George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 9 April 1795

From Edmund Randolph

April 9. 1795.

E. Randolph has the honor of submitting to the President the draft of a letter to Mr Hammond.1 The other subjects of complaint will probably be best in another letter.

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1The draft of this letter has not been found. A note written at the bottom of Randolph’s letter to GW states that the “above letter” to British minister George Hammond was “dated the 8th April.” According to the letter-book copy of his letter to Hammond, Randolph enclosed two affidavits of John McCleland and Thomas Butler, both pilots, which concerned recent activities involving British vessels. First, Randolph wrote, the sloop of war Lynx had “violated the sovereignty of the United States by making prize of the American Ship Euphrasia” in the Chesapeake Bay west “of a line, drawn from Cape Henry to Cape Charles.” Second, the ship of war Argonaut had “contravened that part of the supreme law of our land … found in … the treaty of commerce between the United States, and France: ‘no shelter or refuge shall be given in their ports to such as shall have made prize of the subjects, people or property of either of the parties; but if such shall come in, being forced by stress of weather or the danger of the sea, all proper means shall be vigorously used, that they go out and retire from thence as soon as possible.’” Third, the L’Esperance, a captured French corvette, entered American ports “without being forced by stress of weather or danger of the sea” and was “fitted out in our ports, either as a privateer, contrary to the rights of our government, and the 17th article of the aforesaid treaty; or as a public vessel of war; in which case, the jurisdiction of a neutral nation has been infringed.”

The affidavits, Randolph continued, were “presumtions of truth, and too strongly supported, in some of the allegations by the general complaint of our commercial Citizens.” Therefore, Randolph addressed “the supposition of the facts” and informed Hammond: “If the representations to me are erroneous, they may be corrected in the prosecution of the subject, and of the redress, due to the injuries.”

As for “remedies of these infractions of our rights,” the secretary hoped that Hammond’s “intervention may be adequate to the exigency.” Randolph wanted Hammond to inform Adm. George Murray and other British naval officers that the United States insisted “upon a respect to those rights, which have been violated.” Randolph particularly desired “to declare to them, that it will not be deemed by the President a sufficient expiation for British ships of war, which have made prizes of French vessels, and come into our ports, in derogation of our treaty with France, merely to depart, when individually directed; but that such conduct will be considered, as intitling the United States to adopt any proceedings, which the repetition of the aggression shall demand.”

Randolph wrote a postscript on 10 April that notified Hammond: “Since the foregoing was written, I have been informed by General Smith, of Baltimore, that the Euphrasia is released; ‘after having been detained two days; the cargo bored, and ransacked; and the passengers plundered of their clothes and valuables.’ The individual injury is thereby diminished; tho’ that to the sovereignty of the United States remains the same” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

The deposition of John McCleland of St. Mary’s County, Md., concerned the capture of the Euphrasia by the British sloop Lynx (Federal Intelligencer, and Baltimore Daily Gazette, 7 April). That of Thomas Butler has not been identified.

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