Thomas Jefferson Papers

Charles Thomson to the American Commissioners, 16 July 1784

Charles Thomson to the American Commissioners

Philadelphia July 16. 1784


In obedience to the order of the Committee of the States, I have the honor to send you copies of the papers relating to the brig L’Amiable Elizabeth a french vessel that was deserted by her Crew at Sea and was boarded and taken up by Citizens of the United States and carried into St. Johns in Newfoundland, where she was seized by a public Officer and her cargo disposed of; that you may require of the british court that the full value of the said brig and her cargo be restored for the benefit of Robert Shewell by whose order she was taken up at Sea, and other just claimants according to the laws and usage of civilized commercial and friendly nations.

With great respect I have the honor to be Gentlemen Your most obedient and Most humble Servt,

Chas Thomson

FC (DNA: PCC, No. 44, p. 401–4); entirely in Thomson’s hand and addressed by him: “The Honble John Adams, Benj Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, ministers plenipoy of the United States of America”; endorsed also by a clerk. Enclosures (DNA: PCC, No. 44, p. 405–26): (1) Copy of a petition of Robert Shewell of Philadelphia to Congress, dated 23 May 1784, stating that he is the owner and commander of the ship Nancy which, on 5 Apr. 1783, came upon the brigantine L’Aimable Elizabeth, bound from L’Orient for Philadelphia; that the brigantine was in distress; that on 8 Apr. her master and crew abandoned her and came on board the Nancy with part of her cargo; that Shewell, upon examining L’Aimable Elizabeth, decided to bring her into port and sent his second lieutenant, John Justice, and 8 men to conduct her into a port; that on 29 May these men brought her into port at St. Johns, Newfoundland; that the judge of the vice admiralty court at that place seized the ship and her cargo, disposing of them for his own use, and detained her crew for more than 4 months; that Shewell had sought redress without success and therefore petitions Congress to procure justice for him. (2) Copy of the certification of the above facts by the captain, first lieutenant, surgeon, and 3 passen– gers of the Nancy. (3) Copy of the summons of the vice admiralty court at St. Johns for the trial of L’Aimable Elizabeth, dated 5 June 1783. (4) Copy of the protest of John Justice, made in the presence of 3 merchants of St. Johns, 14 Oct. 1783. (5) Copy of a letter of Archibald Buchanan, a native of St. Johns, to Robert Shewell, 16 Oct. 1783, stating his knowledge of the proceedings concerning L’Aimable Elizabeth and testifying to the good conduct of John Justice.

The petition of Robert Shewell was referred by Congress to the Committee of the States which resolved on 10 July 1784 to refer the petition and accompanying papers to the American Commissioners, instructing them to require the British court to restore the full value of the brigantine to the rightful claimants (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvii, 411, 432, 583; a Tr of the resolution is in DNA: PCC, No. 44, p. 431). See also Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 612, 632; American Commissioners to R. H. Lee, 11 Nov. 1784. Both Burnett and JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends give the name of the petitioner as Robert Sewell, but this is erroneous—the petition and other documents prove that the correct spelling is Shewell; see also Robert Shewell (the same person) to TJ, 28 Dec. 1787.

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