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Edmund Randolph to William Bradford, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Knox, 15 March 1794

Edmund Randolph to William Bradford,
Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Knox

Philadelphia, March 15th 1794

The Secretary of State has it in charge from the President of the United States, to request the attendance of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General, at his Room on Monday next 11. o’Clock.

The following, among other subjects, will be submitted.

1. Whether it be expedient to send, to England with the complaints of spoliation, some agent to manage them,1 under the direction of Mr. Pinckney?2

2. What steps can be taken, to assist the return of our sailors, now detained in the British West-Indies?3

3. Is the President to give an opinion, where the two Houses of Congress propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States?4

Edm: Randolph.

LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 6, January 2–June 26, 1794, National Archives.

2Thomas Pinckney was United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain.

3On March 14, 1794, in a letter to Washington concerning a request from Congress for a report on spoliations Randolph wrote: “A large number of American Sailors are now wandering on foreign shores, anxious, but unable, to return home. They will, undoubtedly be swallowed up, in foreign service, from distress; and that service may possibly be hostile to us. Whether a feasible scheme can be adopted, for facilitating their escape, or any pecuniary aids can be prudently and legally contributed to this end, I shall not undertake to determine. But I beg leave to offer the inquiry, as at least proper for reflection” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 6, January 2–June 26, 1794, National Archives).

A description of the plight of one master and his crew who had been carried into Montserrat by a British privateer was published in the March 19, 1794, issue of The [Philadelphia] Pennsylvania Gazette. The letter, dated January 20, 1794, after stating that the British had seized clothes and cash as well as the ship and her cargo, reads in part as follows: “How or when I shall get away from this place and return home, I cannot tell, unless I work my passage, for they have robbed me of my money, not leaving me sufficient even to pay for a protest, or the Doctor’s bill for one of my sailors. I have begged them to give up all or part of the adventure of the poor sailors, but in vain; they refused to give up any of their property unless they would ship on board their privateers, and cruise for Americans; which they all, like faithful countrymen, utterly refused.”

4On March 4, 1794, Congress adopted the following resolution: “Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, That the following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of the said Legislatures, shall be valid as part of the said Constitution, viz:

“The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign State.…” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 477.)

On January 8, 1798, the President proclaimed this the eleventh amendment to the United States Constitution.

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