George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Godfried Wachsmuth et al., 6 May 1794

From John Godfried Wachsmuth et al.

Philadelphia 6th may 1794.

The Petition of John G. Wachsmuth, Ambrose vasse, Thomas Horton & James Vanuxem Citizens of the united states.

Your Petitioners begs leave to represent to your Excellency, the hardships they labour under by the different losses they met with, by the Captures of the following vessels and Cargoes taken & Carried by the British Cruisers to the Island of Jamaica, to wit

The Cargo of Brig Lidia Rinker master Condemned.

   do of Schooner Mary, Hussey Libelled

Shippement in Money by ship sampson Barney Master, Libelled

The Cargo of Brig Nancy Clement master Condemned—

   do of schooner Industry E. William Libelled.

The Brig Harmony & Cargo, James Dumphy master Libelled

The schooner Robbin & Cargo Brouck master Libelled.

The Cargo of Ship Rising sun, Wilkey master Libelled.1

To obtain redress from these unjust proceedings your Petitioners proposes to fit out a Pilot boat to be send to Jamaica for the sole purpose to Carry the necessary Certificates of thier Citizenship, the want of which was the only reason assigned by the Judge of the vice admiralty for Condemning the Cargoes above mentioned.

They therefore humbly pray to have permission that such vessel might be fitted out & proceed to the Intended Voyage and your Petitioners will Enter into Such Bonds & Conditions as will be required from them, in the Premisses.2

John Godfd Wachsmuth

Ambe Vasse

Thomas Horton

James Vanuxem

DS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. John Godfried Wachsmuth (d. c.1826) was at this time a partner in the firm of E. Dutilh & Wachsmuth at 111 N. Water St. in Philadelphia. Ambrose Vasse (c.1746-1831), a native of the Languedoc region of France, came to the United States near the close of the Revolutionary War and was at this time a shipping merchant located at 29 Mulberry St. in Philadelphia. Thomas Horton (c.1754-1819) was a sea captain residing on South Front Street. James Vanuxem (c.1745-1824) was a shipping merchant located at 29 N. Water St. in Philadelphia. In 1802 the Pennsylvania legislature appointed him one of the directors of the Bank of Pennsylvania.

1The brig Lydia was advertised by E. Dutilh & Wachsmuth to leave Philadelphia for Port-au-Prince in October 1793. By 22 Dec. 1793 it had been detained at Kingston, Jamaica, and the ship itself was freed by March 1794 (Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 8 Oct. 1793; New-York Daily Gazette, 15 Feb. 1794; Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 26 March 1794). The ship’s captain, Samuel Rinker (c.1760-1823), was appointed a sailing master in the U.S. Navy in 1813.

The schooner Mary of Boston, captained by Simeon Hussey, was detained at Kingston by February 1794, having been taken by the frigate Success while en route from Baltimore to Jérémie, Saint Domingue, with a cargo of wine (Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 27 March 1794).

The ship Sampson, captained by Joshua Barney, was captured in early December 1793 by the British frigate Penelope while bound from Port-au-Prince to Baltimore with a cargo of coffee and sugar having a value estimated variously from $55,000 to more than $300,000. Considering a charge of "associating and acting in concert with the enemy, and defending the enemy’s property, as well as divers other acts contrary to the laws of neutrality," the court at Kingston condemned the cargo in April 1794. The ship itself was then freed, but it was reported wrecked on its next voyage (Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 24 Jan. 1794; Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 7 Jan. and 27 March 1794; The Mirrour [Concord, N.H.], 16 June; Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 19 May; Mercury [Boston], 1 July; Mary Barney, ed., A Biographical Memoir of the Late Commodore Joshua Barney: from Autographical Notes and Journals in Possession of His Family, and Other Authentic Sources [Boston, 1832], 172-79).

In January 1794 the brig Nancy out of Portland was reported detained at Jamaica with its cargo libeled. The ship itself evidently was freed by April (New Hampshire Gazette [Portsmouth], 11 Jan.; American Minerva, and the New-York [Evening] Advertiser, 8 April).

The brig Harmony, which was making regular runs between Port-au-Prince and Philadelphia, on at least one trip bringing a cargo of sugar for Vasse, was captured in March 1794 after leaving Port-au-Prince. The ship was freed by June (Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 18 Jan. 1793; Daily Advertiser [New York], 12 May 1794; Independent Gazetteer [Philadelphia], 14 June 1794). James Dunphy (Dumphy; d. c.1803), who resided in 1795 and 1796 on North Front Street in Philadelphia, continued as a sea captain until at least 1802.

The Robbin (Robin, Rolin) of Philadelphia, captained by John Brouck (Brock, Brook), was taken on 7 Feb. 1794 while en route from Port-au-Prince to Philadelphia with a cargo of coffee and sugar (Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 27 March 1794).

The Rising Sun, captained by Thomas Wilkie, was detained at Kingston by 22 Dec. 1793; it evidently was freed by May 1794 (New-York Daily Gazette, 15 Feb. 1794; City Gazette & Daily Advertiser [Charleston, S.C.], 2 May 1794).

Any ships still in detention likely were freed at a special admiralty court of 22 May, at which reportedly "all American vessels which had been sent in as prizes were liberated, excepting those suspected of having French property on board" (Mercury [Boston], 1 July 1794), but the fate of the cargos has not been established.

2This request subsequently was supported by French minister Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet in a letter to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph of 12 May, but Alexander Hamilton advised against granting a passport (see Hamilton to GW, 12 May, and n.1 to that document).

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