George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Blackden, 13 September 1794

From Samuel Blackden

Philadelphia 13th Septemr 1794—
Francis’s Hotel 4th street1


I am unhappy in not being able to wait <u>pon you in person, and hope you will excuse me for trou<bl>ing you with this letter, which concerns the interests of Humanity.

Col. Humphreys put into my hand for publication, <a> Poem to which the inclosed Advertisement is prefixed. the Poem is in <the> press, and I have had thoughts of inserting the advertisement in the News papers <as> a Means of Making his scheme more extensively known, but wish’d to have shewn it to you sir, before I took that step, which <I c>annot personally do, and therefore take the liberty to send it <pr>aying if you have any objection you will please to signifie it, <an>d it shall be supressed as well as the one prefixed to the Poem.2

Captain Hans Heissell with whom I came from <Fra>nce and Lisbon, is a Gentleman of the best connections in <Co>penhagen, the Count Bernstorff is his particular friend, and he <is> connected with the house of Ryberg & Company of which Mr <Sa>abee the American Consul is a principle,3 He has been <on>ce sent to the Regency of Algiers by the Danish Government <wi>th> usual presents, and was received and treated by the present <De>y then prime minister, with unusual marks of personal <fri>endship, indeed he is convinced of the real regard the Dey has for him, and who he thinks (notwithstanding the government he Exercises) is by no means a bad man.4

Capt. Heissell from his esteem for the Americans, and to be servicable in the cause of humanity, will do anything in his powe<r> to effect so desirable an object, as the emancipation of our unhapp<y> countrymen—He disclaims all ideas of profit or advantage but will use all his endeavours in the business, if he has an Opportunity—He is gone to Baltimore some days ago, and does not, nor will not, know anything of my having wrote to you on the subject.5

His ship is Danish, and he has a Midterainian pass, and he has the means of extending the same security to another ship—from my personal knowledge of Captain Heissell I am convinced he is a Man of strict honor and the greatest sincerity. I am with the greatest Respect Sir your Most Obedient hble Servant

S. Blackden

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Algiers.

Secretary of State Edmund Randolph replied to this in a letter to Blackden of 24 Sept. (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

1John Francis (died c.1807) kept hotels at various locations in Philadelphia at least from 1791 until his death. At this time Francis’s Hotel was at 13 S. Fourth Street.

2A document titled "A Plan for redeeming the American Citizens now in Captivity at Algiers—By Colonel David Humphreys, Minister resident at the Court of Lisbon," in DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Algiers, includes the advertisement and a quotation from the poem.

The advertisement reads "The deplorable condition of those Citizens of the United States of America, who are in Captivity at Algiers, ought to Arouse the attention of their fellow Citizens, to raise a Sum of money adequate to their redemption.

"It is conceived this might be effected with the least possible inconveniency, as well as the Most certainty, and rapidity, by a State Lottery. But if any insuperable objection should be opposed to that project, it is submitted to the consideration of the several Legislatures of those states, which have Citizens in that Melancholy predicament, that each should grant a Lottery for raising a Sum of money, sufficient to ransom its own Citizens, and the sister states whose immediate Citizens are exempted from that dreadfull calamity, might contribute in the proportion they may judge reasonable.

"To promote such an avowed Object of humanity, great numbers of Tickets might doubtless be sold immediately, not only in every part of the United States, but also in several Countries of Europe; If the money necessary for Accomplishing this desirable Object, could not all be raised at One time or even in One year, the Lotteries might be divided into different Classes, and the Captives ransom’d as the money should be Obtained, According to the priority of their capture.

"It appears that this plan with its gradual Opperation, has only need of being adopted to insure Ultimate success—It is most humbly conceived, that Under present Circumstances, a Measure of this kind would not have any unfavorable influence on the general Policy, or existing state of affairs, between the United States and the Regency of Algiers, As it is well known that nothing is more practicable, or common, than for Nations which are at War with that Regency, to take Effectual measures at the same time, for the Liberation of their subjects or Citizens from their captivity."

The poem was A Poem on Industry Addressed to the Citizens of the United States of America, which was published at Philadelphia by Mathew Carey on 14 October. The six lines quoted with the advertisement, which appear on page 20 of the printed text, read:

"Victims of Pirates; on the insulted main;

"Whose lot severe, these soothing lines complain.

"Lift up your heads; ye much enduring Men,

"in Western skies, the New Aurora kin.

"(Tho’ long the Night, and Angry lowrd the Sky.)

"Lift up your heads; for your redemptions Nigh."

Randolph replied that "upon the subject of the poem" GW "cannot with propriety give an opinion; it being an affair merely of a private nature." He added, "Whatever may be thought adviseable, respecting a State lottery for the object which you mention, it cannot originate from the President. But, I am induced to say to you in consequence of your humane solicitude for our suffering fellow Citizens in Algiers, that arrangements are already taken from an earnest desire to liberate them."

3The house of Nicholas Ryberg & Company operated a large mercantile business in Copenhagen.

4Hassan Bashaw, formerly Sidi Hassan, served as vikilharche, intendant of the marine and high admiral, then hasnagi, chief minister and treasurer for Algiers until he became dey in 1791. He remained the dey until his death in 1798.

5In his reply to Blackden, Randolph wrote: "I have had a conversation with Capt. Heissel and expect to repeat it on his return from Baltimore. You will oblige me by acquainting him with this circumstance when you shall see him again." Hans Heissell, who was appointed in December as consul to the Barbary Coast, appeared at Alicante, Spain, in the spring of 1795 claiming "full power" from GW "to conclude a peace With the Dey and Regency of Algiers." However, the letter he sent to Algiers reportedly gave "very great ofence to the Dey," who refused to meet with him (Robert Montgomery to Edmund Randolph, 14 March and 2 May 1795, DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches: Alicante).

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