Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorial from George Hammond, 7 November 1793

Memorial from George Hammond

The undersigned, his Britannic Majesty’s Minister plenipotentiary to the United States, has the honor of submitting to the Secretary of State the accompanying deposition; from which it appears that on the 6th. ulto., the British brigantine Pilgrim from Nanticoke in Maryland bound to Barbadoes was captured by the French Xebeck privateer, le Sans Culotte of Marseille, at the distance of two miles and a half or three miles at the farthest, from the American shore and consequently within the jurisdiction of the United States.

It is necessary to remark that the original of this deposition was transmitted by his Majesty’s Vice-Consul for the state of Maryland to the Governor of Maryland under the hope that the interposition of that officer might have retarded, at least until the determination of the federal executive government might have been known, the sale of the Pilgrim. The Undersigned is entirely ignorant whether the influence of the Governor of Maryland were exerted for this purpose or not; but, even admitting that it were, it was ineffectual, since on the 19 ulto. (within less than a week after its arrival in the port of Baltimore) the brigantine Pilgrim was publicly sold under the authority of the pretended tribunal of the French Consul at Baltimore. The Undersigned will reserve for a future occasion more general representations on the subject of the mischiefs which have flowed from the tacit permission that this government has granted to the establishment of these French Consular tribunals within its territory. For the present knowing (to use the expressions of the Secretary of States letter of the 15 of May) that “their judicial acts are not warranted by the usage of nations, by the stipulations existing between the United States and France nor by any laws of the land” he shall consequently consider the condemnation in this instance by the French Consular tribunal at Baltimore, “as a mere nullity” and shall therefore confine himself to the requisition that, if the executive government of the United States esteems the facts advanced in the annexed deposition to be well-founded it will immediately pursue the necessary measures for effecting the restitution of the brigantine the Pilgrim to her owners who are subjects of his Britannic Majesty.

(signed) Geo: Hammond

Lansdown near Philadelphia

7th of November 1793

Tr (PRO: FO 5/1). Recorded in SJL as received 7 Nov. 1793. Enclosure: Deposition of Peter Walstrum, Edward Matthias, and John Stay, Baltimore, 11 Oct. 1793, stating, as master, mate, and mariner of the Pilgrim, that after leaving Nanticoke on 30 Sep. 1793 bound for Barbados, and after the pilot left the ship at Watts Island in Chesapeake Bay on 5 Oct., this brigantine was captured as a prize by the xebec Sans Culotte of Marseilles during the afternoon of 6 Oct., “in five fathoms water at not more than two miles and a half or three miles at most from the shore,” and brought into Baltimore on the evening of 11 Oct. (Tr in same; with subjoined copies of 16 Oct. 1793 notarization by George P. Keeports of Baltimore County and 31 Oct. 1793 attestation by Edward Thornton that the original was submitted to Governor Thomas Sim Lee).

In response to a protest by Edward Thornton, the British vice-consul at Baltimore, Governor Thomas Sim Lee of Maryland had sent a copy of the enclosed deposition to F. Moissonnier, the French vice-consul at Baltimore, requesting him to take possession of the Pilgrim and prevent its sale until the President had ruled on the legality of its capture. At the same time Lee assured Thornton that even if his overture to Moissonnier arrived too late, the British vice-consul could still take advantage of the procedures recently established by the Washington administration for obtaining restitution for prizes illegally captured by the French. After Moissonnier informed Lee that the Pilgrim had already been sold, the governor obtained a deposition from him on the legality of the capture and forwarded it to Secretary of War Henry Knox for submission to the President (Lee to Thornton, 18 Oct., to Moissonnier, 18, 25 Oct., 5 Nov., and to Knox, 5 Nov. 1793, MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council).

TJ this day submitted this memorial 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 , 248).

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