From Henry Lee
Richmond October 4th. 1793.
The intelligence contained in the letter from the British Consul at Norfolk of the 26th. ultimo, was repeated to me in letters of the same date from the Collector at that Port and from the Commandant of the Militia. They were submitted to the United States Attorney for this district, who did not consider the Privateer Republic as violating the established Neutrality.
His opinion was forwarded by me to the respective parties with out delay, but from the last letter from Mr. Hamilton it seems that the Captain of the Privateer did not wait the reply although it had been Stipulated on his part so to do—and that material changes were made in the Vessel as well as additional force received on board. I have &c.
FC (Vi: Executive Letter Book); at head of text: “To the Secretary of State.” Recorded in SJL as received 24 Oct. 1793.
The enclosed letter to Lee from John Hamilton, the British consul at Norfolk, actually dated 20 Sep. 1793, stated that the French privateer schooner Republicaine, refitted since its arrival in Portsmouth and about to set sail on a cruise according to information he had received, should be prohibited from departing under the Proclamation of Neutrality; recounted that he had written to the collector for Norfolk and to Colonel Wilson, the commander at Portsmouth, requesting them to detain the ship if it fit the above description, and that Wilson had replied that he was in need of instructions, since the owner, Mr. Isdril, had not only produced a commission, dated at Cap-Français 26 May 1793, and other papers which convinced him that the privateer was legally commissioned, but had also indicated that only some rotten plank had been replaced and that some six pound cannon would be exchanged for an equal number of four pounders; and asked the Virginia Executive to determine whether the ship could depart and proceed on its cruise in view of rule 7, adopted by the President of the United States and annexed to the Treasury Secretary’s circular letter, which declared equipments adapted solely for war unlawful, and of Articles 18 and 19 of the treaty between the United States and France, the exceptions to which did not comprehend this case, since the ship had entered with the French fleet from Cap-Français and been in the harbor since then (RC in Vi: Executive Papers; printed in CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , vi, 539–40). For confirmation of the earlier date, see Lee to Hamilton, 25 Sep. 1793, Vi: Executive Letterbook.
The letters to Lee from Norfolk and Portsmouth collector William Lindsay and Norfolk County Commandant Willis Wilson, actually dated 21 and 19 Sep. 1793 respectively, emphasized that the Republicaine had arrived in Virginia in distress and had reduced rather than augmented its cannon (Vi: Executive Papers; printed in CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , vi, 539,540–1). District Attorney Alexander Campbell informed Lee on 25 Sep. 1793 that he did not consider the Republicaine to be in violation of neutrality because it did not meet the description of an illegal privateer under the Proclamation of Neutrality and the rules prescribed by the President, “the Exchange of military armament under such circumstances being perfectly permissible” (same, 548). Hamilton’s last letter to Lee, dated 27 Sep. 1793, complained that, before sailing in violation of the owner’s promise to the commandant, the privateer had added to its cannon and small arms, augmented its crew by twenty or thirty men, and replaced its bottom and sails, all of which he regarded as unauthorized by the Proclamation of Neutrality, the French treaty, or the President’s rules (Vi: Executive Papers; printed in CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , vi, 551). See also Rules on Neutrality, 3 Aug. 1793.
On 2 Nov. 1793 TJ submitted this letter and its enclosure to the President, who returned them 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).