George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Maria Hammond, 20 February 1790

From Maria Hammond

New York Febry 20th 1790

The Memorial of Maria Hammond of the City of New York—humbly sheweth

That in October 1789 Your Memorialist’s husband Thomas Hammond of said City Mariner was captured by the British frigate Pomona commanded by one Captn Savage, near the Island of Bonavista on the Coast of Africa, his Vessel and Cargo seized and sold, and himself and pilot put in Irons and in that situation deliverd to the portugueze Governor of the Island of St Jago— where they are now closely confin’d, and in the most deplorable situation—as more fully appears by a memorial from themselves inclosed.1

Your Memst conceiving that the imprisonment of the free Subjects of the United States and the destruction of their property by a foreign power, without any crime, to be a national insult—and therefore humbly prays that Your Excellency will be pleased to order such methods to be used, as may procure the said Thomas Hammond & Pilot their liberties—and a restoration of the property so unjustly taken from them.2 And in Your Memorialist as in Duty bound will pray

Maria Hammond

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Thomas Hammond’s memorial was forwarded by John Duffy of St. Eustatius to Hammond’s brother Edward in Philadelphia. The memorial, dated 27 Dec. 1789, signed by Thomas Hammond and John Hillard (Hilliard), and written from “Prisson St Augo,” states that they “On the 28 of October 1789 about 3 leagues S.W. from the Island Bonevest Wass fired at Severall times by the Brithish Frigate Pomono Capt. Savage wass Brought too altho We Showed Our American Collours they Sent their Boat Emedetley on board & in a Moste Hostile Manner Obligd me & the Crew of my Sloop in their Boat With the Names of Damd Rebbell Rarskalls & on Our Cuming on board Recd the Same Usage On the 31 Instant I wass Put in Irons On the 1 Day of Novemr wass Set on Shoar in Irons with all my Peopple but One[.] the Sloop Wass brought to anker Near the Ship and wass thier Sold to a Mr Jackson we where Deliverd to a Portugeas Guard and Marchd three Leagues and than Put in Prison and bought Pilot and Self put in Irons where we Remaind Untill the 10 Instant without a Hearing from the Governer Or aney Other Offecer Altho Ofting Made Suplication we where then put on board a Brig. And Sent Down to this Island & thier Put in Prison & Should have Starved had It not bin for the Charitey of Sum American that Stopt hear for we are Confined and not alowed aney Provision Not Even Watter we hope that Your Honnor Will Consider Our Misirabell Situation and Relieve Us from Our Sterving State And Dema⟨nd⟩ Us from the Portugeas for We are boat Natives of New York and have bin Good Subjects to America the Vessall wass bought of a Capt. Todd of Vergina and formerley the Propertey of Mr Sinclair and Com⟨py⟩ Near Norfolk in Vergina wass Called the Brothe⟨rs⟩ Burden thirtey Six Tons I had the Regester with ⟨me⟩ Granted by Governer Randolph the Crime for whi⟨ch⟩ we So Crewley Suffer Is that they found Dollars on Board Us takeing Up in four fathoms watter of ⟨the⟩ Reef four Leagues from the Island Bonne vest where the hartwell English East Indiman wass Cast away Near three Years ago there wass a Dutch East Indey Man Lost On the Same Reef Verrey Richley Laden Sum time before the Other Ship we hear Remain in Prisson and Most Humbley Beg of Your Honnours to have Compassion On Our Distresed Situation and Relieve Us for we are to be hear Imprisond Untill May and than Sent to Lisbon” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2GW received Maria Hammond’s letter the day it was written since on that date he had Tobias Lear send the petition to Acting Secretary of State John Jay, requesting his opinion as to what procedures should be followed and noting: “As the wife and friends of Captain Hammond are in great distress, a speedy operation, if any thing is to be done in the case, will be peculiarly grateful to them” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Jay evidently advised GW to make inquiries of Anseto Antone Freatz, the governor of St. Jago, Cape Verde Islands, since the president noted in his diary on 2 Mar. that he “Caused a letter to be written to the Govr. of St. Jago respecting the Imprisonment of a Captn. Hammond” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:38–39). Tobias Lear’s letter of 1 Mar. to Freatz states: “In obedience to the orders of the President of the United States of America, I have the honor of informing your Excellency, that the President has received a petition from Thomas Hammond Master, and John Hilliard Pilot of the American Sloop Brothers.

“They complain that on the 28th day of October last, about three leagues from the Island of Bonavista, they were seized by the Bristish Frigate Pomona Captain Savage—That their Sloop was sold, and they and their crew imprisoned for some time at Bonavista—That from thence they have been sent to your Island and detained in prison—That the reason assigned for this seizure was, that dollars were found on board the Sloop, which dollars, they say, were taken from wrecks on a Reef near the first mentioned Island.

“The protection which is due from the United States to all their citizens entitles these petitioners to the attention of Government. The justice of her most faithful Majesty, and her friendship for the United States leave no room to doubt but that every thing that may be proper on the occasion, would, on application to her be done.

“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, Miscellaneous Letters). The memorial was also submitted to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (Lear to Hamilton, 25 Feb. 1790, DLC:GW).

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