Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorial from George Hammond, 8 May 1793

Memorial from George Hammond

The Undersigned, his Britannic Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, has the honor of informing the Secretary of State that he has received intelligence from his Majesty’s Consul at Charleston South Carolina, that two privateers have been fitted out from that port under French Commissions. They carry six small guns and are navigated by forty or fifty men, who are for the most part citizens of the United States. One of these privateers left the harbour of Charleston on the 18th. ulto., and the other was on the 22nd. ready to depart.

The Undersigned does not deem it necessary to enter into any reasoning upon these facts, as he conceives them to be breaches of that neutrality which the United States profess to observe, and direct contraventions of the proclamation which the President issued upon the 22nd. of last month. Under this impression he doubts not that the executive government of the United States will pursue such measures as to its wisdom may appear the best calculated for repressing such practices in future, and for restoring to their rightful owners any captures which these particular privateers may attempt to bring into any of the ports of the United States.

    8th. May 1793.

Geo. Hammond

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); in the hand of Edward Thornton, signed by Hammond; at foot of first page: “The Secretary of State” 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 William Rawle, 15 May 1793, TJ to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 15 May 1793, TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 13 June 1793, and TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 14 June 1793.


The letter to Hammond with the intelligence from George Miller, the British consul at Charlestonton, has not been found, but Miller discussed the two privateers commissioned there by Edmond Charles Genet in a 6 May 1793 dispatch to Lord Grenville (PRO: FO 5/2). The privateers in question were the Citoyen Genet and the Sans Culotte (Hammond, “List of British Ships captured on the coast of America,” n.d., enclosed in Hammond to Grenville, 17 May 1793, same, 5/1). Hammond deliberately avoided a detailed account of the activities of these privateers in this memorial so that he could “obtain an explanatory answer upon the general principle” of the validity of commissioning French privateers in American ports “rather than such an one as might afterwards have been perverted, as being applicable solely to the particular circumstances of the instances adduced” (Hammond to Grenville, 17 May 1793, same). For the outcome of this approach, see TJ to Hammond, 15 May, 5 June 1793; and TJ to Jean Baptiste Ternant, 15 May 1793. For an informative account of the various privateers commissioned by Genet, see Melvin H. Jackson, “The Consular Privateers; an account of French Privateering in American waters, April to August, 1793,” American Neptune, xxii (1962), 81–98. See also Thomas, Neutrality description begins Charles M. Thomas, American Neutrality in 1793: A Study in Cabinet Government, New York, 1931. description ends , 118–59, for a discussion of the Washington administration’s response to the problems arising from this practice.

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