Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from George Washington, 26 July 1790

From George Washington

United States July 26th 1790

The President of the United States transmits to the Secretary of State, to report thereon, a memorial of Monsr. de le tombe, Consul of France, to the Legislature of Massachusetts, respecting certain parts of the Consular Convention agreed upon by and between his most Christian Majesty and the President of the United States, together with a Resolution of that Legislature upon said memorial; and a letter from Governor Hancock to the President enclosing said Memorial and Resolution.—And

A Representation, addressed to the President and Senate of the United States, from many Merchants and Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, of the inconveniencies resulting to Americans who settle in the French West India Islands, from the Droit d’aubaine prevailing against them there;—and praying an interference on the part of the United States with the Court of France on this subject. Four other papers attesting the facts stated in the Representation accompany it.

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand. Not recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) John Hancock to Washington, 20 July 1790, referring to him the following documents (RC in DLC: TJ Papers, 56: 9629; address cover, postmarked “BOSTON. JULY 20” and endorsed by TJ “Consular convention. Explanatory law,” is in same, 236: 42387). (2) Memorial of Philippe de Létombe, French consul at Boston, to the Massachusetts legislature, 7 June 1790, enclosing a text of the Consular Convention of 1788 and stating that Article ix empowering him to arrest deserters from French vessels and send them back is in conformity with two laws passed by the legislature at his request 6 Mch. 1782 and 2 Mch. 1787, but that the stipulation setting them at liberty and holding them immune from further arrest if not returned within three months has “an inconvenience … particular to the climate and temperature of this State where no French Vessell hardly ever comes in from the month of November till the month of March or April” because of storms; that, as a French naval fleet had entered Boston every year since 1787 in August or September and remained until October or November, this Article produced another “difficulty of a greater magnitude for this State especially,” one that would be exacerbated in time of war owing to the increased numbers of squadrons or vessels entering and to the impossibility of sending their deserters back, which might “operate as an insurmountable bar to their coming here in future” and thereby be prejudicial to the interests of France and to the trade, agriculture, and industry of Massachusetts; that, in consequence, he requests that a law be passed to the effect that “the Deserters from any French Vessel whatsoever shall after having been duly claimed by the Consul or his Vice Consul before one of the Justices of the peace be committed to Jail, at the expence of the said Consul and sent back to France or the French Islands … by the first opportunity”; that Article xii, empowering the Consul to decide all differences and suits between French subjects, especially those pertaining to wages and terms of engagement of crews of French vessels, presents another local difficulty by failing to provide for the execution of such judgments in Massachusetts and he therefore requests the legislature to order “That the Consul of France or his Vice Consul shall have within this Commonwealth the coercive authority necessary to compel a compliance with his own Decrees, that is, by applying to any Sheriff, Constable, or other executive officer of this Commonwealth”; that he considers this request “to be right and just—right because the Convention cannot have granted him an illusory power; Just because the authority of determining gives necessarily the authority of causing the judgment to be put in execution”; that he “believes, in this case, that the Convention being expressed in general terms, has left implicitly to every State of the Union the right to prescribe the mode of executing the said Convention, that mode being particular to each State relative to their laws and customs and to their individual interests”; that he “has taken, on those difficulties, the advice of eminent persons in this State, and he will add to that authority, that the Convention being a reciprocal contract between the two nations, friends and allies, no inconveniences can result from the extension of any of these clauses, but on the contrary, that the extension cannot but corroborate the good understanding and the common interests of the two contracting nations especially this local extension or rather that confirmation of the federal will being pronounced by a State itself Sovereign and independent”; and that he therefore “humbly hopes that such laws will be enacted as your Honors wisdom shall concieve to be proper on the occasion” (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 55: 9357–9, in French and English in parallel columns, attested by John Avery, Jr.). (3) Resolution of the senate and house of representatives of Massachusetts, 24 June 1790, requesting the governor to transmit the memorial of Létombe to the president of the United States that he might “take such order thereon as the importance of the subject justly deserves” (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 55: 9490, signed by Samuel Phillips, president of the senate, and David Cobb, speaker of the house of representatives; attested by John Avery, Jr.).

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