George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 2 March 1790]

Tuesday 2d. Much, and respectable company was at the Levy to day.

Caused a letter to be written to the Govr. of St. Jago respecting the Imprisonment of a Captn. Hammond.

On 20 Feb. 1790 Maria Hammond of New York City wrote GW complaining that her husband, Thomas Hammond, a sea captain, had been captured by the British frigate Pomona in Oct. 1789 “on the Coast of Africa, his Vessel and Cargo seized and sold, and himself and pilot put in Irons and in that situation delivered to the Portugueze Governor of the Island of St. Jago, where they are now closely confined, and in the most deplorable situation.” Mrs. Hammond also enclosed a petition from her husband and the pilot of the ship, John Hilliard, complaining of their treatment. She requested GW’s intervention with the Portuguese (DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters). At the president’s request Tobias Lear sent the petition to John Jay, 20 Feb., asking his opinion as to what procedures should be followed (DLC:GW). Jay apparently advised GW to make inquiries of Anseto Antone Freatz, the governor of St. Jago, Cape Verde Islands, for on 1 Mar. 1790, Lear wrote to him, explaining the circumstances of the capture of Hammond and the sloop Brothers and stating “that the reason assigned for this seizure was, that dollars were found on board the Sloop, which dollars, they say, were taken from wrecks” near the island of Bonavista. “The President is desireous to be informed of the reasons which gave occasion to the treatment which these people have received; and in case your Excellency should not think it consistant with your duty to release them from Confinement, that you would direct them to be treated with such a degree of benevolence as the nature of the Offences with which they stand charged may permit” (DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters).

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