Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to F. P. Van Berckel, 29 May 1793

To F. P. Van Berckel

Philadelphia May 29th. 1793.


I am favored with your note of the 22d. instant, stating that under circumstances of invasion, and urgent danger, their High Mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands had found it necessary to lay an embargo on all vessels in their Ports, and that an American Ship, the Hope, being involved in this general order, the master had claimed an exemption, under the eighth article of our Treaty, which it had been necessary to refuse him.

I have laid this Note before the President of the United States, and have it in charge from him to assure you that the United States, having the utmost confidence in the sincerity and good faith with which their High Mightinesses will observe the Treaty between the two Countries, feel no dissatisfaction at the circumstance mentioned in your Note. They are sensible that in human affairs there are moments of difficulty and necessity to which it is the office of friendship to accommodate its strict rights.

The President considers the explanation, which their High Mightinesses have instructed you to give of this incident, as a proof of their desire to cultivate harmony and good understanding with these United States; and charges me to assure you that he has nothing more at heart than to convince their High Mightinesses of the same amicable sentiments on the part of this Country and of the certainty with which they may count on its justice and friendship on every occasion. I have the honor to be with great respect and esteem Sir, your most obedient & most humble Servant.

PrC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, unsigned; at foot of text: “Mr. Van Berckel.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Enclosed in TJ to Washington, 27 and 30 May 1793.

TJ prepared this letter in two stages. He first wrote a missing draft on 25 May 1793, which he submitted to the President two days later and which Washington then approved. Instead of dispatching that text to the Dutch minister, however, TJ composed a second draft that was designed, in the words of the President, “to leave an opening” for the captain or owners of the HOPE “to seek redress for any damage they may have sustained by the detention.” Washington approved this draft on 30 May 1793, the same day TJ submitted it to him, and returned it to TJ the following day (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 153, 155). See also TJ to Washington, 30 May 1793, for an indication of where the two drafts differed.

For the case of the Hope, see Rodolph Vall-Travers to TJ, 29 Mch. 1793, and note. The Eighth Article of the 1782 treaty of amity and commerce between the Netherlands and the United States among other things forbade either of the contracting parties to seize or detain ships and cargoes belonging to subjects of the other without the consent of their owners, except for “debts or Crimes” (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, 66–7).

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