Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Telfair, 21 August 1793

From Edward Telfair

State House Augusta 21st August 1793


Citizen M. A. B. Mangourit Consul of the French Republic at Charleston has made a demand, in the name of his Nation, of a certain Captain Reviers and his two Lieutenants, as will more fully appear by the copy of his letter to me which is herewith transmitted for the purpose of being laid before the President of the United States: As I concieve the purport of this letter to be of the highest political concern I shall await with impatience a reply. I have the honor to be Sir Your Mo Hble Servt

Edwd. Telfair

RC (DNA: RG 59, LGS); at foot of text: “Sy of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Sep. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. FC (G-Ar: Journal of Proceedings of the Executive Department). Enclosure: Mangourit to Telfair, Charleston, 25 July 1793, quoting in full, and protesting the rejection of, a 15 July 1793 memorial of John Brickell, French Vice-Consul at Savannah, to United States District Judge Nathaniel Pendleton demanding in the name of the French Republic the immediate release from custody of Captain Joseph Riviere of the Anti-George, who held a French commission from Mangourit; stating that Riviere had not violated any American law, but rather had been imprisoned for being useful to his country in conformity with the spirit of the treaty of alliance, and that his arrest was “an Act of tyranny, and the more culpable, because it is committed in a land of freedom”; that the governor should beware of “the insidious machinations which the English faction make use of in Georgia” to turn Americans against that eternal alliance and undermine their gratitude to France, and which are reflected in the maxims of the ambitious English nobility and stockjobbing mercantile class; that ingratitude to France would reflect a fatal lack of virtue in the United States and lead it, like Carthage, to perish in the midst of opulence; that if the armed men who seized the shipwrecked Riviere and his crew on 13 July lacked legal authority, they might have been “hired by England to make war on the French” in the United States; that it is admitted at Charleston that American tribunals lack jurisdiction over enemy prizes captured by French vessels; that the Wilmington court has admitted that it cannot detain any Frenchmen, as evidenced by its release of the captain of the French privateer Vainqueur de la Bastille when an English captain whose vessel he had taken at sea made a deceitful effort to have him tried; and requesting the immediate release of Riviere and his lieutenants, Hunt and Seymour, if their arrest was indeed founded solely on “the false basis of their being part of a French Privateer,” and reparation for the insult given to France (Tr in DNA: RG 59, LGS; English translation from the French by John Peter Vanheddeghem, with his 19 Aug. 1793 certification witnessed by Augusta Mayor John Milton).

The Anti-George, one of the privateers commissioned in Charleston by French minister Edmond Charles Genet, took no prizes before it was shipwrecked around 10 July 1793. Its captain, Joseph Riviere, and his two Lieutenants, Jeffrey Hunt and Richard Seymour, were arrested on suspicion of having violated American neutrality but acquitted in November 1793 (Melvin H. Jackson, “The Consular Privateers; an account of French Privateering in American waters, April to August, 1793,” American Neptune, xxii [1962], 97–8). See also TJ to Telfair, 9 Sep. 1793.

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