Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Elias Vanderhorst, 4 July 1793

From Elias Vanderhorst

Plymouth, 4 July 1793. He takes this opportunity by the American ship Amsterdam Packet, Captain Weeks, bound for New York from London, to advise that two ships owned by United States citizens have been brought here and detained on the pretense that all or part of their cargoes are French property. The Eliza, Captain Worsley, bound from the Isle of France to Dunkirk and Ostend, was captured by the Liberty, a privateer from London, where Worsley now is and where the ship and cargo, it appears, will soon be released with the payment of damages for detention. The Jay, Captain Thomas Durry, bound from New York to Le Havre, was captured by the royal armed brig Orestes, Lord Augustus Fitzroy, who left again on another cruise immediately thereafter. The failure to libel the Jay, which has been in port for twenty days, suggests that the captors have little hope of securing the condemnation of any part of the cargo and that the chief object is to prevent the provisions aboard her from reaching France, wherefore he expects the government to pay for the whole cargo and to make satisfaction to all concerned in the ship and cargo. As mentioned in a previous letter, he had intended to continue in office John Hawker, the vice-consul appointed by Thomas Auldjo for this port, but he assumed that his consular authority here had lapsed after learning that Robert Were Fox had been appointed vice-consul for Falmouth, which includes Plymouth. Informed last night, however, by Thomas Were Fox that, on Pinckney’s advice, his brother could not serve because his commission was made out by mistake to Edward Fox, he has resumed his consular authority here and hopes that allowances will be made for his lack of experience with the many new and untried matters in public affairs. For further particulars on this and other matters, he refers TJ to the bearer, Dr. Adair, who during a short stay here proved to be a well-informed gentleman and a friend to America and mankind. He encloses a hasty but true declaration by Captain Durry. Three days ago he received TJ’s 21 Mch. letter with the accompanying laws of the last congressional session and will reply more fully to his instructions at a more convenient time.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); 3 p.; at foot of text: “The Secretary of State, Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Aug. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Memorandum of Information sworn by Thomas Durry, Plymouth, 4 July 1793, stating that on 17 May 1793 the Jay left New York under his command bound for Le Havre with a cargo consisting of 217 barrels of flour and 1,000 barrels of beef and pork shipped by Samuel Ward & Brothers, flour, ox hides, and furs variously shipped by Hugh Stocker, the ship’s owner, William Seton, and Daniel Ludlow & Company, and a bag containing 177 ¾ dollars shipped by Greenleaf & Company; that his papers indicated that the shipment by Ward & Brothers was to be delivered to the mayor of Le Havre or to Delamotte, the American consul there; that on 12 June a ship posing as an armed French brig stopped the Jay 19 leagues off Lizard Point and, seeing from his papers and declarations that his cargo was French property bound for Le Havre, revealed itself to be H.M.S. Orestes, Lord Augustus Fitzroy commander, and took it into Plymouth as a prize on 14 June; that except for the second mate and carpenter (who escaped and later admitted they were not native Americans) his entire crew were impressed into the Royal Navy despite their sworn affidavits that they were citizens of the United States, though since then they have admitted, “probably from Improper Influence,” that they were British subjects and have been identified as such by witnesses who knew them or were similarly prevailed upon; that Vanderhorst was unable to secure their release and was denied access to the ship’s papers; that the High Court of Admiralty has appointed commissioners to investigate the claim of Fitzroy and his agents that the Jay and its cargo were lawful prizes because most of the cargo was the property of French citizens; that he has deposed on oath to the commissioners that both ship and cargo belonged to citizens of the United States, while conceding that the cargo would probably have become French property after delivery; and that there is reason to believe from this case and others like it that British warships are under orders to bring into British ports American vessels carrying provisions to France, “as even the Cargoes of those Ships which being thus loaded have call’d at different Ports for Orders have been detain’d and Purchas’d by the British Governmt. on the Lowest possible Terms” (MS in same; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Durry and attested by Vanderhorst). Enclosed in James B. M. Adair to TJ, [ca. 28 Aug. 1793].

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