Thomas Jefferson to Alexander Hamilton
and Henry Knox
[Philadelphia, June 25, 1793]
Th. Jefferson has the honor to submit to the correction & approbation of the Secretaries of the Treasury & War, the inclosed draughts of letters to the French minister on the subject of the ship William1 & others in her situation, & to Mr. Hammond2 & mr. Pinckney3 on the subject of the Snow Suckey.
AL, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
1. The William, a British merchant ship out of Bremen bound for Maryland, had been taken by the Citizen Genet on May 3, 1793. According to the depositions of the pilot and members of the crew, the William had been seized by the French privateer within the territorial waters of the United States—“about two miles off the lighthouse at Cape Henry” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 161–62). The British ship was then brought into Philadelphia as a French prize (H to Rufus King, June 15, 1793, note 4). George Hammond, the British Minister, maintained that in addition to the William the British ships William Tell, Pilgrim, Catharine, Fanny, and Conyngham had been taken by French privateers in United States territorial waters and demanded restitution.
Jefferson’s letter to Edmond Charles Genet, dated June 25, 1793, concerning the William, reads in part as follows: “In the absence of the President of the united States, I have consulted with the Secretaries of the Treasury and war, on the subject of the Ship William, and generally of vessels suggested to be taken within the limits of the protection of the united States, by the armed vessels of your nation, concerning which I had the honor of a conversation with you yesterday, and we were so well assured of the President’s way of thinking in these cases, that we undertake to say it will be more agreeable to him that such vessels should be detained under the orders of yourself, or of the consuls of France in the several ports, until the Government of the united States shall be able to inquire into, and decide on the fact. If this arrangement should be agreeable to you, and you will be pleased to give the proper orders to the several consuls of your nation, the Governors of the several States will be immediately instructed to desire the Consul of the port to detain vessels on whose behalf such suggestions shall be made, until the Government shall decide on their case …” (LS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).
2. Jefferson’s letter to Hammond, dated June 26, 1793, reads in part as follows: “The government here has received complaint that the Snow Suckey belonging to George Makepeace a citizen of the US. with her cargo belonging chiefly to Peter Le Maigre, and wholly to citizens of the US. and not at all of the character of contraband … and bound from the Port of Phila. to Port au Prince was on their way thither on the 8th. of May last taken by an English privateer Brig called the Maria, of Kingston in the island of Jamaica, commanded by a Captain McIver, who immediately put the Captn. of the said snow on board a vessel accidentally met with at see in order to deprive her of her proper patron & defender. The persons interested propose immediately to send an agent properly authorized in quest of their vessel & cargo. They mean to go in the first place to Jamaica. I have the honour to inclose you copies of their papers establishing the facts, and to ask the aid of your letters either open or closed, directed to such persons in authority in Jamaica or elsewhere as you may think proper, recommending to their patronage the person & proceedings of the sd agent, so far as shall be just, for the recovery of the property taken …” (ADf, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).
3. Jefferson’s letter to Thomas Pinckney, United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, dated June 26, 1793, instructed Pinckney to bring the case of the Suckey to the attention of the British government and to “make this the occasion of obtaining from that government general orders for their West India colonies to watch with vigilance over violations of this kind” (ADf, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).