Edmund Randolph to Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet
Philadelphia June 25, 1794.
We have just received intelligence, that the Ship sometimes called Vanstabel, at others Chickamogga, and at others Isaac, is at Reedy Island, in the River Delaware. The circumstances of this vessel have for some time past attracted the attention, and excited much dissatisfaction in the Government; but it was expected, that she had long ago been divested of the Character, which was offensive to the United States.1 We possess complete proof, that she was equipped for war, by Mr John Cooper of virginia, in norfolk: that Mr Cooper, having promised, on the application of the Collector of that port, to land six Guns, did put them on board of a pilot boat and send them to Norfolk: that the same boat returned at night, and the guns were again taken on board of the ship; that a revenue cutter was dispatched to detain her, but she had sailed a few hours, before the Cutter could get down the river;2 and that she now makes a part of the French Fleet in the Delaware.
As I entertain the most perfect confidence that you will not countenance a conduct, contrary to our laws, and the maxims, which we have adopted; it has been thought more advisable to communicate this case to you, with the belief and expectation that you will cause it to be redressed, than to pursue those measures which the proceedings of Mr Cooper would warrant. An Officer shall bear to the fleet any dispatches, which you may think proper, in order that the ship may be reduced from a vessel of war to one merely mercantile.3 This being done, the Government will not require her to be further interrupted. I have &c.
Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.
1. In a letter to Randolph of 7 June, British minister George Hammond complained that in April the commander of the Vanstabel, John Cooper, had, acting under French orders, taken possession of the snow Venus, laden with goods for France, and that the Venus had, with the permission of a Norfolk officer, joined a French convoy (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation). Hammond’s letter and supporting documents were published in the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser of 13 June.
Also on 7 June, Virginia governor Henry Lee, having received information that the Vanstabel, built and armed in Virginia, had been given a French commission and was ready to sail, wrote to Cooper asking for information and to the French consul requesting that the ship be prevented from sailing until an investigation was completed. On 8 June, having determined that the ship was not commissioned but that Cooper had "expatriated himself and is an officer I understand in the Navy of the French Republic," Lee instructed William Lindsay, the naval officer at Norfolk, to inspect her and informed Cooper that the ship would be examined the next day "to ascertain whether her equipment be for war or merely for defence as a commercial Vessel" (Vi: Executive Letter Book, 1792-1794).
2. For this evidence, see Lindsay to Lee, and Thomas Newton to Lee, both 14 June (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 7:182-83). Lee transmitted copies of these documents in his letter to Secretary of War Henry Knox of 18 June (Vi: Executive Letter Book, 1792-1794). See also Knox to Lee, 27 June (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 7:198-99).
3. Fauchet replied to Randolph on 27 June (9 Messidor) that he was unaware of the events at Norfolk but would send orders to the commander of the French fleet there "pour qu’il fasse sans délai ce que vous desirez" (FrPMAE, Cor. Polit., Etats Unis, 41).