Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, [ca. 18–19 August 1793]

To George Washington

[ca. 18–19 Aug. 1793]

Th: Jefferson on examination of the subject finds that the resolution for restoring or compensating prizes taken by the proscribed vessels was agreed to by the heads of departments and Atty. Genl. on the 5th. There was a difference of opinion how far it should be communicated to Mr. Hammond; the President was pleased to call at the office of Th:J. and to decide in favor of a full communication, on the same day (between 2. and 3. aclock he believes). Th:J. on considering the subject, found it would require caution of expression in both letters, that is, to Mr. Genet and Mr. Hammond. He took therefore till the next day to prepare the draughts. The President called on him in the country the next morning (the 6th.) and after his departure, Th:J. went on with the beginning of the letter to Mr. Gouvr. Morris, which he had begun, and had read a part of to the President. He was therefore later than usual in going to town. When he arrived there he sent the two draughts of letters to Genet and Hammond for the President’s approbation. Whether they did not come back to his office till he had left town, or whether they could not be copied in time, he does not recollect; but he finds the press copy of the letter to Mr. Genet, in Mr. Taylor’s hand writing, dated Aug. 7.

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); undated; addressed: “The President of the US.”; endorsed by Tobias Lear in part: “without date—But must have been written about the 18 or 19 Augt 1793.” Tr (Lb in same, SDC). Not recorded in SJL.

This letter may be related to the arrival in Philadelphia on 14 Aug. 1793 of the Hope, a British sloop from Antigua, and the Alodia, an American sloop under Spanish registry from New Orleans. Both ships had been captured by French privateers commissioned by Edmond Charles Genet in the United States and thus fell within the purview of the Cabinet decision on the 5th. concerning the restoration of such prizes. The President himself only learned officially of their arrival on 17 Aug. 1793, which might account for the conjectural dates Tobias Lear assigned to TJ’s letter (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 222, 223n; Cabinet Opinions on Privateers and Prizes, 5 Aug. 1793). Both prizes were restored to their owners (Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser, 19 Aug. 1793; Counter Case description begins The Counter Case of Great Britain as Laid before the Tribunal of Arbitration, Convened at Geneva, under the Provisions of the Treaty between the United States of America and Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, Concluded at Washington, May 8, 1871, U.S. House of Representatives, Executive Documents, 42d Cong., 2d Sess., Vol. XVI, No. 324, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 610–11).

The final version of the letter to Mr. Gouvr. Morris was dated 16 Aug. 1793; TJ described reading a part of an early draft of it to the President in his first letter to James Madison of 11 Aug. 1793.

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