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To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 28 November 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Nover. 28th. 1801.

Dear Sir

Some days ago a letter from Mr Briscoe Collector at Nottingham (Patuxent Riv.) was communicated to you. It related to the arrival of a vessel without captain or papers, which under those circumstances was directed to be seized & dismantled and the cargos landed.

The Captain is now here, and I enclose his papers which are so far regular and the Collector’s letter enclosing the amount of the cargo—from whence it is inferred she was intended for the Slave trade.

The manifest of her cargo as entered at the custom house of Charleston agrees in every particular with the cargo found on board except in the articles of “glass beads” “hand cuffs,” chains & bolts which are omitted in the manifest. The vessel cleared from Charleston S.C. for Cape Verd, was by stress of weather obliged to put in the Chesapeak, & without stopping at Norfolk where the vessel belongs or going to Baltimore where the Captain went taking the papers along with him was left in an obscure harbour at the mouth of Patuxent—

Under those circumstances, is the prima facie evidence strong enough to induce giving directions to the dist. attorney of Maryland to libel the vessel? More evidence, from the mariners, who should on that account be secured, may come out in the trial. The Attorney general thinks we may proceed—Mr Steele has some doubts though upon the whole he does not object. The law of March 22d 1794 (Vol. 3d. page 22) is the only one which applies; and it seems to embrace a forfeiture only of the vessel & not of the cargo. As the case is pressing, as speedy an opinion as practicable would be acceptable

Respectfully Your most obt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 28 Nov. and “The Schooner Sally. Slave trade” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: George Briscoe to Gallatin, Nottingham, Maryland, 27 Nov. 1801, assuring the Treasury secretary that he had complied with the instructions regarding the schooner Sally; the unloaded cargo, including plank and scantling, necessary to make partitions, indicates that the vessel was bound for the “coast of Africa and that Slaves was the object”; Elias De Butts, captain of the seized schooner, appeared that morning with his clearance paper from Charleston, “which has every appearance of regularity”; Briscoe states that he awaits further instructions regarding the Sally and encloses a “Return of the Cargo unladen at the port of Nottingham from the Schooner Sally,” dated 27 Nov., listing “Stores” of beef and pork, port, wine, candles, “a Small quantity coffee Tea & Sugar,” muskets, pistols, and gunpowder, and a “Cargo” of tobacco, rum, flour, bread, crackers, oars, 937 feet of plank, 241 feet of scantling, 54 pairs of handcuffs, chains, bolts, long bars, glass beads, and 37 shaken hogsheads (Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:958; 6:124). Other enclosures not found.

For the letter from George Briscoe, see Enclosure No. 1 at Gallatin to TJ, 21 Nov.

Dist. Attorney of Maryland: Zebulon Hollingsworth.

The law of 22 Mch. 1794 prohibited the preparation of any vessel, within any port of the United States, “for the purpose of carrying on any trade or traffic in slaves.” A vessel fitted out for the slave trade, with “her tackle, furniture, apparel and other appurtenances,” was liable to seizure, prosecution, and condemnation (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:347–9).

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