George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brown & Francis, 17 February 1793

From Brown & Francis

Providence [R.I.] Feby 17. 93

dear Sir

Envelloped as you are at all times with public business, we would have avoided troubling you in the present instance, did not necessity oblige us to sollicit from you a protection of our property abroad which is so circumstanced that the Officers of the customs are not authorized by the laws of the U. States to furnish the requisite papers.

Cap: Tingey1 will have the honor of delivring this and will explain the particular manner in which we became sole owners of the Ship Eutrusco now Illustrious President in part pay for our Ship the President Washington of about 1000 Tons.

Mr. T. W. Francis2 sold the latter and purchased the former in Calcutta from whence she has sailed for Ostend without any American papers—And as it is our intention to order her from thence to china and back to these States we deem it necessary she should be furnished with such papers as will authorize her wearing the American Flag, and protect her on the Seas and in port from insult and impositions.3

We beleive all commercial nations except ours have provided for the security of the property of their Citizens when situated as ours is, we therefore are confident you will cheerfully afford us that assistance you have the power of granting in a case where the laws have been silent, we apprehend from want of recollection at the time they were made.4

Intreating your forgiveness for thus intruding on your time, We have the honor of subscribing ourselves Dear Sir Your Most Obedt & Very Humle Servants

Brown & Francis

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Providence, R.I., merchant John Brown (1736–1803) was a leader of the party that destroyed the British sloop of war Gaspee in Narragansett Bay on 17 June 1772. During the Revolutionary War he and his brother Nicholas Brown (1729–1791) provided the Continental army with clothing and gunpowder. With his son-in-law John Francis (1763–1796), John Brown established the firm of Brown & Francis, which in December 1787 sent the General Washington to trade in the East Indies and China, the first Providence ship to do so. He was instrumental in moving Rhode Island College, later Brown University, to Providence in 1764. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives 1799–1801. During a trip to Rhode Island in the summer of 1790, GW examined an “Indiaman” at Providence that was owned by Brown & Francis (GW to the Corporation of Rhode Island College, 19 Aug. 1790, notes 1 and 2).

1Capt. Thomas Tingey (1750–1829) was a native of London, England, who had served as an officer in the British navy before the Revolutionary War. At some point, probably close to the beginning of the war, he left the navy, settled in the American colonies, and commanded merchant vessels engaged in the West Indies trade. At the time of this letter, Tingey was living at 121 South Third Street in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Directory, 1793. description begins James Hardie. The Philadelphia Directory and Register . . .. Philadelphia, 1793. description ends ) In 1798, during the Quasi-War with France, Tingey received a commission as a captain in the U.S. Navy. He later served as the first commander of the newly established Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. GW received this letter on 27 Feb. (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 71).

2Thomas Willing Francis (1767–1815), the son of Tench Francis, Jr., and Anne Shippen Willing Francis (b. 1733) and a cousin to John Francis of the firm Brown & Francis, was a partner in the prominent Philadelphia mercantile firm of Willing & Francis, which was active in the East Indies and China trade. Francis later served as a director of the Insurance Company of America and of the Bank of Philadelphia.

3The enclosed declaration of ownership, which was signed by both John Brown and John Francis on this date, reads: “That we were owners of the Ship President Washington of about 1000 Tons American built and commanded by Jacob Sarly—And that we dispatched her for the East Indies in the year 1791—On her Arrival there her SuperCargo Mister Thomas Willing Francis sold her and took in part pay a foreign built copper bottom & Ship of about 600 Tons then called the Eutrusco but since changed to the Name of Illustrious President as we have been informed, and then dispatched her for Ostend in Europe where we apprehend she is now arrived commanded by Preservd Sisson a Citizen of these United States. We further Swear that the sd Ship Eutrusco alias Illustrious president is our sole property, and that no other person or persons are directly or indirectly concerned in her, and that it is our intention she shall perform a circuitous voyage before we order her home to these States during which time she shall be commanded by an American Commander a Citizen of these States” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Samuel Chace, justice of the peace and notary public, notarized this declaration in Providence on 18 Feb. 1793.

4On 27 Feb., Tobias Lear referred this letter and its enclosed affidavit to Thomas Jefferson with instructions “to report to the President what may appear to him proper to be done in the case stated—Mr [Benjamin] Bourne, the Representative from Rhode Island, handed the enclosed to the President & will be ready to give the Secretary any further information, if required” (DLC: Jefferson Papers). No written report from Jefferson to GW on this matter has been found.

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