prepare for the cabinet meeting of 20 Aug. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 226; Jefferson’s Notes of Cabinet Meeting on Edmond Charles Genet, 20 Aug. 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 , 26:730–32; Cabinet Opinion, 23 Aug. 1793).

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