Alexander Hamilton Papers

Cabinet Meeting. Notes Concerning the Conduct of the French Minister, [2 August 1793]

Cabinet Meeting. Notes Concerning
the Conduct of the French Minister1

[Philadelphia, August 2, 1793]

I Discussion of the points in controversy
I fitting out privateers—1 as it stands on the general law of Nations—2 upon the Treaties
Inlistment of our Citizens as connected with it with reference to his observations.2
II Exercise of consular Jurisdiction.
I as it stands on general law of Nations
II Upon treaties
III Upon the principles of France herself see Vatel.3

History of his conduct in regard to these points

I Impropriety of what was done at Charletown before he had come to the seat of Government had known its sentiments &c4
II The expectations he gave in conversations & in writing that he would not repeat the fitting of Privateers, & would prevent improper exercise of consular jurisdiction
III His contraventions of these expectations citing the different instances as to fitting out privateers & condemning prizes
IV Attempting to justify them as matters of right
Enforce the Idea that if his constructions were right his course was wrong. Ought not have persisted in doing what was contrary to the opinion of this Government, but ought to have referred the matter to National discussion &c &c
V Impropriety of his having reclaimed our own offending citizens as matter of right.
V Disregard of the intimation of the Government with respect to Privateers citizen Genet & Sans Culottes5
All the particulars.
VII Disregard of sense of Government in regard to Little Democrat.6
Stating particulars.

VIII Offensive stile of his Communications ⟨citing⟩7 instances with summary comments.
IX In connection with the last the excessive pretensions of the Vice Consuls disrespectfuly urged & patronised by him by transmitting & upholding their communications.8

Improprieties of conduct in other respects

I His being President of a political society. Society of Friends of Liberty & Equality9
II His declaration to Mr Dallas that he would appeal from the President to the People.10

General observation on the inference to be drawn from such circumstances, an inference fortified by the conduct of his Secretary Mr Pascal11 stating it with proper remarks on the impropriety of a privileged person pursuing such a course.

Df, in the handwriting of H, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.

1These notes were drawn up to assist in the preparation of a letter to Gouverneur Morris requesting the recall of Edmond Charles Genet as French Minister to the United States. See “Cabinet Meetings. Proposals Concerning the Conduct of the French Minister,” August 1–23, 1793; “Notes for a Letter to Gouverneur Morris,” August 2–16, 1793. This document should be compared with Thomas Jefferson to Morris, August 16, 1793 (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, 167–72).

At the top of the first page of this document Jefferson wrote: “Hamilton’s plan of remonstrance against Genet, when it was concluded to write Gouvernr. Morris, as was afterwards done Aug 16, 93.”

2In the margin opposite this sentence H wrote: “Right of ⟨–⟩.”

3Vattel, Law of Nations description begins Emeric de Vattel, Law of Nations; or Principles of the Law of Nature: Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns (London, 1759–1760). description ends .

5For the Washington Administration’s policy on French privateers fitted out in United States ports, see the introductory note to H to Washington, May 15, 1793; “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting French Privateers,” June 17, 1793; “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on Vessels Arming and Arriving in United States Ports,” July 12, 1793. Both the Citizen Genet and the Sans Culotte, which had been fitted out at Charleston shortly after Genet’s arrival in the United States, had subsequently been ordered to leave American ports. In his letter to Gouverneur Morris of August 16 requesting Genet’s recall, Jefferson stated that “instead however of their quitting our ports, the Sans Culottes remains still, strengthening & equipping herself, and the Citoyen Genet went out only to cruise on our coast, & to brave the authority of the country by returning into port again with her prizes” (ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

7The word within broken brackets has been taken from Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , VI, 372–73.

8The French consuls in the United States had been guilty of a number of infractions of United States neutrality regulations in the summer of 1793. In Charleston, South Carolina, Michel Ange Bernard de Mangourit aided Genet in recruiting for expeditions from United States territory against Spanish possessions in the Southwest and along with other French consuls set up extralegal consular courts for condemning prizes brought into United States ports by French privateers. Alexandre Maurice Blanc de Lanautte, Comte d’Hauterive, French consul in New York, was a somewhat reluctant agent of Genet in implementing the latter’s plans for an invasion of Canada. Antoine C. Duplaine, French consul at Boston, in a widely publicized incident used military force to prevent seizure of a French prize whose fate was being decided in the United States District Court. Duplaine’s conduct of his consulship was so irregular that in October, 1793, the Washington Administration revoked his exequatur. By September, 1793, the consuls had so flagrantly exceeded their authority that Jefferson addressed a circular letter to them, stating that “they claim, and are exercising, within the United States a general admiralty jurisdiction, and in particular assume to try the validity of prizes, and to give sentence thereon as judges of admiralty; and moreover that they are undertaking to give commissions within the United States and to enlist, or encourage the enlistment of men, natives or inhabitants of these States, to commit hostilities on nations with whom the United States are at peace, in direct opposition to the laws of the land.” The consuls were warned by the Secretary of State that continuation of such activities would result in revocation of their exequaturs (letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

9This is a reference to the Société Française des Amis de la Liberté et de L’Egalité, a Jacobin club in Philadelphia and one of the more radical of the French clubs established in major cities in the United States to support the French Revolution. Genet joined the society on June 8, 1793, and later became its president.

11This is presumably a reference to a publication issued by Pascal in July, 1793. On August 3, 1793, the following notice, dated July 27, 1793, appeared in the [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States:

“The public having seen in the General Advertiser of Saturday the 13th inst. a piece said to be ‘from a correspondent,’ entitled, ‘Two questions to two great Men, one a piece.

“1st. ‘Whether he, one of whose companions is a man, who was employed by the late King of France to bribe Members of the Convention, and who afterwards ran off with the money, is a proper person to be at the head of the Finances of the Union?

“2d. ‘What should be thought of a man, to whom a late General Officer in the French Armies would dare to cry out with exultation, that St. Domingo was ruin’d? Should we not think he delighted too much in devastation to direct a war?’

“And another in the same paper of Tuesday last, under the signature of ‘Viscount Noailles,’ in which he says that, ‘In your Saturday’s paper, you informed the public of a conversation respecting St. Domingo, between a late General Officer in the French Army, and a person who is so described as probably to intend the Secretary at War, and concluded with saying, that if your informant had reference to me, he told a Lie.’ It is become necessary, in order that a right judgment may be formed of the whole transaction, that the following statement should be laid before the public.”

The writer, who signed himself “An Enemy to Foreign Influence,” then recounted an interview between Louis Marie, Vicomte de Noailles, and the editor of the [Philadelphia] General Advertiser, Benjamin Franklin Bache, in which Bache denied that Noailles was intended as the “General Officer” but revealed that the squib had been written by Pascal.

An extract from “a Letter from a gentleman in New-York,” published in The [New York] Daily Advertiser, August 21, 1793, further stated that “Several publications directed against the President, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary at War, and others, have appeared in Philadelphia and have been traced, through the printer, to the Secretary of Mr. Genet.”

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