George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 7 October 1793

From David Humphreys

(secret & confidential)

My dear Sir.Gibralter Octr 7th 1793.

By my letters of yesterday & to-day to the Secretary of State, you will learn that the Algerines have concluded a Truce with the Portuguese; and that the Algerine fleet has gone into the Atlantic.1 I think they would not have passed the Streights with all their force, without having much better Pilots than usual. In dreading the consequences of surprize to our vessels, I have taken all the means in my power to avert them, by giving the most expeditious & extensive notice to our Countrymen possible.2

Conscious as I am, that not a moment has been lost, or exertion withheld on my part, in attempting the accomplishment of your wishes; I entreat, in all events, you will be persuaded of my perseverance in the same line of conduct.3 Should every attempt prove abortive (as there is but too much reason to fear) perhaps circumstances may occur, which would render it useful to the Public for me to return for a short time to America, to communicate or suggest, in an oral manner, what could not absolutely be so well done by any other means. In that contingency, you might possibly not think it improper to have a discretionary leave of absence lodged for me at Lisbon—Of this, however, you will judge & decide according to the superior lights with which your situation will furnish you. For myself—I do not certainly mention the matter, because I have any desire of returning to America—for I declare most solemnly, I have no personal interest or wish on the subject. With sentiments of the sincerest affection for all around you, I remain, my dear Sir, Your most faithful friend & Hble Servant

D. Humphreys.


1For Humphreys’s letters to Thomas Jefferson of 6 and 7 Oct., see 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 , 27:196–200. Since 1785, American merchant ships on the Atlantic Ocean had benefitted from a Portuguese naval blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar intended to protect Portugal’s commerce with Brazil. However, in September 1793, Charles Logie, the British consul at Algiers, acting on instructions from a government eager to free up Portuguese ships for action against France, assured the Dey of Algiers that Portugal was willing to pay a large sum for a peace treaty, and thus obtained the Dey’s consent to a twelvemonth truce. The blockade was briefly ended, but by late November, having concluded that the cost of a treaty was excessive, Portugal repudiated the truce and reinstituted the blockade.

2On 8 Oct. Humphreys issued a notice asking “all Governors, Magistrates, and others concerned in the United States of America. . . . as speedily as possible, to give an universal alarm to all citizens of the United States concerned in navigation, particularly to the Southern parts of Europe, of the danger of being captured by the Algerines in prosecuting their voyages to that destination” (Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 25 Dec.).

3Humphreys is referring to his commission to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dey of Algiers (see GW to the Dey of Algiers, 21 March 1793, and n.1 to that document).

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