Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers, 17 June 1793

Cabinet Opinion on French Privateers

June 17. 1793

At a meeting of the heads of departments at the President’s this day, on summons from him, a letter from Mr. Genet of the 15th. inst. addressed to the Secretary of state on the subject of the seizure of a vessel by the Govr. of New York as having been armed, equipped and manned in that port with a design to cruize on the enemies of France, was read, as also the draught of an answer prepared by the Secretary of state, which was approved.

Read also a letter of June 14. from Mr. Hammond to the Secretary of state, desiring to know whether the French privateers the Citizen Genet and Sans Culottes are to be allowed to return or send their prizes into the ports of the US. It is the opinion that he be informed that they were required to depart to the dominions of their own sovereign and nothing expressed as to their ulterior proceedings. And that in answer to that part of the same letter which states that the Sans Culottes has increased it’s force in the port of Baltimore and remains there in the avowed intention of watching the motions of a valuable ship now lying there, it be answered that we expect the speedy departure of those privateers will1 obviate the inconveniences apprehended,2 and that it will be considered3 whether any practicable arrangements can be adopted to prevent the augmentation of the force of armed vessels.

Th: Jefferson
A Hamilton
H. Knox

MS (DLC: Washington Papers); in TJ’s hand, with emendations, signed by TJ, Hamilton, and Knox; written with Cabinet Opinion on Relations with Spain and Great Britain, 20 June 1793, on a sheet folded to make four pages, with opinions on first two pages and endorsement by Washington on the fourth, the third being blank. FC (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand, with names of signatories and some words abbreviated and one phrase omitted; written on a sheet bearing on verso Cabinet Opinion on Relations with Spain and Great Britain, 20 June 1793. Entry in SJPL: “Notes of a meeting at the Pres’s. privateers—prizes.” Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, 19 June 1793.

The President met with the Cabinet this day in order to consider the neutrality issues raised in four letters from the French and British ministers that TJ had submitted to him two days before (Edmond Charles Genet to TJ, 14, 15 June 1793; George Hammond to TJ, 14 June 1793; Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 178). The letter of the 15th inst. was actually Genet’s second letter to TJ of 14 June 1793. The draught of an answer approved by the Cabinet was the letter of this date from TJ to Genet that was actually sent to the French minister. For the letter TJ wrote to the British minister pursuant to the Cabinet’s directions, see TJ to Hammond, 19 June 1793. In addition to the points it resolved, the Cabinet this day also deferred certain other issues “for further consideration” and postponed consideration of them again when it next met on 20 June 1793 (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 181, 183). For the issues in question, see TJ to Genet, 15 June 1793, and note, and TJ’s unsent letter to Genet, 17 June 1793, and note.

1TJ here canceled “soon put an end to these questions.”

2TJ originally ended the sentence at this point before adding the remainder.

3TJ first wrote “and that armed vessels will not be permitted,” and then canceled the last six words and wrote “the US. will consider” before reworking the passage to read as above.

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