Cabinet Meetings. Opinions Concerning
the Relations of the United States
with Several European Countries1
[Germantown, Pennsylvania, November 1–22, 1793]
At sundry meetings of the heads of departments & attorney general from the 1st. to the 21st. of Nov. 1793. at the President’s several matters were agreed upon as stated in the following letters from the Secretary of state. to wit.
|Nov.||8.||Circular letter to the representatives of France, Gr. Brit. Spain & the U. Netherlands, fixing provisonily the extent of our jurisdiction into the sea at a sea-league.2|
|10.||Circular do. to the district attornies,3 notifying the same, & committing to them the taking depositions in those cases.|
|same date.||Circular to the foreign representatives,4 notifying how depositions are to be taken in those cases.|
|The substance of the preceding letters were agreed to by all, & the rough draughts were submitted to them & approved.|
|Nov.||14.||to mr Hammond, that the US. are not bound to restore the Roehampton.5 This was agreed by all, the rough draught was submitted to & approved by Colo. Hamilton & mr Randolph. Genl. Knox was absent on a visit to Trenton.|
|10.||letters to mr Genet & Hammond, & the 14. to mr. Hollingsworth for taking depositions in the cases of the Coningham & Pilgrim.6|
|15.||do. to Genet, Hammond & mr Rawle for deposns in the case of the William.7|
|14.||do. to Hollingsworth8 to ascertain whether mr Moissonier9 had passed sentence on the Roehampton & Pilgrim.|
|These last mentd. letters of the 10th. 14th. & 15th. were as to their substance agreed on by all, the draughts were only communicated to mr Randolph and approved my him.|
|Nov.||13.||to mr Hammond.10 Enquiry when we shall have an answer on the inexecution of the treaty. The substance agreed by all. the letter was sent off without communication, none of the gentlemen being at Germantown.|
|22.||to mr Genet. Returning the commissions of Pennevert & Chervi because not addressed to the Presiden.11|
|same date.||to do. enquiring whether the Lovely lass, Prince William Henry & Jane of Dublin have been given up, and if not, requiring that they be now restored to owners.12|
|These were agreed to by all as to their matter, and the letters themselves were submitted before they were sent to the President, the Secretary of War & the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury absent.|
|same date.||to mr Gore13 for authentic evidence of Dannery’s protest on the President’s revocation of Duplaine’s Exequatur.14 The substance agreed to by all. The letter sent off before communication.|
DS, in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. For Jefferson’s account in the “Anas” of the cabinet meetings held in November, see Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , I, 265–72.
2. Letterpress copy, dated November 8, 1793, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Jefferson informed the ministers that “the greatest distance to which any respectable assent among nations has been at any time given, has been the extent of the human sight, estimated at upwards of 20. miles, and the smallest distance I believe, claimed by any nation whatever is the utmost range of a cannon ball, usually stated at one sea league. Some intermediate distances have also been insisted on, and that of three sea leagues has some authority in its favor. The character of our coast, remarkable in considerable parts of it for admitting no vessels of size to pass near the shores, would entitle us in reason to as broad a margin of protected navigation as any nation whatever. Reserving however the ultimate extent of this for future deliberation the President gives instructions to the officers acting under his authority to consider those heretofore given them as restrained for the present to the distance of one sea-league or three geographical miles from the sea shore. This distance can admit of no opposition as it is recognized by treaties between some of the powers with whom we are connected in commerce and navigation, and is as little or less than is claimed by any of them on their own coasts.…” According to a notation by Jefferson on a partial autograph draft of this letter in the Jefferson Papers, it was shown “to Colo. Hamilton & Genl. Knox before dinner at Bockeus’s inn, Germantown & approved.”
3. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 21, 1793, National Archives.
4. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives.
5. ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. The Roehampton was a British ship captured and brought into Baltimore by the French vessel Industry, which the British maintained had increased her armament at Baltimore before sailing from that port as a French privateer. See Samuel Smith to H, August 20, 1793, note 8. Jefferson pointed out to George Hammond that the President of the United States had forbidden all military equipment or augmentation of military equipment on belligerent vessels in United States ports and had agreed to compel restitution in the case of prizes taken by the vessels originally armed in the United States, commonly referred to as the “proscribed privateers.” See “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on the Fitting Out of Privateers in the Ports of the United States,” August 3, 1793. The Government had not, however, agreed to restore prizes in cases where the armament was so minor as to escape detection. Jefferson stated that it was the view of the United States that the Industry fell within this category.
6. Letter book copies of these letters may be found in RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. The Pilgrim and the Conyngham were British brigs which Hammond maintained had been taken by the French privateer, Sans Culotte within United States territorial waters. Zebulon Hollingsworth was United States attorney for the District of Maryland.
7. Letter book copies of these letters may be found in RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. William Rawle was United States attorney for the District of Pennsylvania. For the case of the William, see Jefferson to H and Henry Knox, June 25, 1793, note 1; H to Rufus King, June 15, 1793, note 4.
8. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives.
9. F. Moissonnier was French vice consul at Baltimore.
10. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. On June 19, 1793, Jefferson had written to Hammond asking when the British government planned to answer Jefferson’s letter of May 29, 1792, on Great Britain’s failure to execute the terms of the 1783 treaty (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives). For a discussion of Jefferson’s May 29 letter, see H to Jefferson, May 20–27, 1792. Hammond had replied on June 20 that he had not yet received an answer from his government (ALS, RG 59, Notes from British Legation in the United States to the Department of State, Vol. 1, October 26, 1791–August 15, 1794, National Archives). In his letter of November 14 Jefferson informed Hammond that he had “it again in charge from the President of the United States to ask whether we can now have an answer to the letter of May 29th before mentioned?”
11. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 14, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. John Pennwert (Pennevert, Penveer, Pinevert) and Paul Arnaud Cherui were the newly appointed French vice consuls at New London, Connecticut, and Alexandria, Virginia.
Although the commission of Thomas Dannery, the new vice consul at Boston, had not been addressed to the President, Jefferson on October 2, 1793, wrote to Genet that the Government had accepted Dannery’s commission on the assumption that the mistake had been inadvertent; but he reminded the French minister that “by our Constitution, all foreign agents are to be addressed to the President of the United States, no other branch of the Government being charged with foreign communications” (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, 178). In his reply of November 14 Genet suggested that the Constitution was not explicit on this point and asked Jefferson’s opinion (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, 184). Jefferson’s letter of November 22, returning the new vice consuls’ commissions, which had also been incorrectly addressed, informed Genet that the Secretary of State was “not authorized to enter into any discussions with you on the meaning of our Constitution in any part of it, or to prove to you, that it has ascribed to him [the President] alone the admission or interdiction of foreign agents. I inform you of the fact by authority of the President.… In your letter of the 14th instant, you personally question the authority of the President, and in consequence of that have not addressed to him the commissions of Pennevert and Cherni.… I am therefore charged to return you those commissions.…”
12. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. The three vessels were British ships which had been taken by the proscribed privateer Citizen Genet. See “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting Certain French Vessels and Their Prizes,” August 5, 1793.
13. LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives. Christopher Gore was the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts.