Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Drayton, 12 September 1802

From John Drayton

So. Carolina Charleston Septr. 12th: 1802.


By letters in my possession from Colonel Wade Hampton of this State at New York, I am informed, that notwithstanding all the French Commodore’s promises to the Mayor of New York, it can be proven the French Negro incendiary prisoners on board the French Vessels, are about to be landed clandestinely on the coasts of the Southern States of our Union.

The situation of Carolina, the feelings of her inhabitants jealously alive at all times to matters which may in the least affect the Negro property they possess, and my own public duty, imperiously required, my taking immediate steps on the occasion. I accordingly wrote a letter on the subject to the French Agent at this place Citizen Chancognie; a copy of which, with his answer, are inclosed. I have also, issued Orders to the Military of this State, to oppose their landing by force of Arms: and have also sent out two scout Pilot boats, to give as early information as possible, respecting any attempt of the Kind which may be made on our coasts. I have also written on the subject, to the Governors of No. Carolina, & Georgia.

I consider it my duty, to transmit you this information: not doubting, but you will take such steps in the premises, as the information you receive, and the interests & safety of the Southern States a respectable part of the American Union, shall require.

With high respect & consideration I have the honor to subscribe myself Sir Yr. Mo. obt. S.

John Drayton.

NB. In one of the letters written by Col. Hampton on the above subject, mention is made, that two sloops were put into a sudden state of preparation at Newark, having an unusual quantity of provisions & water put on board; & platforms erected in their holds—They sailed: & in the evening were along side of the French frigates in New York harbour, & have not been heard of since—☞ One of our pilots informed me yesterday, that one of them, had passed our bar, bound for the river St. Marys.

RC (DLC); above postscript: “Thomas Jefferson Esqe President of the United States of America”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Drayton to Simon Jude Chancognie, Charleston, 9 Sep., informing him that from letters “of respectable authority” Drayton has learned “that the incendiary negroes and people of colour Prisoners on board of the french Squadron at New-York, and also on board another french Squadron destined to some part of these United States, are to be landed in some part of this Union”; Drayton, “unwilling to charge to your Nation, a step so full of mischief to ourselves,” trusts that the information may be incorrect; however, because his position requires him “to be vigilant in these matters,” he has “given orders, that should any attempt of the kind be made in this State, all persons concerned, aiding or assisting in the same, are to be repelled by force of arms”; he informs Chancognie of this decision so “you may have it in your power to avert if possible, any unpleasant circumstances, which may arise, betrixt republican and friendly Nations” (Tr in DLC; in a clerk’s hand). (2) Chancognie to Drayton, Charleston, 22 Fructidor Year 10 (9 Sep. 1802); acknowledging Drayton’s letter, he states that American newspapers are his only source of information about the arrival of French ships in New York with prisoners from Guadeloupe; he does not know the ultimate destination of the ships, but he cannot think that the intent of the expedition is to repeat in this country the disastrous events of France’s colonies; the circumstances that forced the ships to put into ports of the United States have given the enemies of France an opportunity to slander his country; but French naval officers and government officials would not betray the confidence of an allied nation or pervert the good mutual understanding that has been so well restored between two republics (Tr in same; in French; in a clerk’s hand).

In July 1801, Louis André Pichon appointed Simon Jude CHANCOGNIE as his agent and sent him to Charleston to put the affairs of the vacant French consulate there in order. Chancognie had previously been a clerk in the French legation in Philadelphia under Philippe de Létombe (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 1:450–1).

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