Tobias Lear to Henry Knox
[Philadelphia] 28 August 1793
By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to return to the Secretary of War the enclosed letter & papers from the District Attorney of New York⟨.⟩ and the draught of a letter consequent thereof to Governor Clinton. And to inform the Secretary that the President thinks the letter proposed to be written to Governor Clinton a proper one for the Occasion; yet as it is the first of the kind which it has been found necessary to write—and may be considered as a precedent, he wishes the matter to be laid before the Heads of the Departments and the Attorney General for their serious consideration and opinion and desires that you will accordingly lay it before them.1 The letter for Governor Moultrie meets the President’s ideas.2
ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.
1. For the submission of these letters to Lear, see Knox to Lear, 28 Aug. 1793. On the seizure of the French prize Chilcomb, a British brig, by a party of New York militia, see Knox to Lear, 21 Aug. 1793, and note 1. For GW’s approval of Knox’s draft ordering the restoration of this brig to its original owners, see JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 233–34. Any record of the cabinet’s approval of this draft has not been identified. A letter-book copy of Knox’s letter to Clinton of 28 Aug. reads: “The letter from your Excellency’s Secretary of the 18th instant was duly received and submited to the President of the United States. ⟨mutilated⟩ you could not then have received my letters of the 19th and 20th relatively to the restoration of the Prizes, it was hoped upon receipt thereof that ⟨you⟩ would have directed the Chilcomb to have been restored to her ⟨mutilated⟩ or owners, but it appears from information just received from ⟨Mr⟩ Harrison the district Attorney, that some difficulties exist ⟨mutilated⟩ subject—the steps of the seizure and restoration of the Prizes made by the unlawful ⟨mutilated⟩ 16th was prompt, and uniform brough⟨t⟩ ⟨mutilated⟩ ⟨sei⟩zure of the Prizes could only be made by ⟨mutilated⟩ capacities; so it was concluded that they ⟨mutilated⟩ to be made by the officers immediately under ⟨mutilated⟩ restoration was made in this manner, prizes ⟨mutilated⟩ into distant Ports, would have to remain long⟨er⟩ ⟨mutilated⟩ of the owners, as well as incur considerable ex⟨mutilated⟩. The Governor of this State has acted in conformity to ⟨mutilated⟩. The President of the United States therefore r⟨mutilated⟩ would be ⟨pleased⟩ to direct the officer on board the Ch⟨ilcomb⟩ ⟨mutilated⟩ the vessel to the master thereof at the time of its ⟨mutilated⟩ if you should be of opinion ⟨mutilated⟩ any pertinent ⟨mutilated⟩ necessary, that you wou⟨ld⟩ ⟨mutilated⟩ to prepare one for the purpose ⟨mutilated⟩ ” (N-Ar, Papers of George Clinton). Clinton responded to Knox’s letter by issuing an order on 31 Aug. to the “officer commanding the detachment of Militia on board the Brigantine Chilcon” that “Pursuant to a reqest of the President of the united States you will deliver the Brigantine Chilcon, now in you[r] possession t⟨o⟩ the bearer Michael Cavenagh, who it appears was master of ⟨Her⟩ at the time of her capture, and then dismiss the detachment under your command” (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton).
Knox’s letter to Clinton of 19 Aug. instructed the governor to restore any prizes brought into the port of New York by the privateers mentioned in Knox’s circular letter of 16 Aug. to the masters or owners at the time of capture. If no such persons could be found, then the vessels should be delivered to the consul of the country to which they belonged (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton). For Knox’s letter to Clinton of 20 Aug., see Thomas Mifflin to GW, 20 Aug., n.2.