From Edmond Charles Genet1
Philadelphia 19th. July 1793. 2d. year of the F. R.
Mr. Jefferson having informed me by his note of the 19th. of last June2 that it was the desire of the federal Government that I should not issue any drafts, by virtue of the power vested in me, on the debt of the United States to France until we should have concerted this measure together, I have the honour to give you notice that in order to answer the different branches of expense which the executive council has committed to me, and particularly to supply the urgent wants of the fleet and Squadron of the Republic which are just arrived from Saint Domingo,3 I find myself under the necessity of disposing of the amount of the two first payments that will be due to the debt of the U.S. to France in bills on the treasury of the U.S. This mode of payment is perfectly convenient for the houses with which I intend to contract for provisions and other necessaries, and in order to make use of it, I wait only to be assured that this arrangement does not in any respect contravene the views and principles of the federal Government.
Copy, Edmond C. Genet Papers, Library of Congress.
1. For background to this letter, see George Washington to H, June 3, 1793, note 1; “Draft of a Report on the French Debt,” June 5, 1793; H to Washington, June 8, 1793.
2. On June 14, 1793, Genet wrote to Thomas Jefferson reiterating the need of the French government for supplies and requesting the Secretary of State “to inform the President of the United States, that, being authorized, in the name of the French republic, to give assignments to the American merchants or farmers, in payment of the provisions they may furnish, from the want of any new advances on the part of the United States, I request, in order to place me in a situation to use this power, that he prescribe to the Secretary of the Treasury to adjust with me immediately the amount of the debt of the United States to France” (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, 157). On June 19 Jefferson replied: “The President will give the instructions necessary for the settlement of the instalments of principal and interest, still due from the United States to France. This is an act equally just and desirable for both parties; and although it had not been imagined that the materials for doing it were to be had here at this moment, yet we shall be pleased to find that they may. In the mean time, what is further to be done, will doubtless be the subject of further reflection and inquiry with you; and particularly the operation proposed in your letter will be viewed under all its aspects. Among these, we think it will present itself as a measure too questionable, both in principle and in practicability, too deeply interesting to the credit of the United States, and too unpromising in its result to France, to be found eligible to yourself” (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, 157).
3. This is a reference to the French refugees from Le Cap-Français. The slave revolt on the island of Santo Domingo had begun in August, 1791. For the next two years the situation had been further complicated by the rivalries and mutual antagonisms of the Creoles, mulattoes, and ex-slaves who engaged in a struggle for control of the island and by conflicting policies in the French Legislative and National Assemblies. In the spring of 1792 the National Assembly had sent a three-man commission to Santo Domingo. Léger Félicité Sonthonax assumed a dominent role among the three commissioners, but in his attempts to implement Jacobin measures he lost the backing first of the Creoles and then of the mulattoes. In May, 1793, the new governor general of the colony, General Thomas Francis Galbaud, arrived at Le Cap, but was prevented from taking power by Sonthonax. Galbaud prepared to return to France, but the military forces aboard ships in the harbor mutinied and encouraged him to lead them in an attack upon the Jacobin government of the city. In order to prevent Galbaud’s victory, Sonthonax armed the Negro ex-slaves and the brigands from the plain surrounding Le Cap. When the city was set on fire, ten thousand whites and mulattoes fled with Galbaud’s retreating forces onto the French warships and merchantmen in the harbor.
Consisting of more than a hundred merchant vessels, some of them armed, and accompanied by a squadron of French warships under Galbaud’s command, the fleet arrived in the United States in the summer of 1793 and anchored in Chesapeake Bay. The merchant ships then dispersed with their cargoes of refugees to various ports along the coast, and the warships, threatened by a mutiny, sailed for New York City, arriving in that port on August 1, 1793 (Genet to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, July 28, August 2, 15, 1793 [Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers,” description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed., “Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903 (Washington, 1904), II. description ends 224–26, 233–35, 238–39]).