From Gouverneur Morris
Sain port near Paris 20 May 1793
I have the Honor to transmit herewith the copy of mine (No. 29) of the nineteenth of last Month. You will see by the Gazettes the State of Affairs as given to the Public but much Allowance must be made, as I have already had occasion to mention. It is however clear that the greater Part of those Troops which adhered to Dumouriez have return’d to their Country and many to their Standards. It is evident also that the Prince de Cobourg’s Conduct in holding out again the old Constitution has been disapprov’d of by his Masters and their Associates, since he has found it proper to recall that Proclamation; but whether for what is there said as to the Government or as to the Territory of France may admit of Doubt: perhaps there may be a little of both in the objections made against it. The Delay to be noticed in the Operations of the Allied Armies proves in my Opinion two important Facts. One that they mean to leave as little as possible to Chance and therefore wait the Arrival of all their Forces and the other that the original Plans of the Campaign are to be steadily pursued. Hence I infer that the supposed Disunion mention’d in my last does not exist in any essential Degree. It seems that the Austrian Artillery was not come up untill very lately so as to open the Trenches against Condé which hitherto has been rather invested than beseiged. It seems also that the Hanoverian Troops have come on so slowly as to have given every advantage to the french Armies in Holland if the Successes of the Prince de Cobourg in Flanders had not rendered the proposed Invasion abortive. However the Period being now arriv’d about which it might reasonably be expected that the Weather would permit of offensive Operations and the Country afford Resources to the Cavalry of the Armies we shall soon know somewhat of the comparative Strength of Parties. On the northern Frontier they have to beseige not only Conde but Valenciennes Bouchain and Cambray in order to open a Road in the direct Line of Advance besides which it would seem that they want Douay and Arras on the Right with Bavay and Maubeuge on the left to cover their Flanks. Hence results the Formation of seven Seiges after Condé in order to open the Road fairly to Paris while on the Sea Coast they would want only Dunquerque and Calais after which they might march securely along the Coast taking Possession of the Ports and erecting slight Works to cover their Retreat should Retreat become necessary. I am persuaded therefore that the main Efforts will be made still in that last Direction, unless Intelligences are established in the Towns on the other Route. I learn, but on slender Authority, that the Citizens of Valenciennes and the regular Troops are not dispos’d to resist. The Militia or Volontaires are however well determind. I know that the Government are very apprehensive as to Normandy, and I still beleive in a descent there, and consequent Revolt. You will have seen that the Insurgents on the Southwest of the Loire have had hitherto very great Success altho the Gazettes have teemed with Accounts of the victories obtaind over them. That they have hitherto receivd no Succor from abroad confirms me in the Opinion that the main Blow is to be struck on the Side of Normandy, unless indeed the Enemies of France are absolutely blind. I learn that the Army of Biron has suffered very severely in the Defeats, all published as Victories gaind over the Piedmontese. However as yet the french Territory (notwithstanding the numerous Foes) remains untouchd, though on all Sides greatly menaced.
Enclosed you have Copies of my Letters of the twenty eighth of April and fourteenth Instant to Mr. Lebrun the Minister of foreign Affairs, with that of his Answer of the seventeenth and my Reply of to Day. These Pieces require no Comment. With sincere Esteem & Respect I have the Honor to be Dear Sir your obedient Servant
RC (DNA: RG 59, DD); at head of text “No. 30.”; at foot of first page: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of State Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 Sep. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers). Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). PrC (DNA: RG 59, MD). Tr (Lb in same, DD). Enclosures: (1) Morris to TJ, 19 Apr. 1793. (2) Same to Lebrun, 28 Apr. 1793, complaining about a resolution of the municipality of Dunkirk preventing Captain Alexander Frazer of the Fame, an American ship owned by Thomas Dickenson of Boston, from carrying 182 pipes of brandy from Dunkirk to Altona for Joshua Johnson, the American consul in London—which resolution was first justified by the supposition that the brandy was intended for England and then (when Altona was accepted as the true destination) by the scarcity of brandy in Dunkirk—and requesting restitution of the cargo. (3) Same to same, 14 May 1793, predicting that a 9 May 1793 decree of the National Convention, which authorized French warships and privateers to seize neutral vessels carrying food from neutral countries to an enemy port and declared enemy merchandise carried on such vessels as lawful prize, would be adopted as to foodstuffs by France’s maritime enemies, thereby leaving the success of such shipments in the future to naval superiority between the belligerents, and suggesting that it be modified by a supplementary decree to make it conform to France’s treaty of commerce with the United States. (4) Lebrun to Morris, 17 May 1793, stating that the Committee of Public Safety will demand that the National Convention amend its decree of 9 May to accord with the treaty of commerce with the United States, advising that the Provisional Executive Council has determined that Dunkirk’s dangerous situation justified its precaution in blocking the exportation of brandy, and transmitting the Council’s decree providing for indemnification of the captain of the Fame. (5) Extract from the Register of the Provisional Executive Council, 16 May 1793, declaring that it approved the detention of the Fame’s cargo of brandy by the city of Dunkirk because of the danger of immediate attack by land and sea and the consequent need to maintain supplies for the troops, but ordering the city to reimburse the captain for the expenses incurred in loading and unloading the brandy, as well as for the resultant delay, and directing Lebrun to inform Morris why the Council could not comply with his request for the return of the brandy. (6) Morris to Lebrun, 20 May 1793, declaring that it was only natural for Dunkirk to secure supplies and suspend the general laws of commerce under threat of a siege, expressing pleasure that the Council has ordered indemnification and rejoicing in these “proceedings of a free people,” asking that the order be executed with dispatch, and noting that he was informing the United States government that the decree of 9 May would be amended in a few days in the manner Lebrun described (Trs of Enclosures Nos. 2–6 in DNA: RG 59, DD, in French, in Morris’s hand; Trs in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess., in French with English translations in the hand of George Taylor, Jr.; PrCs in DNA: RG 59, MD; Trs in Lb in same, DD, in French and English).
Morris’s eventual vindication of an American treaty right violated by the National Convention in its decree of 9 May 1793 (see Enclosures Nos. 3 and 4 above) proved to be a short-lived French concession to American sensibilities. Under the terms of Article 23 of the 1778 treaty of commerce, France and the United States agreed to the principle that free ships make free goods, which in practice meant among other things that, with the exception of contraband (which was specifically defined in Article 24 to exclude provisions), neutral American ships carrying provisions or enemy goods were not liable to seizure by the French (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , ii, 21–2). However, in retaliation for British captures of American and other neutral ships bound for France with provisions, the National Convention’s 9 May decree authorized French warships and privateers to capture and take into French ports neutral vessels bringing provisions to an enemy port or carrying merchandise owned by an enemy. In addition to confiscating enemy merchandise as lawful prize for the captor, the decree also provided that the provisions were to be paid for at the price they would have received at their intended place of destination and that after having unloaded their forbidden cargoes the captured ships would be permitted to depart with an allowance for the costs of freight and detention. Finally, the decree announced that these measures would cease as soon as enemy powers agreed that they would not seize neutral vessels bearing food for France or carrying merchandise owned by the French government or its citizens (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, i, 377–8). Although the Convention passed a decree on 23 May 1793 which exempted United States ships from this measure, it did so on the basis of Article 16 of the treaty of commerce, which dealt with the restoration of ships and mechandise rescued from pirates or robbers on the high seas. But the imperatives of war soon took precedence over French treaty obligations to a neutral ally. The Convention successively revoked this exemption on 28 May, restored it on 1 July, and revoked it again on 27 July 1793. Thereafter the United States remained subject to the provisions of the 9 May decree, with its attendant spoliation of American shipping, until January 1795, when the Convention finally nullified this measure five months after British repeal of a June 1793 order in council calling for the seizure of neutral ships carrying corn, flour, or meal to any French port or any port occupied by French armies (Morris to TJ, 1 June 1793, and note; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, i, 240, 642–3; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , ii, 16; Bowman, Neutrality description begins Albert H. Bowman, The Struggle for Neutrality: Franco-American Diplomacy During the Federalist Era, Knoxville, Tenn., 1974 description ends , 108–15, 185–6; Samuel F. Bemis, “Washington’s Farewell Address: A Foreign Policy of Independence,” AHR description begins American Historical Review, 1895- description ends , xxxix , 250–5).
TJ submitted this letter to the President on 5 Sep. 1793, and Washington returned it the same day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 238).