Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Charles Pinckney, 12 January 1792

To Charles Pinckney

Philadelphia Jany. 12. 1792.


I have the honor to inclose to your Excellency a petition from certain persons in France urging claims against the state of South Carolina for services performed on board the Indian frigate; which was transmitted to me by our Chargé des affaires at the court of France.—I am with sentiments of the most profound respect Your Excellency’s Most obedt. & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “H. E. Govr. Pinckney.” FC (DNA: RG 360, DL). TJ first sent the petition to the two senators of South Carolina on 2 Jan. 1792 (PrC in DLC; FC in DNA: RG 360, DL), who advised him to forward it to Pinckney (Pierce Butler and Ralph Izard to TJ, 4 Jan. 1792, RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Jan. 1792 and so recorded in SJL). Enclosure not found.

The case of the frigate L’Indien involved a tangle of claims by certain French mariners and marines on the state of South Carolina that originated in the closing phase of the Revolutionary War and took almost three-quarters of a century to settle. In 1780 the Chevalier de Luxembourg induced Louis XVI to grant him the use of L’Indien for three years. Luxembourg then signed a contract with Alexander Gillon, the commodore of the South Carolina Navy who had been dispatched to France to purchase frigates and war supplies for South Carolina. This agreement gave Gillon use of L’Indien for three years, and specified that Luxembourg would share in proceeds from any prizes taken by the frigate, and that South Carolina would pay him 300,000₶ if the frigate was captured by the enemy. L’Indien, renamed the South Carolina by Gillon, captured and disposed of at least two prizes before being taken by three British men-of-war in 1782. Luxembourg thereupon pressed his claims on South Carolina for the money to which he was entitled, and certain members of the predominantly French crew sought payment from Luxembourg of the wages and prize money they were owed. The crewmen obtained judgment against Luxembourg in French courts, but then turned to South Carolina for redress after the chevalier died intestate in 1790. The claims they made for compensation were not finally settled till 1854 (D.E.H. Smith, “Commodore Alexander Gillon and the Frigate South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, ix [1908], 189219; D.E.H. Smith, “The Luxembourg Claims,” same, x [1909], 92–115). TJ first became familiar with this matter during his mission to France (Mayeux to TJ, 9 Apr. 1787).

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