Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Castries, 10 July 1785

To Castries

Paris July 10. 1785.


I am honoured with your Excellency’s letter on the prize money for which Mr. Jones applies. The papers intended to have been therein inclosed, not having been actually inclosed, I am unable to say any thing on their subject. But I find that Congress on the first day of November 1783. recommended Capt. Jones to their Minister here, as Agent, to sollicit, under his direction, paiment to the officers and crews for the prizes taken in Europe under his command; requiring him previously to give to their Superintendant of finance good security for paying to him whatever he should receive, to be by him distributed to those entitled. In consequence of this Capt. Jones gave the security required as is certified by the Superintendant of finance on the 6th. of November 1783. and received from Doctor Franklin on the 17th. of December 1783. due authority, as Agent, to sollicit the said paiments.

From these documents I consider Capt. Jones as Agent for the citizens of the United States interested in the prizes taken in Europe under his command, and that he is properly authorized to receive the money due to them, having given good security to transmit it to the Treasury office of the United States, whence it will be distributed under the care of Congress to the officers and crews originally intitled, or to their representatives.

I have the honour to be with sentiments of the highest respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC). Tr (DNA: PCC, No. 87, i); in TJ’s hand; at head of text: “Copy of a letter from Th: Jefferson to the Mareschal de Castries in answer to one received from him, desiring to know how far Capt. Jones was authorised to receive the prize-money due to the crew of the Alliance.” Tr (DNA: PCC, No. 107, i). The letter was enclosed in John Paul Jones to Castries (FC in DLC: John Paul Jones Papers, undated; printed under 10 July 1785 in Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, iii, 679); a copy was later sent to Jay with TJ’s letter of 30 Aug. 1785.

Jones had transmitted to Castries, on 1 Feb. 1784, copies of Congress’ resolution of 1 Nov. 1783 and of Franklin’s authorization of 17 Dec. 1783, together with a statement of the force, in guns and men, in the squadron under his command; in his letter, he pointed out that “It is the custom … to multiply the number of the crew by the sum of the calibre of the cannon mounted on board each ship. The product gives the intrinsic force, in proportion to which the share of the prize-money arising to each ship is determined.” On the basis of this formula, he claimed the proportion due to the officers and crews of the Bon Homme Richard and the Alliance, to be divided among them “by the American Superintendent of Finance, agreeable to the rules of the American navy” (Dipl. Corr., 1783–1789, iii, 664–6; in DLC: TJ Papers, 9: 1542 there are copies in TJ’s hand of Robert Morris’ certificate of 6 Nov. 1783 and of Franklin’s authorization of 17 Dec. 1783).

Index Entries