Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Rawle, 9 April 1792

From William Rawle

Third Street April 9th. 1792.


I have made enquiry relative to the two actions concerning which you spoke to me. Charles Osborne v. Samuel Mifflin’s execrs. was an action of debt on bond.—The plaintiff was and still is a subject of Great Britain and resident in that island. By direction of the Court seven and a half years interest were deducted.

The other case I take to be that of Samuel Hoare v Andrew Allen &c.

I enclose a copy of the docket entries1 which shew that the plaintiff acquiesced in the verdict given and that the whole mortgaged property did not sell for half his debt.

The plff in this case was and is also a subject of and resident in Great Britain.—The Court in this, as they have done in every similar case, directed the Jury to deduct 7½ years interest. The Jury however deducted 8½ years interest. If the plaintiff had moved the Court in the return of the postea, a new trial would have been granted, or, as the sum was certain it is probable the Court would have recommended and the parties have made the necessary alteration in the judgement.2

Osborne v McPherson (which I supposed might be the case referred to) was ended by a compromise.

I have not procured a copy of the entries in the case of Osborne v Mifflins execrs. as the record will not elucidate the point in question.—I have the honor to be Sir your most obedt humble servant,

W: Rawle

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); at head of text in pencil in TJ’s hand: “Extract of a letter from Wm. Rawle Attorney for the U.S. for the district of Pennsva. to the Secretary of State dated Apr. 9. 1792,” and having other pencilled additions by TJ as indicated in notes below; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Apr. 1792 and so recorded in SJL. FC of Extract (DNA: RG 59, SDR); consisting of caption noted by TJ on letter and of text indicated in note 2, together with complimentary close and signature. PrC of Extract (DLC). Enclosure: Copy of docket entries in the case of “Samuel Hoare v. Andrew Allen junr. and the ten tenants of Pikeland,” showing that the action was removed by certiorari from the court of common pleas of Chester county and tried before the supreme court at West Chester on 8 May 1789, when verdict was found for the plaintiff and the jury certified to the court that the debt due by defendants amounted to £37,109-0-1 (currency not stated); that judgment was rendered 2 July 1789, on which a writ of levari facias returnable to the September term 1789 was issued; and that the sheriff seized the 10,116 acres that were covered by mortgage for the debt and sold the property at public vendue for £15,000 Pennsylvania currency to Samuel Hoare (Tr in DNA: RG 59, MLR; dated 7 Apr. 1792, attested by George Davis, for Edward Burd, prothonotary, and endorsed by TJ in pencil: “Rawle’s letter”; PrC of another Tr [as appended to TJ to Hammond, 29 May 1792] in DLC).


TJ was interested in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Charles Osborne v. Samuel Mifflin’s Executors and Samuel Hoare v. Andrew Allen and the Tenants of Pike Lands because these cases were cited by George Hammond as violations of Article iv of the Treaty of Peace, which, according to the British minister’s interpretation, required the payment of wartime interest on British debts (Hammond to TJ, 5 Mch. 1792). In the former case Charles Osborne, a British subject, brought suit to compel payment of the outstanding principal and interest on a bond for £600 Pennsylvania currency that Samuel Mifflin and two other Pennsylvanians had entered into with Osborne in 1771. Osborne cited the original bond and Article iv of the peace treaty to support his claim for the payment of wartime interest. Counsel for the defendant countered by citing the prohibition of remittances to England in time of war by the Continental Congress, the abatement of wartime interest on British debts by previous court decisions, and the impossibility of making payments to Osborne by virtue of the absence of his agent from Pennsylvania after the British evacuation of Philadelphia in 1778. In July 1787 the court ordered payment of the remaining principal and interest due to Osborne, but abated the interest that had accrued during the war for the same reasons as those given by counsel for the defendant (Summary of Osborne v. Mifflin, n.d., enclosed in Phineas Bond to Leeds, 10 Nov. 1789, PRO: FO 4/7, f. 274; according to Bond’s account, the court deducted only 6½ years interest to cover the period when Osborne had no agent in Pennsylvania). In the latter case Samuel Hoare of London brought suit against Allen and the tenants of Pike Lands to recover the principal and interest due under the terms of a mortgage signed by Allen in 1773 that provided for the payment to Hoare of £16,000 at 5% interest for the purchase of a 10,000 acre tract in Chester County. In addition to citing the resolves of the Continental Congress on wartime remittances to Great Britain and previous court decisions on the abatement of wartime interest, the defense also opposed Hoare’s claim for interest accrued during the war on the grounds that Hoare had no duly constituted agent in Pennsylvania to receive payments from 1775 to 1785. According to counsel for the defendant, the outbreak of war in 1775 invalidated Hoare’s power of attorney to his agent in Philadelphia by making Hoare an enemy alien, and after that agent’s death in 1780 Hoare waited five years before appointing a successor in Pennsylvania. The court accepted the defense’s contentions and instructed the jury to deduct 7½ years of wartime interest from the debt due to Hoare. But the jury, while awarding Hoare £37,109 Pennsylvania currency, allowed Allen an abatement of 8½ years interest, apparently as a compromise between the 7½ years recommended by the court and the 10 years for which Hoare was without an agent in Pennsylvania. The court gave judgment accordingly in May 1789 (Summary of Hoare v. Allen, n.d., enclosed in Bond to Leeds, 10 Nov. 1789, same, f. 276–7).

1Added by TJ in pencil: “in the case of Hoare v. Allen”.

2TJ bracketed preceding two paragraphs and wrote at this point: “add the conclusion”.

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