George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Mifflin, 21 August 1793

From Thomas Mifflin

Phil: 21. Augt 1793.


I have the honor to transmit, for your information, a copy of the Requisition, which was made for the departure of the Citizen Genet; and of my instructions to the Officer Commanding at Mud-Island, relative to the conduct to be pursued, in consequence of the Attachment issued, under the civil authority, against that Vessel; which has since been taken into the possession of the Marshall and brought up to the City of Philadelphia. Should she be released from the Judiciary process, I shall place a party of Militia on board of her, for the purpose of carrying your instructions into effect, and enforcing her departure, unless she complies with the condition, which you have prescribed.1

I take this opportunity, likewise, to lay before you, copies of my proceedings in the case of the Sloop, called the Spry, commanded by Capt. Henfield; which, coming within your instructions, as a vessel originally arming and equipping in this port, I have ordered to be arrested.2 I am, Sir, with perfect respect, Your most obedt Hble Servt

Thos Mifflin

Df, PHarH: Executive Correspondence; LB, PHarH: Executive Letter-Books.

1On Mifflin’s detention of the French privateer Citoyen Genet at Mud Island and his orders for it to leave Pennsylvania waters, see Mifflin to GW, 19 (second letter), 20 Aug. 1793, and the notes to both letters. In the enclosed requisition of 20 Aug. to Capt. Pierre A. Johanene, the commander of this privateer, Mifflin wrote: “In pursuance of the instructions of the P. of the U.S. I do hereby require and inform you to depart a Fr. Privateer called the Citz. Genet out of this Port, and of the jurisdiction of the state of Pena. within the space of 24 hours from the time of this requisition being delivered to you.” If Johanene delayed or refused to do so, Mifflin would “be under the disagreable necessity of taking measures to enforce a compliance.” Mifflin also enclosed his second and third letters of 20 Aug. to William Linnard, the commanding officer at Fort Mifflin on Mud Island. In one, he wrote: “I am instructed by the President to declare that the orders for detaining the Privateer Citizen Genet, are not to be considered, as standing in the way of the civil authority; and of consequence, that no obstruction is to be given to the marshall or his deputy, in serving any process upon the vessel, her officers or crew. You will, therefore avoid all interference upon this occasion; and if the Dep. Mar. under the auth[orit]y of any process of law, takes poss[ess]ion of the vessel, you will permit him to dispose of her, in any manner that he may think proper for keeping her in safe custody.” In the next, he instructed Linnard to serve the requisition letter and explained that the “service of this notice, however, is not to be considered as interfering with the Marshall’s authority; and, if his Deputy is in possession of the vessel, you will, notwithstanding these instructions, permit him to dispose of her as he thinks proper, agreably to the content of the letter, which I have written to you this morning on that subject particularly.” For Mifflin’s earlier letter to Linnard of 20 Aug., see Mifflin to GW, 20 Aug., n.1.

Mifflin also enclosed a copy of his letter of 21 Aug. to Clement Biddle, the federal marshal for Pennsylvania, which reads: “As the Privateer, Citizen Genet, has been attached by you, in virtue of a process issuing from the District Court of Pena. while she was under orders to leave the port, it is necessary to request that I may receive seasonable notice of her being released by the court auth[orit]y for the purpose of carrying into effect the instructions of the P[resident] in relation to that vessel.” All these enclosures are in PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790–99. For the administration’s position on the Citoyen Genet and other privateers, see the two Cabinet Opinions of 3 Aug. and that of 5 Aug. 1793.

2On the sloop Spry, see Henry Knox to GW, 17 Aug., and note 1. Mifflin enclosed copies of his letter to master warden Nathaniel Falconer of 19 Aug., in which he ordered a survey of this sloop by Falconer and “two skilful and respectable Citizens,” and the subsequent report from Falconer and wardens William Allen and Robert Bethell of 20 Aug. 1793. Upon boarding the Spry around 4 p.m., the wardens “went down into the Cabbin, and Hold,” where they found “that they had Births built in her Cabbin and Hold for a number of Men. she also had a teer of Hogsheads in her hold Filled with water, no guns on Board, but we are clearly of opinion that this sloop is not fitted in this manner for a Passenger vessel Alone as She appears to us not a fit Vessel to Carry Passengers, so as to accommodate them in a proper manner.” Mifflin also enclosed his letter of 21 Aug. to Gideon Henfield, the commanding officer of the Spry, in which he wrote that following an inspection of this sloop by the wardens, “there is sufficient reason to believe, that she is designed to act as a privateer. I am desirous, however, that every reasonable accommodation should be given…. if you will procure two responsible Sureties to unite with you in a Covenant, under the penalty of ⟨one⟩ thousand Pounds, that no arms, or other warlike equipments, shall be put on board the Sloop in this, or any other port or harbour of the United States, I will discharge her from her present arrest.” All these enclosures are in PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790–99. On the eventual release of this sloop, see Mifflin to GW, 30 Aug. 1793, and note 1. For GW’s receipt on 22 Aug. of Mifflin’s letter and its enclosures, see JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 229–30.

Index Entries