From Thomas Jefferson
Philadelphia Apr. 1. 1793.
The Report brought by a captain of a ship from Lisbon just in the moment of your departure that France had declared war against several nations, involved in that declaration almost every power of Europe.1 I therefore suspect that it has arisen from Kersaint’s proposition to declare war against every nation, which a pilot may not have distinguished from a declaration.2 still I have thought it adviseable that Capt. Cutting should prefer going in an American ship. he therefore has written to know the precise day of sailing of two or three vessels bound from New York to London, & will go in the first.3 I am told that private letters from Gr. Britain render civil war a more probable thing there than would be concluded from the papers.4 I received from mister Sargent a letter complaining of the absence of the judges from the N. Western territory; and inclosed a copy of it in a letter from myself on the subject to Judge Turner. I have not yet any answer.5 General Knox continues still too unwell to meet us on the subject of your circular letter.6 I have the honour to be with the most perfect respect & attachment Dear Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt
ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.
1. For the news brought by Captain Hodgdon of the ship Dispatch, which had arrived at Philadelphia from Lisbon on 27 Mar., see General Advertiser (Philadelphia) , 28 March. GW departed Philadelphia for Mount Vernon that same date (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 107).
2. France, already at war with Austria and Prussia, had declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands on 1 Feb. and on Spain on 7 Mar. 1793. Jefferson is referring to the speech of 1 Jan. 1793 by French vice admiral Armand-Guy-Simon de Coëtnempren, comte de Kersaint (1742–1793), which recently had been printed in American newspapers (National Gazette [Philadelphia], 23, 27 Mar. 1793). Kersaint had announced that France soon would commence a maritime war against British economic interests, which he defined as including many of Great Britain’s trading partners, such as Portugal and its colonies.
3. GW had recently appointed Nathaniel Cutting the U.S. consul at Port Havre de Grâce, France, and given him the task of serving as David Humphreys’s secretary during U.S. negotiations with Algiers (GW to U.S. Senate, 19 Feb. 1793, Humphreys to GW, 8 Feb. 1793, n.4).
5. Winthrop Sargent wrote a letter to Jefferson of 7 Feb., in which he reported the long absences from the Northwest Territory of federal judges George Turner and John Cleves Symmes, (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 25:157–58; see also Tobias Lear to Jefferson, 26 Feb. 1793, and note 6). Jefferson also received Sargent’s letter of complaint to Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory, of 19 Jan. 1793, which Jefferson then enclosed in a letter to GW of 9 March. For Jefferson’s letter to George Turner of 30 Mar., see ibid., 470. For GW’s instructions regarding the civil problems in the territory and for Turner’s eventual response, see GW’s letter to Jefferson of 5 April, and note 4.