George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Dobbs Spaight, 8 February 1794

From Richard Dobbs Spaight

No. Carolina New Bern 8th Feb: 1794


On the 6th inst. I received the Secretary of Wars two letters of the 13th Jan: and his three letters of the 18th Jan: the latter directing me to restore the money papers and other property now in the custody of the Deputy Marshall, to the Agent of the Spanish Commissioners, I shall give the necessary orders for that purpose and send them on to Wilmington by the next Southern post which leaves this on Wednesday next.1

The papers which I informed you in my letter of the 19th Decem: last I had directed the marshal to send to me in order fully to establish the fact of the money having been taken from the Spanish Brig St Joseph. I recd whilst at Fayetteville but could not get them translated there[.] I brought them here with me and have employed a person well skilled in the Spanish language to translate them faithfully, and expected to have had them ready to send on to you by this post—but they are not quite finished.

As the Money is now ordered to be restored to the agent of the Spanish Commissioners, it may be unnecessary to proceed with the translation, but as it is in some forwardness & the person already engaged to do it⟨,⟩ I shall let it be finished and sent on to you. It is an extract from the cargo Book of the Brig St Joseph—specifying every article of the cargo shipped on board of her at Carthagena, and the names of the persons who shipped it—Also a paper in french appearing to be done by Capt: Hervieux & his Officers & crew agreeing to divide between them the money taken on board the Spanish brig. executed the 30th Sep: 1793:2 I have the honor to be &C.

Rd. D. Spaight

LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.

1On the dispute over gold and silver taken from the Spanish brig San Josef at the time of its capture by the French privateer Aimée Marguerite and its subsequent impoundment by Capt. William Cooke of the U.S. revenue cutter Diligence, who then turned it over to U.S. deputy marshal John Blakeley, see Spaight to GW, 21 Oct. and 19 Dec. 1793. In one of his letters to Spaight of 13 Jan., Henry Knox wrote: “The President of the United States has directed me to acknowledge receipt and reply to your letters of the 26th Novem: and the 19th ulto. From the circumstances of not having possession of the papers upon the subject an error was committed in my letter dated at Germantown [Pa.] on the 19th Novem: last in saying that prizes taken of the fifth day of June by proscribed privateers and brought into our ports were to be secured for the purpose of being restored to their former owners. The date which such prizes were be restored is after the 5th day of August last.

“If the evidence in your possession establishes the fact that the money in possession of the marshall of North Carolina belonged to the Spanish brig it is to be delivered to such agents as his Catholic Majesty’s ministers shall have empowered to receive it, or to the Captain or owner if they should make their appearance, An agent however it is understood has been appointed for this purpose.

“The expenses which have been or may be incurred in the prosecution of this business are to be defrayed by the general Government upon accounts which shall be authenticated by your Excellency and transmitted to the accountant of this office under cover to me.

“The principle established by the president of the United States and contained in my letter of the 16th of August last, prohibiting asylum to any armed vessels fitted originally in our ports as cruizers is considered as of the highest importance to be adhered to, unless such vessels will divest themselves entirely of all warlike equipments” (Nc-Ar, Governors’ Letterbooks). For Knox’s circular letter of 16 Aug. to the governors of the maritime states, see n.1 of Knox to Tobias Lear, 17 Aug. 1793. The other letter of 13 Jan. has not been identified.

Only one letter of 18 Jan. from Knox to Spaight has been identified. It reads: “His catholic Majestys commissioners being desirous that every obstacle may be removed to their agents receiving the money taken by the L Aimee Margueritte, an illicit french privateer from the Spanish brig St Joseph; and it appearing indisputable from the evidence received that the money in possession of the marshall of North Carolina was taken out of the said brig, Your Excellency will therefore please to cause it to be delivered to the agent who has been appointed by the Spanish commissioners for that purpose” (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks).

Spaight charged Blakeley, the deputy marshal at Wilmington, and not marshal John Skinner, with responsibility for guarding the trunk filled with Spanish gold and silver (Spaight to Blakeley, 31 Oct. 1793, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks). For the appointment by José Ignacio de Viar and José de Jaudenes of Edward Jones (1762–1841), a resident of Wilmington and the state’s solicitor general, to act as their agent, see their letter to Thomas Jefferson, 23 Oct. 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 , 27:268–69. For Spaight’s orders to Blakeley to restore the money and other confiscated items, see n.2 of Spaight to GW, 16 Feb., and n.2 of Spaight to GW, 15 March. The next scheduled southern post was Wednesday, 12 February.

2Neither the original documents nor the translations enclosed in Spaight’s letter to GW of 16 Feb. have been identified.

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