Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorial from George Hammond, with Jefferson’s Notes, 8 May 1793

Memorial from George Hammond, with Jefferson’s Notes

The Undersigned, his Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, has the honor of submitting to the consideration of the Secretary of State the following information which he has received from his Majesty’s Consul at Charleston South Carolina.

On the 22nd. ulto. the two brigantines the Four Brothers and the Morning Star, belonging to subjects of his Majesty, and which had been previously captured by the French frigate the Embuscade, were condemned as legal prizes by Mr. Mangourit the French Consul at Charleston, and, under his authority, together with their cargoes exposed to sale.

The Undersigned is advised that this judicial act of the French Consul at Charleston is not warranted by the usage of nations or by the stipulations of any existing treaties between the United States and France, and may lead to the most dangerous consequences. The undersigned therefore presumes to hope that, if his opinion should be so fortunate as to receive the sanction of the executive government of the United States, the latter will adopt such means as to its wisdom may seem best adapted to the purpose of preventing similar exertions of illegal authority on the part of the French Consuls resident within the territory of the United States.


8th May 1793.

Geo. Hammond

[Notes by TJ:]

The adjudication a nullity as to title

write to Fr. Min. that it is unwarrantable to decide between Fr. and Eng. parties

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); in the hand of Edward Thornton, signed by Hammond; at foot of first page: “The Secretary of State”; with subjoined penciled notes by TJ; endorsed by TJ as received 8 May 1793 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in PRO: FO 116/3). Tr (same, 115/2). Tr (same, 5/1). PrC of Tr (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr. PrC of Tr (DNA: RG 59, MD); in Taylor’s hand. Tr (Lb in same, NL). Tr (DLC: Genet Papers). Tr (same); in French. Tr (AMAE: CPEU, xxxvii); in French. Enclosed in TJ to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 15 May 1793, TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 13 June 1793, and TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 14 June 1793.

The account that George Miller, the British consul at charleston, sent to Hammond of the capture of the Two Brigantines by the Embuscade and their condemnation by a French prize court in Charleston presided over by Michel Ange Bernard de Mangourit, the French consul there, has not been found, but Miller included another account of these events in a 6 May 1793 dispatch to Lord Grenville (PRO: FO 5/2). As Hammond himself noted to the British foreign minister, he was moved to write this memorial “not only by a consideration of the daring and lawless conduct of the French Consul at Charleston, but also by the desire of establishing upon record this sort of proof and admission that the vessels immediately in question had been illegally condemned as prizes” (Hammond to Grenville, 17 May 1793, same, 5/1).

TJ’s subjoined notes consisted of points to be included in the sections of his 15 May 1793 letters to Hammond and Jean Baptiste Ternant on the French usurpation of admiralty jurisdiction in Charleston. Although there is no firm evidence indicating that the Cabinet considered these notes, as it did the ones appended to the preceding memorial from the British minister, this possibility cannot be excluded. For a general discussion of the Washington administration’s response to the issue raised by Hammond, see Thomas, Neutrality description begins Charles M. Thomas, American Neutrality in 1793: A Study in Cabinet Government, New York, 1931. description ends , 206–19.

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