Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles W. Goldsborough, 19 June 1803

From Charles W. Goldsborough

Navy depmt.
June 19. 1803

The President

The Secretary of the Navy has instructed me to submit to you the propriety of the enclosed Letter to Mr David Vallanzino, who, being considered a Tripolitan Subject and found on board the Vessel recently captured by Lieut Sterett, of the cargo of which he is part owner, was sent to this country in the frigate Chesapeake as a prisoner of war.

Ch W. Goldsborough

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 45, LSP). Enclosure: probably Robert Smith to David Valenzin, 17 June 1803, informing Valenzin that he was not considered a prisoner and was “at liberty to pursue your own Business”; if Valenzin wished to return to the Mediterranean, he would be allowed passage “in any one of our public Ships going thither” (FC in Lb in DNA: RG 45, MLS).

A Jewish merchant trading in the Mediterranean, David Valenzin (vallanzino) and his cargo were captured by the schooner Enterprize off Malta in January 1803. Commodore Richard V. Morris defended the action by claiming that the vessel was bound for Tripoli and that Valenzin was a Tripolitan citizen. Valenzin, however, asserted that he was a citizen of Venice and that the vessel carrying his cargo was bound for Djerba, not Tripoli. Valenzin’s efforts to secure restitution were severely hampered by his destitute condition and his inability to speak English. He presented a petition to the House of Representatives in November 1803, which was debated for months by the Committee on Claims as it sought additional evidence in the case. Despairing of ever receiving compensation, Valenzin committed suicide in January 1804. The following March, Congress authorized payment of $2,665.70 to Valenzin’s legal representatives and an additional $500 to reimburse individuals who had contributed to his support while in the United States (Baltimore Republican, or Anti-Democrat, 14 Jan. 1804; Boston New-England Palladium, 14 Feb. 1804; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Claims, 1:288–9, 292–6; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939–44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801–1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 2:364–5, 383–4; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States…1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 6:54–5).

A letter from Valenzin to TJ, dated 24 Oct. 1803, is recorded in SJL as received from Washington on 26 Oct. with notation “N,” but has not been found. Describing the letter in his November 1803 petition to the House of Representatives, Valenzin stated that he, “emboldened by the report of the great humanity and justice which characterize his excellency the President of the United States, addressed a letter to him, praying some amelioration of his unhappy condition: from that time to the present your petitioner has not had the honor of receiving any notice” (Baltimore Republican, or Anti-Democrat, 14 Jan. 1804).

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