Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Brown Folger, 6 November 1793

To Brown Folger

Germantown, November 6th. 1793.


It was not till the 14th. of Octo: that I received your favor of the 1st. of that month, which I have communicated to the President on my arrival here, and I am sorry it is not in my power to say that your property taken on board an English ship by a French Privateer can be reclaimed by us. By the 14th. article of our Treaty with France we have established the principle that enemy vessels make enemy goods, and only two months after the declaration of war is allowed for property embarked before the declaration. After that period the article declares that notice of the declaration shall be presumed, and the goods be lawful Prize. Yours having been taken long after that time, we are precluded by the treaty from reclaiming them. We have therefore only to regret that you should suffer by a principle established by treaty between the two nations, and according to which we have uniformly acted on both sides. I am, Sir, &c:

Th: Jefferson

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “Mr. Brown Folger—Boston.”

Brown Folger (1744–96), a Nantucket sea captain residing in Britain, commanded the English whaling ship Harpooner of Bristol, which was captured by the French privateer Marseillaise of Le Havre and carried into Boston at the end of August 1793 (Vital Records of Nantucket, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850, 5 vols. [Boston, 1925–28], i, 471; Nancy S. Adams, ed., “Keziah Coffin Fanning’s Diary,” Historic Nantucket, iv, no. 4 [1957], 46; Thomas Barclay to Robert R. Livingston, 14 Dec. 1782, DNA: RG 360, PCC; Boston, Columbian Centinel, 31 Aug., 2, 5 Oct. 1793).

Folger’s favor of 1 Oct. 1793, recorded in SJL as received from Boston on 24 Oct. 1793 rather than the 14th., has not been found, but according to the summary in the journal of the President, to whom TJ submitted the letter on 2 Nov. 1793 and who returned it the same day, Folger “Begs Mr. Jefferson’s attention to his case” and “Wishes to obtain 1/10 part of the Cargo as his due,” having “Complained to the french Consul without obtaining redress” (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 243).

For the 14th. article of the 1778 treaty of commerce with France, see Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , ii, 14–15.

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