Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Pinckney, 15 August 1793

From Thomas Pinckney

London 15 Augt. 1793

Dear Sir

The frequent interruptions our vessels experience especially in navigating the European seas induce me to address you in cypher.1 I have had several conversations with Lord Grenville, but do not find that this government will at all relax in the measures they have adopted toward the neutral nations. I have urged every thing in my power in opposition to the policy as well as the right of these measures, and have assured him that they will be considered by our government as infringements of the neutral rights. As I cannot speak from authority on the subject, I have not said what measures we shall adopt in consequence—altho’ I have strongly insisted on the detriment to the Commercial interests of this country which must necessarily ensue from the various impediments opposed to a free intercourse, as well as from the ill will they will excite. I may perhaps estimate too highly the blessings of peace in general and the advantages of our Neutral situation, notwithstanding all the deductions to be made on account of the conduct of this Country. But it appears to me that if the United States should deem it necessary to go beyond the line of remonstrance on this occasion, prudence will dictate that our opposition should be confined to commercial regulations;2 not knowing however what sentiments may prevail on your side of the Atlantic, I thought it my duty to enquire of the Danish and Swedish Envoys what support might be expected in Europe from stronger measures. They both tell me that they do not insist upon the principle of free Ships making free goods, or the other stipulations of the armed neutrality of the last war, and that they shall be very happy if they can obtain the performance of the express Treaties they have with this country, which has by no means been the case hitherto. Sweden says she will send convoys with her merchantmen, Denmark thinks this is an impolitic measure, for unless they are convoyed by an adequate force, it may, without materially benefitting, only serve to involve them in actual hostilities. The opinions of both in short are, that the neutral powers are not strong enough to cause their rights to be respected. You will see in the public papers a curious Diplomatique Morceau of Lord Hervey the British Minister at the Court of Florence, which will illustrate this subject. I enquired of Lord Grenville the reason of the distinction made in favor of the Danish and Swedish vessels going to blockaded ports. Upon his replying that it was in consequence of their treaties, I told him that although from circumstances of which he was apprized, we had no commercial treaty with them, yet I considered the commercial advantages derived by G. Britain from the U.S. to be superior to what they received from either of those powers, and therefore, tho’ not strictly bound by treaty I should conceive it politic in them to give us equal advantages. He said no difference was made but in that article which was more a matter of form than of real utility. If I were to judge from my ideas of the interests of this nation, and from the sentiments I hear expressed by the majority of the people with whom I converse, I should conceive the present campaign would terminate the war—but judging, as I take the safer rule to be, by the characters and views of those who direct their Councils, I think the war will be persisted in until inability to support the expence will force its termination, and happily for mankind that period does not appear to be far distant. The information which was expected from Consul Bond and which was the reason assigned for postponing arrangements concerning the impressment of our seamen is not yet arrived. Perhaps you may be able to expedite that business, if the whole be not calculated merely to avoid meeting a discussion which may terminate either in a fair arrangement or an avowal of principles which, however repugnant to our rights they think necessary for the prosperity of their Marine. I find from official conversations here that the pretence of infractions on our part still prevent the full effect of the treaty of peace—that a variety of objections to the statement of facts as3 offered by you are brought forward, and that the indecision of the Virginia case is strongly relied upon. Our mint will receive by this opportunity a considerable part of the copper contracted for—by the next Vessels, (which will sail in a short time) I hope to send the remainder. With the utmost respect & sincere regard I remain Dear Sir Your faithful & obedient Servant.

Thomas Pinckney

RC (DNA: RG 59, DD); written partly in code (see note 1 below); at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; with penciled note by TJ below endorsement: “to be decyphered”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Nov. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. PrC (same, MD); at head of text in ink: “Duplicate”; endorsed by Edmund Randolph. Tr (same, DD); in the hand of Benjamin Bankson; entirely en clair; with penciled copying directions by George Taylor, Jr. Tr (Lb in same); entirely en clair, with coded section in brackets containing several anomalies. Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.); en clair extract described in note 2 below, with complimentary close, signature, and inside address subjoined. Printed in Message description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends , 112.

For the measures the British government had adopted toward the Neutral Nations, see Pinckney to TJ, 5 July 1793, and note. The other stipulations espoused by the League of armed neutrality are discussed in Jonathan R. Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution (New Haven, 1985), 129–30. Diplomatique Morceau: a reference to the effort by John Augustus, Lord Hervey, the British minister at Florence, in view of the imminent arrival in the Mediterranean of a combined British and Spanish naval force in May 1793, to coerce the Grand Duke of Tuscany into abandoning the neutral stance he had assumed during the current European war, by writing a threatening letter to the Duke’s secretary of state in which he asserted that in the final analysis the allied powers would determine whether or not Tuscany remained neutral and then by circulating it to the other foreign ministers in Florence with a covering letter in which he attributed Tuscany’s neutral course solely to the secretary’s malign influence (The London Packet; Or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, 22–24 July 1793). For the distinction made in favor of the Danish and Swedish vessels, see Enclosure No. 1 listed at Pinckney to TJ, 5 July 1793. statement of facts: see TJ to George Hammond, 29 May 1792. Virginia case: see note to George Washington to TJ, 1 June 1793.

TJ submitted a deciphered text of this letter to the President on 9 Nov. 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 , 249,250).

1Except for the last sentence, complimentary close, and signature, the remainder is written in code, the decipherment being supplied from the first Tr and verified in part by the Editors using partially reconstructed Code No. 16.

2Extract in RG 46 Tr ends here.

3Word omitted in first two Trs.

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