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Cabinet Opinions on Privateers and Prizes, 5 August 1793

Cabinet Opinions on Privateers and Prizes

At a meeting of the heads of departments and the Attorney general at the Secretary of state’s office Aug. 5. 1793.

The case of the Swallow letter of marque at New York, desired to be sent out of our ports, as being a privateer. It is the opinion that there is no ground to make any order on the subject.

The Polly or Republican, in the hands of the Marshal at New York, on a charge of having been armed in our ports to cruize against nations at peace with the US. It is the opinion there is no ground to make any new order in this case.

The Little Democrat, the Vanqueur de la Bastille, the Citoyen Genet, and the Sans Culottes. A letter to be written to Mr. Genet as was determined on the 3d. instant, and an instruction in conformity therewith be given to the governors. Mr. Hammond to be informed thereof and to be assured the government will effectuate their former resolution on this subject.1

The Lovely Lass, the Prince William Henry, and the Jane of Dublin, prizes to the Citoyen Genet. Mr. Genet to be2 written to as was agreed on the 3d. inst.

The brig Fanny and Ship William reclaimed as taken within the limits of our protection. As it is expected that the court of Admiralty may very shortly reconsider whether it will take cognisance of these cases, it is thought better to3 take no new measure therein for the present.

The Schooner fitting out at Boston as mentioned in a letter of Mr. Gore to Mr. Lear. The Governor of Massachusetts to be written to to suppress her.

Mr. Delaney’s letter of the 24th. of July on the question whether duties are to be paid on prize goods landed for sale. It is the opinion the duties are to be paid.

A letter from Mr. Genet of the 4th. of Aug. informing the Secretary of state that certain inhabitants lately arrived from St. Domingo are combining to form a military expedition from the territory of the US. against the constituted authorities of the said island. It is the opinion that the Governor of Maryland be informed thereof (because in a verbal communication to the Secretary of state Mr. Genet had named Baltimore as the place where the combination was forming) and that he be desired to take measures to prevent the same.

Th: Jefferson
Alexander Hamilton
H Knox

The Secretary of State and Attorney General are of opinion that Mr. Hammond be informed that measures are taking to procure restoration of the prizes the Lovely Lass the Prince William Henry and the Jane of Dublin, and in case that cannot be effected that Government will take the subject into further consideration.4

The Secretaries of the Treasury and of War are of opinion that Mr. Hammond be informed that measures are taking to effect the restoration of the prizes The Lovely Lass, The Prince William Henry and the Jane of Dublin; that in case this shall not be effected The President considers it as incumbent upon the UStates to make compensation for those Prizes; and that prizes in similar circumstances which shall be hereafter brought into the Ports of the UStates will be restored.5

MS (DLC: Washington Papers); with first nine paragraphs in TJ’s hand, signed by TJ, Hamilton, and Knox, and last two paragraphs in Hamilton’s hand; endorsed by Tobias Lear. PrC (DLC). Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 92: 15839); undated; consists of variant texts of next to last paragraph in Randolph’s hand and of last paragraph in Hamilton’s hand (see notes 4 and 5 below). Entry in SJPL: “Opns of heads of dep.—Swallow &c.” Draft recorded in SJPL under 24 Aug. 1793: “Notes of E.R. and A.H. as to informn to Hammond.—Th:J’s do.” Included in the “Anas.”

The case of the swallow is discussed in the enclosure to Edmond Charles Genet to TJ, 25 June 1793. For the government’s previous actions with respect to the Polly or Republican, see Cabinet Opinions on the Republican and the Catharine, 12 June 1793. The letters to Genet and Hammond are printed below under 7 Aug. 1793, the difference of opinion in the Cabinet over the content of the latter being decided by the President in favor of Hamilton and Knox (see TJ to Washington, [ca. 18–19 Aug. 1793]). For the circular letter to the Governors subsequently prepared by Henry Knox in conformity with the Cabinet’s opinion, see Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 216. There is no evidence that the United States District Court of Pennsylvania reconsidered its decisions that it lacked jurisdiction over the cases of the Brig Fanny and Ship William (see note to Hammond to TJ, 5 June 1793). According to his later account, Christopher Gore, the United States District Attorney in Massachusetts, had reported the fitting out in Boston of the French privateer Roland in missing letters to Tobias Lear of 4 and 6 Aug. 1793, but clearly the one considered by the Cabinet must have been written even earlier (Gore to Lear, 24 Aug. 1793, DNA: RG 59, MLR). For Knox’s letter instructing Governor John Hancock to suppress her, see Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 216–17. The letter of the 24th. of July from Sharp Delany, the customs collector in Philadelphia, to Alexander Hamilton has not been found, but see same, 208. For Knox’s letter to Governor Thomas Sim Lee on the inhabitants lately arrived from St. Domingo, see same, 217.

TJ submitted this document to the President this day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 214).

1Sentence interlined.

2TJ here canceled “informed th.”

3TJ here canceled “let.”

4In Dft Randolph wrote this paragraph as follows: “To inform Mr. Hammond, that measures are to procure restoration of the vessels; and in case, that cannot be effected, that government will take the subject into farther consideration.”

5In Dft Hamilton wrote this paragraph as follows: “That Mr. Hammond be informed that <Government are> measures are taking to effect the restoration of the Prizes The Lovely Lass the Prince William Henry and the Jane of Dublin <and> that in case this shall not be effected The President considers it as incumbent upon the UStates to make compensation for those prizes; and <that for the fut> <in future> <will in future cause> measures will be taken for the immediate restitution of such Prizes as shall hereafter brought into the UStates in <a> similar <predicament> circumstances.”

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