Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joshua Johnson, 24 August 1793

From Joshua Johnson

London, 24 Aug. 1793. He has received TJ’s favors of 14 Nov. and 21 Mch. and regrets his intention to retire. Because of the great hardships and inconveniences to which he knew American seamen and commerce would be subjected by the war in Europe that took place prior to receipt of the second letter, he decided to remain in office until he learned the President’s pleasure about his resignation, and thus to comply with the law he executed with sureties a bond drawn up by Pinckney and lodged it in his hands. He wishes he could say Americans were virtuous enough to avoid temptation, but he understands that several ships have usurped the American colors in India and proceeded under them to Europe. He has rejected with the contempt they deserved the many applications made to him to approve similar violations here. Although he adheres to his opinion about the compensation he should receive, for the present he will trust that the public’s generosity will eventually indemnify him for his sacrifices of time and money. He has rendered an account of his disbursements to Pinckney, who has undoubtedly transmitted it to TJ; as it contains many charges not provided by law, he presumes it must be laid before Congress for approval and payment. He will regularly account to Pinckney for his conduct and asks TJ to correct his errors. He encloses copies of his letters to Philip Stephens, secretary of the Lords of the Admiralty, which have neither been answered nor resulted in the liberation of our fellow citizens, and a list of American ships captured and brought into different British ports by British warships and privateers, many loaded with perishable commodities which may become a total loss to the proprietors because of sentencing delays by the court of admiralty. Added to the detention and expenses of seeking restoration, this may utterly ruin the innocent owners and has made French citizens so fearful of venturing their property in our vessels as neutrals that their value has diminished nearly 100 percent. Representations about the injustice of such treatment have failed to produce any good effect, and he fears that the ministry’s blind pride and obstinacy will force Congress to retaliate. In several cases passengers on American ships bound from France to St. Thomas have been jailed and pillaged even of their trinkets contrary to humanity and the law of nations. Captains and owners of privateers have tempted American captains and crews to swear their cargoes were French property, and have fired on the George, Captain Latouche of Baltimore, and the Carolina Packet, Captain White of Charleston. In Pinckney’s absence, he encloses at his request the bill of lading and invoice of the copper for the Mint shipped on the Pigou, Captain Loxley. He asks TJ to make his devotions to the President, whose confidence and good opinion he highly esteems, and to assure him that he will be proud if his conduct continues to merit the approval of TJ and the President.

RC (DNA: RG 59, CD); 3 p.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Johnson; above salutation: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.” Dft (same). Recorded in SJL as received 1 Nov. 1793. Enclosures: (1) Johnson to Philip Stephens, 8 July 1793, stating that in consequence of the enclosed proofs of American citizenship he hoped the Lords of the Admiralty would order the immediate release of four impressed seamen—Benjamin Johnston, a black from the Belvedere of New York now on H.M.S. Assistance, John Barry of the Pigou of Philadelphia, and William Moxley and John Packwood of the Bellona of Alexandria on the Dido; and that John Eason now on the Dido would also be released because of the oath attesting to his American citizenship sworn before the Lord Mayor of London by Captain Gardner of the Republican of Baltimore. (2) Same to same, 17 July 1793, stating that the absence of a reply to No. 1 indicated that the government was determined to impress Americans “contrary to the Customs of Nations, and good Faith”; that if this were so, he wished to know immediately so that he could refrain from future applications; and that as he now understood Barry to be aboard the Enterprize “off the Tower” there would be no difficulty in getting him if his protection and certificate were returned. (3) Same to same, 24 July 1793, demanding on the strength of the enclosed proofs the discharge of George Treadwell, unlawfully impressed in Plymouth from the American ship Cato, Captain Wardrobe, by an officer of H.M.S. Adamant, William Bentinck commander, and of Patrick Molloy, an American citizen now on the “Guard Ship at the Nore” (Trs in same; Trs in same, DD). Other enclosures not found.

TJ submitted this letter to the President on 2 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 , 243).

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