Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Paul Gamelin, 21 February 1793

To Paul Gamelin

Philadelphia Feby. 21. 1793.


The President has had under consideration the Petition of yourself and others, complaining of illegal acts committed on you by a body of armed men from Virginia in the year 1786, stating that you are pursuing redress through the channel of the Courts of Kentucky, have not yet been able to obtain it, and are unequal to a continuation of the expenses necessary for the object. Injuries for which the laws have provided a remedy, do not admit of any other interference; for what might be done in addition to the law to help the one party, would be considered as an oppression of the other. We are bound to believe that the Courts of Justice are equally open and impartial to both. If either party is too poor to prosecute or defend themselves, the laws in most of the States, and particularly as is believ’d in that of Kentucky, provide for the maintenance or defence of the suit in formâ pauperis, and nothing is necessary to obtain this protection but an application to the Court and proof of the Condition of the party applying. I have it in charge from the President to assure you of the interest he feels in your situation, of his wishes that you may receive substantial justice, and his confidence that you will; regretting at the same time that the occasion does not admit of his being instrumental towards it. I beg the favor of you to communicate this to your fellow Petitioners, and am, Sir, Your very humble servt.

PrC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand; unsigned; at foot of text: “Mr. Paul Gamelin. Post Vincennes.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Enclosed in TJ to George Washington, 22 Feb. 1793.

Paul Gamelin, who died about a month before this letter was written, had been a militia captain, justice of the peace, and treasurer in Knox County in the Northwest Territory (History of Knox and Daviess Counties Indiana [Chicago, 1886], 204; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–, 28 vols. description ends , iii, 316, 384, 405). He and Pierre Gamelin, a judge of the Knox County Court of Common Pleas, had witnessed a 6 Oct. 1792 petition of Laurence Baradone, John Darguilleur, John Toulon, and Peter Trousserau, four French merchants at Post Vincennes, asking President Washington to consider their complaint against General George Rogers Clark and other military officers for confiscating property of theirs worth almost 70,000 livres while leading a detachment of Kentucky militia against hostile Indians in the vicinity of Vincennes in 1786. According to the four merchants, who had come to Post Vincennes from New Orleans in 1783, Clark had them arrested and imprisoned and their property condemned by court martial and forfeited to the United States in retaliation for a similar action taken by Spanish officials against an American citizen on the Mississippi. Reduced to indigence and thus far unable to obtain legal redress in Kentucky, the four petitioners urged the President to “obtain for them from the United States such Relief as they in their Wisdom may find equitable” (DNA: RG 59, MLR; signed by the Gamelins and Darguilleur, and with marks by Baradone, Toulon, and Troussereau). TJ, however, apparently failed to realize that Gamelin had merely signed as a witness to the petition of yourself and others. Washington had referred the petition to the Secretary of State on 30 Jan. 1793 (see note to TJ to Pierre Billet, 21 Feb. 1793). For a fuller explanation of Clark’s actions, see James Alton James, The Life of George Rogers Clark (Chicago, 1928), 352–62.

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