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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 10 April 1795

From Edmund Randolph

April 10. 1795.

E. Randolph has the honor of submitting to the President a draft of a letter to Mr Hammond, upon Mr Butler’s statement.1

Judge Peters thinking that a marshall is immediately wanted, Mr Wm Nicolls’s name is inserted in the commission sent2—A blank commission for the accountant is also transmitted.3

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

1U.S. Sen. Pierce Butler had been on board a revenue cutter when it was attacked off the Georgia coast by a British vessel. Butler’s account of the event was published in the Aurora General Advertiser (Philadelphia) on 14 April. Butler reported that at 10:00 A.M. on 25 Feb., “the revenue cutter for the district of Georgia was working into St. Simon’s inlet” when the “Sphynx [Lynx],” a British sloop of war, commanded by “capt. Berrisford [Beresford],” sailed “close under the north breakerhead” and “fired a shot ahead of the cutter.” As the American vessel made its way to St. Simon’s Island, the British ship fired single guns and a broadside. At 11:55 A.M., “about 38 men, two Lieutenants … and a Lieutenant of Marines” boarded two boats and took possession of the cutter “in a hostile manner.” The commander of the boats demanded of the cutter’s officer “how he dared not comply with a desire of his Majesty’s frigate.” A gunner from the sloop later told a seaman from the cutter that when the two boats approached, he intended “to have shot the man at the helm if the cutter had not immediately hove to.” Butler eventually was able to lodge a protest to an officer of the sloop. The British left the cutter after having held it for “about one hour.”

Randolph’s letter to George Hammond of 10 April called the attack “another instance of disrespect and injury to the sovereignty of the United States.” He enclosed Butler’s statement, which proved, wrote Randolph, “that a public armed Cutter of the United States has been insulted and attacked by this Sloop, within our territory and jurisdiction. I am persuaded,” the secretary continued, “that I need only refer to the sensations, which would be experienced on such an occasion by the British government, for the strength of those, which have arisen in the mind of the President of the United States. I must therefore request you to transmit the statement to Captain Berrisford, in order that he may have an opportunity of vindicating himself from a charge, which must otherwise be the basis of a decided demand of reparation” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

2Randolph referred to a replacement for David Lenox, who resigned his office as marshal of the Pennsylvania district the previous month (see Lenox to GW, 28 Feb. and 31 March). GW signed a commission for William Nichols on 13 April (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 328) and submitted Nichols’s nomination to the Senate on 25 June when that body met in a special session.

3Randolph referred to the replacement of Joseph Howell, Jr., as accountant of the War Department. Howell submitted his resignation to GW on this date.

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