state of South Carolina
In the House of Representatives December 6th 1793
The Committee to whom was referred the business of examining unto and ascertaining the truth of a Report—That an Armed force is now levying within this State by Persons under a foreign Authority without the pemission and Contrary to the express prohibition of the Government of the United States and of this State.
That they have made diligent Enquiry respecting the truth of this report and have collected such Evidence relating thereto as was immediately within their reach—That your Committee are perfectly satisfied from the information on the Oaths of divers credible Persons which they have received—That William Tate, Jacob R. Brown William Urby Robert Tate, Richard Speake Citizens of this State and other Persons unknown to your Committee also Citizens of this State have received & accepted military Commissions, from M. Genet Minister Plenipotentiary from the Republic of France to the United States of America Authorising them and instructions requiring them, to raise, organise, train and Conduct Troops within the United States of America1—That the avowed purpose for which these Troops are now raising is to rendezvous in the State of Georgia and from thence to proceed into the Spanish Dominions with a view to Conquest or plunder as their Strength might enable or opportunity might tempt them That in the Event of a French Fleet approaching the Coa[s]ts of the Southen States a junction and co:operation with it is contemplated by the Persons abovementioned But that tho this was the avowed Object of these Troops and their Leaders among themselves from the injunction to conceal the whole System from persons not initiated and the Subordination established to Mr Genet, the author of the plan and the Source of Authority to the Officers—It is probable that the Corps when raised must yeild to any change of destination which the Judgment or inclination of M. Genet may point out to them: That several of the Persons above named received together with their Commissions instructions by which they were to regulate their enrollments of Men Stating the pay, rations, Cloathing, plunder and division of conquered Land, to be allotted to the officers and Men who should enter into this Service and marking the proportions of the Acquisitions to be reserved to the republic of France. That the persons abovenamed in pursuance of the powers vested in them by the said Commissions and in obedience to the instructions of M. Genet and his Agents particularly
M. Mangourit who signed some of the papers2 have proceeded by themselves and by their Agents without any Authority from the United States, or from this State to enroll numbers of the Citizens of this State whom they deluded with the hopes of plunder and the Acquisition of riches in the Service of the Republic of France to be subject to the orders of M. Genet the Minister plenipotentiary of France.
That Stephen Drayton and John Hamilton also Citizens of this State have made application to the Good Citizens thereof to engage in this scheme of raising Men in this State for the Service of France to Act under the orders of M. Genet, and to commit Acts of hostility against nations at peace with the United States of America, and have avowed that they acted by the Authority of M. Genet the Minister plenipotentiary of the Republic of France:3 That upon the whole of the information which your Committee have been able to obtain This is a daring and dangerous attempt by a Foreign Minister to intermeddle in the Affairs of the United States, to usurp the powers of Government and to levy Troops in the bosom of the Union without the Authority and contrary to the express Sense of the Government of the United States and in Violation of the Laws of Nations.
That the direct tendency of these measures of the foreign Minister is to disturb the internal tranquility of the United States and to involve them in hostilities with Nations with whom they are now at peace, which sound policy requires should be preserved.
That in the Opinion of your Committe this attempt is the more dangerous, and alarming as many Citizens of the United States, have been thereby Seduced from their duty by insiduous Arts practised on their kindred Affection to the french Republic and have been drawn into a Scheme in the execution of which they have usurped the functions of Government and exercised the power of the sword which the wisdom of the Constitution hath vested exlusively in the Congress and President of the United States—That this Committee therefore recommend that the Governor of this State be requested to issue his proclamation forbidding all persons from enrolling any of the Citizens of this State and prohibiting the Citizens from enlisting under any Officers or for any purposes not previously Sanctioned by the Government of the United States or of this State And also forbidding all unlawful Assemblages of Troops unauthorized by Government,4 And that the Governor be requested to exert the whole public force to the utmost extent if necessary to insure obedience to his proclamation.
That in the oppinion of this Committee the said William Tate Jacob R. Brown Robert Tate, Stephen Drayton John Hamilton and Richard Speke have been guilty of Hight Crimes and Misdemeanours and they recommend that the Attorney General and Solicitors be directed forthwith to institute or cause to be instituted and conducted prosecutions in the proper Courts of Law against the said William Tate Jacob R. Brown Robert Tate, Stephen Drayton John Hamilton and Richard Speke for accepting or engaging to accept Commissions from a foreign power to raise Troops within the United States and for going about within the State levying or Attempting to levy Troops and for seducing and endeavouring to seduce the Citizens of this State to enroll themselves for foreign Service to commit Acts of hostility against Nations with whom the United States are at peace without the permission of the Government and contrary to the proclamation of the President of the United States declaring these States to be in a State of Nutrality and Peace—That Copies of the Evidence collected by this Committee together with the proceedings of this House thereon be forwarded immediately to the President of the United States and to the Executives of the State of North Carolina and Georgia for their information.
Resolved Unanimously that this House do concur in the said Report.
Ordered that the Report and Resolution be sent to the Senate for their concurrence.
By order of the House
John Sandford Dart C. H. R.5
Resolved unanimously that this House do concur with the House of Representatives in the foregoing Report and Resolution.
Ordered That the Report and Resolution be sent to the House of Resolution.
By Order of the Senate
Felix Warley C. S.6
A true Copy, and which I Attest
John Sandford Dart
Clerk of the House of Representatives
Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; Copy, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DNA: RG 46, Transcribed Reports and Communications Transmitted by the Executive Branch to the U.S. Senate, 1789–1819.
1. For a copy of William Tate’s commission of 15 Oct. 1793, see “Mangourit Correspondence,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. “The Mangourit Correspondence in Respect to Genet’s Projected Attack upon the Floridas, 1793-94.” In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1897. Washington, D.C., 1898, pages 569-679. description ends 599. Jacob Roberts Brown (1731–1805), originally from Virginia, was a former Continental army officer who represented the Newberry District in the South Carolina general assembly. At a hearing to determine whether he should be stripped of his seat, Brown claimed that he had taken the proposed commission under consideration but had ultimately refused to accept the commission, which he burned (State Gazette of South-Carolina [Charleston], 19 Dec.). Richard Speake (1753–1834) served as a private in the Revolutionary War. He was a brother-in-law of Robert Tate (d. 1803), who served as a captain of South Carolina dragoons in 1781. The charges against these men were supported by four affidavits given to committee members Henry William DeSaussure (1763– 1839), Timothy Ford (1762–1830), and James Green Hunt (d. 1794) on 2 December.
Thomas Wadsworth (1755–1799), who represented Laurens County in the South Carolina Senate, 1791–97, testified that Urby had said he had a commission, which Wadsworth “understood was for Foreign Service,” and was authorized to raise troops to be commanded by William Tate. Wadsworth also testified that Brown had shown him a paper outlining details of the proposal and asked if Wadsworth would advise him to “engage in this Business.” Wadsworth “understood that the Source of all Power & the Spring of Action in this Business, was Mr Genet” and “that the Business was to be conducted secretly.”
Thomas Farrar (1754–1833), a former Continental army officer, at this time a sheriff for Washington District and later a representative of the Pendleton District in the South Carolina Senate, testified that William Tate had showed him two papers signed by Genet, one appointing Tate “a Colonel in the Service of the French Republic” and the other “being a Plan for the Formation of a Military Corps.” Tate told Farrar that he was enlisting men “to march to South America & attack the Spanish Dominions.”
Thomas Brandon (1741–1802), a colonel in the South Carolina militia who had served five terms in the South Carolina general assembly between 1776 and 1790, testified that Robert Tate had “urged him to accept an appointment in a Body of Troops that was to be raised in this State under French Commissions—which Troops were to go on an expidition against the Spanish possessions on some part of the American Continent.”
Jacob Rumph (1752–1812), a militia lieutenant colonel who represented Orange County in the general assembly, testified that he met two men, one of whom, thinking he was of “the party for enlisting and ⟨r⟩aising Men for the French Service,” offered to show Rumph his commission, which Rumph refused. The two said “they were to have their rendezvous in Georgia” and asked whether Rumph had seen “Captn Tate” (certified copies of all depositions, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; see also ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:310–11). The committee subsequently employed Farrar to secure the papers of these men, but he was unsuccessful (State Gazette of South-Carolina [Charleston], 28 Dec.).
2. Michel Ange Bernard de Mangourit (1752–1829) was the French consul at Charleston from 1792 to 1794. In 1796 Mangourit was appointed as chargé des affaires to the United States, but the appointment was withdrawn after the American minister in France, James Monroe, protested (Monroe to Timothy Pickering, 4 and 15 Aug. 1796, ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:741).
3. John Hamilton probably was the man who had served as a lieutenant and adjutant of the 1st South Carolina Regiment during the Revolutionary War. This charge was supported by the 3 Dec. affidavit of Laurence Manning (1756?–1804), a Revolutionary War officer who represented Claremont County in the South Carolina general assembly. Manning testified that Drayton and Hamilton called at his house “& mentioned to this Deponent as a very advantageous Plan that was a foot to get as many Men as possible to agree to assemble by small Parties upon some of the Shores near Charleston or elsewhere & that a french Fleet was to attend for the Purpose of receiving them and that the Object was to make a Descent upon some of the Spanish Islands that would be a very Lucrative Conquest if effected.” Manning, who “understood” that Drayton and Hamilton “were acting under the Authority of the Minister of the French Republic at the Time,” refused Drayton’s offer of “a pretty high Commission” because of “Doubts of the Legality of the Undertaking in as much as it would be inconsistent with the Proclamation of the President of the United States” (Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; see also ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:311).
The committee submitted the affidavits to the justices of the state supreme court, who issued warrants for the arrest of Drayton and Hamilton. The two were bound over to answer charges at the next federal court at Columbia. Meanwhile, the committee authorized Col. Wade Hampton to seize papers from the two men, which he did by “breaking open the locks” of their trunks “with all the delicacy and tenderness possible due to the citizen of a free country.” Hampton found in Hamilton’s possession papers containing “military regulation for the American revolutionary legion, intended to be raised under the auspices and by the authority of Mr. Genet in America.” On 17 Dec. the South Carolina House adopted the committee’s report calling for the transmission of those papers to GW (State Gazette of South-Carolina [Charleston], 28 Dec.). No such transmission has been identified.
For Drayton’s challenge to the actions and authority of the committee, which included a lawsuit asking damages, see his letter of 10 Dec. in the City Gazette & Daily Advertiser (Charleston), 14 Dec., and Alexander Moultrie, An appeal to the people, on the conduct of a certain public body in South-Carolina, respecting Col. Drayton and Col. Moultrie (Charleston, 1794). A grand jury at the May 1794 U.S. circuit court at Columbia indicted Drayton but returned no bill against Hamilton (City Gazette & Daily Advertiser, 17 May 1794).
4. A copy of Governor Moultrie’s proclamation to this effect, dated 9 Dec., appears with the copy of this report in senate records.
5. John Sandford Dart (1741?–1798), a merchant who represented Christ Church in the 1775 Provincial Congress and the 1782 session of the South Carolina general assembly, served as clerk of the general assembly from 1783 to 1797. The remainder of this document is in a different handwriting.
6. Felix Warley (1749?–1814), a Revolutionary War officer, served as clerk for the South Carolina Senate from 1785 to 1801. The following attestation is in Dart’s writing, which is different from those of the copyists.