Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Reuben Harvey, 12 July 1803

From Reuben Harvey

Pleasantfield near Cork
July 12th 1803

I made free to write thee a few lines the 3rd of last month from Kinsale on the matter of Men being pressed out of American Vessels that arrive & touch at Cork & in a few days after I received an answer from your Consul at London to my communications of the 27th & 28th May with his request that I would continue to acquaint him when fresh causes of complaint arose; The pressing your people having met no check from the Regulating Captain I wrote Earle St Vincent, first Lord of the Admiralty, a Letter the 27th ulto, of which I enclose thee a Copy & in course of post received a reply as follows—Lord St. Vincent presents his Compliments to Mr. Harvey and assures him that a particular order has been given with respect to Americans & that his Lordship will cause the Circumstance he Stated to have happened at Cork to be enquired into.—

Admiralty 2nd. July 1803—

Immediately after my receiving this Letter, I transmitted to Lord Gardner (who had then just arrived at Cove) Copys of my letter to the First Lord of Admiralty & his reply & I now enclose thee a Copy of Lord Gardner’s Answer, the last lines of which are remarkable, he there Says “That he will pay due attention to all Such Seamen as can procure fair & clear documents of their being Citizens of America.—I shall not presume to Comment on what he reckons is to constitute an American Citizen, but refer that point to thee, observing however that if all the Crews of American Ships must be Natives of America to free them from the Press, your Commerce must Suffer extremely for I apprehend there are many thousands of Irish English & Scotch, settled & become Citizens of America,—The Bearer being on the point of Sailing, I conclude with Sincere Regard &c.

Reuben Harvey Senr.

RC (DLC); at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of Congress”; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Sep. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Harvey to Earl St. Vincent, Pleasantfield near Cork, 27 June 1803; Harvey begins by stating that his character is known to their mutual friend, the Marquess of Landsdowne, that he corresponded with Colonel Isaac Barré during the American Revolution, and that he received the thanks of George Washington and Congress in 1783 for his efforts on behalf of American prisoners at Cork; Harvey proceeds to call St. Vincent’s attention to the excesses of British press officers against American vessels at Cork, few of which escape without losing at least one or two, or as many as five, crew members; Harvey feels these actions are especially severe since these men carry no protections because they entertained no idea of war between Great Britain and France, and thus had no need for sea letters; Harvey believes that “limitted conduct” toward American vessels would benefit both America and Britain; Harvey’s continued attachment to America animates him “to wish well to her Citizens & to hope that nothing should ever cause a misunderstanding between Great Britain & the United States,” and he asks St. Vincent to order the regulating officer at Cork, Captain Chilcott, not to treat Americans harshly; Harvey adds that an American from Portland named Reuben Mitchell, who carried a protection, was nevertheless taken away and detained overnight, and was not liberated until his captain made oath that he was born in America; after visiting Chilcott, Harvey was told that the incident was caused by “some ill Language between American Seamen & the Press Gang” (Tr in same). (2) Lord Gardner to Harvey, Dryad in Cork Harbor, 9 July 1803, acknowledging the receipt of copies of Harvey’s correspondence with Earl St. Vincent on the subject of American seamen “indiscriminately impressed” at Cork; Gardner replies that Harvey will always find him “exceedingly disposed” to keep up good relations between Great Britain and the United States, and that he would attend to “any well founded representations of any improper Conduct of those officers appointed at this Crisis to superintend the Impress Service, within the Limits of my Command, and that I Shall pay due Attention to all such Seamen as can produce fair & clear documents of their being Citizens of America” (Tr in same).

consul at london: George W. Erving.

Admiral Alan gardner, first Baron Gardner, was the Royal Navy’s commander of the Irish station (DNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, In Association with The British Academy, From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000, Oxford, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ).

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