Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Edmond Charles Genet and George Hammond, 10 November 1793

To Edmond Charles Genet and George Hammond

Germantown Nov. 10. 1793.


I have the Honor to inform you that the District Attorney of Maryland is this day instructed to take measures for finally settling the case of the British brig Coningham captured by the French privateer the Sans Culottes of Marseilles, and reclaimed as taken within the jurisdiction of the United States, in which he will proceed as I had the honor of stating to you in my letter of Nov. 10. I have that of being with respect and esteem, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant

PrC (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., unsigned; at foot of text: “The Minister plenipoy. of the Republic of France.” PrC (DLC); in Taylor’s hand, unsigned; at foot of text: “The minister Plenipoy. of Great Britain.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “The Minister pleni: of France”; at foot of text: “Addressed also to Mr. Hammond, Minister plenipoteny. of Gr. Britain.”

TJ obtained Cabinet approval of the substance of this letter, as well as Edmund Randolph’s approval of a draft, before dispatching texts of the final version to the British and French ministers. He followed the same procedure with respect to a letter he wrote this day to Genet and Hammond, identical to the one printed above but dealing with the capture of the British brig Pilgrim by the same privateer (PrC in DLC, in Taylor’s hand, unsigned, at foot of text: “The Minister Plenipoy. of France”; PrC in DLC, in Taylor’s hand, unsigned, at foot of text: “The Minister Plenipoy. of Great Britain”; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL; at head of text: “The Minister pleni: of France”; at foot of text: “Addressed also to Mr. Hammond, Minister pleni: of Great Britain”). See Cabinet Opinions on Various Letters, [23 Nov. 1793].

In response to allegations by British Vice-Consul Edward Thornton that the Conyngham, a British brig from Londonderry, captured and brought into Baltimore early in October 1793, had been taken within three miles of the American shore, Governor Thomas Sim Lee of Maryland prevailed upon French Vice-Consul F. Moissonnier to take custody of the ship until the President had determined the legality of its capture. Lee then referred the case to the President and Secretary of War Henry Knox, pointing out to the former the need to define the limits of the nation’s maritime jurisdiction so as to facilitate the task of the state governors in dealing with disputed prize cases. In April 1794, after an investigation by District Attorney Zebulon Hollingsworth, Edmund Randolph, TJ’s successor as Secretary of State, restored the Conyngham to its captors for lack of persuasive evidence that it had been seized within the three-mile jurisdiction established by the Washington administration on 8 Nov. 1793 (Lee to Thornton, 9, 11, 15 Oct., 27 Nov. 1793, to Moissonnier, 11, 15, 25 Oct., 5, 27 Nov. 1793, 12 Apr. 1794, to Washington, 11, 15 Oct. 1793, to Knox, 5 Nov., 2, 20 Dec. 1793, 12 Apr. 1794, and to Hollingsworth, 27 Nov. 1793, all in MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council; Counter Case description begins The Counter Case of Great Britain as Laid before the Tribunal of Arbitration, Convened at Geneva, under the Provisions of the Treaty between the United States of America and Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, Concluded at Washington, May 8, 1871, U.S. House of Representatives, Executive Documents, 42d Cong., 2d Sess., Vol. XVI, No. 324, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 580–1,612–13).

TJ did not actually write to the District Attorney of Maryland for another four days (TJ to Hollingsworth, 14 Nov. 1793).

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