Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond, 26 June 1793

To George Hammond

Philadelphia June 26. 1793.


The Government here has received complaint that the Snow Suckey, belonging to George Makepeace, a citizen of the United States, with her Cargo, belonging chiefly to Peter Le Maigre, and wholly to citizens of the United States, and not at all of the character of contraband,1 commanded by Anthony Andaulle a citizen also of the United States, and bound from the Port of Philadelphia to Port au Prince, was, on her way thither, on the 8 of May last, taken by an english Privateer Brig, called the Maria, of Kingston in the Island of Jamaica, commanded by a Captain Mc.Iver, who immediately put the Captain of the said Snow on board a vessel, accidentally met with at sea, in order to deprive her of her proper patron and defender. The persons interested propose immediately to send an Agent, properly authorized, in quest of their Vessel and Cargo. They mean to go in the first place to Jamaica. I have the honor to enclose you copies of their papers establishing the facts, and to ask the aid of your letters, either open or closed, directed to such persons in authority in Jamaica, or elsewhere, as you may think proper, recommending to their patronage, the person and proceedings of the said Agent, so far as shall be just, for the recovery of the property taken. And as doubtless the laws of the place will have provided for the punishment of the offenders, I trust that your Government will make a point of bringing them to justice, if the Case should really prove to be as it is represented, in order to ensure2 to the commerce and navigation of peaceable Nations that freedom from interruption to which they are entitled.

Your interposition cannot but be the more effectual in the present case, as the principal Owner of the Cargo is a long-established3 and well-known-merchant of reputation, of this place, and it would be easy for you to Satisfy yourself in the most perfect manner of the property of the Vessel and Cargo.

The distance, and consequent delay, which would attend the sending of this complaint to the Government4 of England, and the probable escape of the persons and property, if so much time were given for it, has induced me to presume on your concurrence in this more speedy method of pursuit. I have the honor to be, with much respect Sir, Your most obedient and Most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DNA: RG 76, British Spoliations); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of first page: “The Minister Plenipoy. of Great Britain.” Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand, unsigned; only the most significant emendations have been noted below. Tr (DNA: RG 59, Notes to Foreign Missions); in Taylor’s hand. PrC (DLC). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Tr (Lb in PRO: FO 116/3). Tr (same, 5/1). Recorded in SJPL. Enclosures: (1) Deposition of Peter Lemaigre, Philadelphia, 20 June 1793, stating that, though a native of France, he came to the United States in 1779, when he settled in Philadelphia as a merchant and swore an oath of allegiance to Pennsylvania, and has ever since considered himself an American citizen and owned vessels under American papers; restating the substance of his petition and memorial to TJ, printed under 21 June 1793, concerning the cargo and capture of the snow Suckey on the way to Port-au-Prince by the British privateer Maria, but adding that he had been authorized by its owner, George Makepeace, to sell it for £1,000; and declaring that there was no “secret or covert trust” by which the vessel and the said part of the cargo were held for the use of a citizen or subject of the belligerent powers. (2) Deposition of Anthony Andaulle, Philadelphia, 20 June 1793, stating that, though a French native, he had come to the United States in 1784 and since regarded himself as a citizen of it, taking an oath of allegiance to the United States in 1789; that during these years he had commanded many American merchant vessels and been recognized as a United States citizen by customs officials in Philadelphia and elsewhere; and that having been placed in command of the Suckey by Lemaigre he had received on board sundry goods from him and also loaded a cargo belonging solely to himself and not held “in covert or in Trust” for anyone else, especially subjects of a belligerent power; and relating details of the subsequent capture of the Suckey by the Maria (Trs in DNA: RG 76, British Spoliations, certified by Philadelphia notary public Clement Biddle; Trs in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Letter and enclosures enclosed in TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 26 June 1793; letter enclosed in second Memorandum to George Washington, [11 July 1793], and Tobias Lear to TJ, 15 July 1793. The following documents pertaining to this case were apparently sent to TJ with the above enclosures in Clement Biddle’s missing 26 June 1793 letter (see TJ to Biddle, 28 June 1793, and note), but were not submitted to Hammond: (1) George Makepeace to Lemaigre, Boston, 2 Mch. 1793, enclosing his power of attorney authorizing Lemaigre to sell the Suckey, and stating that he wished to obtain about £1,000 for the ship and had also ordered his son, who had gone to Port-au-Prince, to sell it (Tr in DNA: RG 76, British Spoliations, with subjoined power of attorney, bearing Biddle’s 26 June 1793 certification; Tr in same, Great Britain, Unbound Records). (2) Three bills of lading for the Suckey, two for Lemaigre and one for J. B. Drouillard, Philadelphia, 9–10 Apr. 1793 (Trs in British Spoliations; consisting of printed forms with blanks filled in; with Biddle’s 26 June 1793 certification on verso of Drouillard’s bill). (3) Proof of Citizenship of Anthony Andaulle, 28 Nov. 1789, consisting of certification by Philadelphia alderman Joseph Swift that on this date Andaulle had subscribed before him the oath of allegiance and fidelity to the United States (Tr in same; certified by Biddle on 20 June 1793). (4) Proof of Citizenship of Peter Lemaigre, 21 June 1793, consisting of Biddle’s certification that he had verified the original record of Lemaigre’s oath of allegiance to Pennsylvania on 10 Dec. 1779, which made him “from said Date a Citizen of said United States” (Dupl in same; in a clerk’s hand signed by Biddle; at foot of text: “Duplicate”).

This letter, sent with the approval of the Cabinet during the President’s absence, sought redress for the first British violation of American neutrality to come to TJ’s attention (TJ to George Washington, 25 July 1793). It soon led to a conversation with Hammond in which the British minister officially informed TJ for the first time of his government’s policy toward neutral shipping during the war with France. Hammond described the discussion to the British foreign minister as follows: “In a conversation, which I had with Mr. Jefferson on the subject of this last mentioned letter, he informed me that the particulars, referred to in it, would be transmitted to Mr. Pinckney, and that that Gentleman would be farther instructed to submit to his Majestys ministers some general propositions, relative to the security of the uninterrupted navigation of American vessels. From this I took occasion to reply that, having given information generally to the merchants of the conduct which the King’s government intended to pursue with respect to neutral vessels, I had not deemed it expedient to make any formal communication to him upon this point; as I imagined that such a proceeding on my part, might probably have been construed into an unnecessary anticipation of a discussion, which might with greater propriety have been expected to have originated with himself. But as he had now stated the subject, I would inform him briefly that I was authorized to declare—that in the prosecution of the present war, into which she had been forced by the unprovoked aggression of France, Great Britain had determined to pursue that conduct towards the vessels of neutral powers, which she had invariably observed in all preceding wars—that she would seize the property of her enemies wherever she could find it, and would not suffer neutral ships to cover and protect it—that she would take such articles as came under the denomination of contraband de guerre, though they might be the property of citizens of a neutral power—and that she would not allow neutral vessels to enter into a port which was besieged or blocked up by her ships of war. Mr. Jefferson’s answer to this declaration was so moderate and lukewarm, as to incline me to believe that in reality he coincides with Mr. Hamilton in the sentiments, which I have ascribed to that Gentleman in my dispatch No. 14, and that any propositions of a contrary tendency, which Mr. Pinckney may be instructed to offer are not meant to be seriously enforced” (Hammond to Lord Grenville, 7 July 1793, PRO, FO 5/1). Hammond’s statement to TJ was based upon the description of British policy on neutral shipping contained in a 12 Mch. 1793 dispatch from Grenville that reached Hammond about two months later (same to same, 17 May 1793, same; Mayo, British Ministers, description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States 1791–1812,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1936 description ends 36–40).

In response to TJ’s request for the aid of your letters, Hammond informed Grenville that he intended to write a letter on behalf of the agent of the owners of the Suckey to Governor Adam Williamson of Jamaica “briefly stating the object of his voyage to Jamaica and recommending him generally to such protection and favor as his case may appear to deserve” (Hammond to Grenville, 7 July 1793, PRO: FO 5/1).

1Preceding nine words interlined in Dft.

2Word interlined in Dft in place of “give.”

3Next three words interlined in Dft.

4Word written in Dft over “court of,” erased.

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