George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 4 April 1793

From David Humphreys

(Secret & confidential)

My dear Sir.Lisbon April 4th 1793.

Since I had the honour of addressing you on the 24th Ultimo, I have seen two letters from Captn Obrian (the last of the 12th of February) to the Messrs Bulkeleys of this Town.1 In these he mentions, “that a Peace had been made by the instrumentality of Spain, between Prussia & Algiers for One hundred & forty thousand Mexico Dollars: Prussia to pay a Tribute every two years, & to send an Ambassador directly to Algiers.” If this be a fact, the U.S. can hardly expect to obtain a Peace on lower terms.2

Captn O’Brian also says, “we received a remittance of Money last November in order to prolong life.” From what quarter this should have come, I cannot conjecture, unless from the part of Mr Carmichael. But of this I am as uninformed as you can be (perhaps more so) since Mr Carmichael has never written a syllable to me in answer to the numerous letters I have written to him on the subject; as you will have found particularly mentioned in my Correspondence with the Secretary of State. Nor has Mr Carmichael ever drawn Bills upon me for that purpose, as he was often desired to do—as my letters to the office of foreign affairs will abundantly shew. But I will not enlarge, the whole subject being before you.3 With every possible sentiment of affecn & respect, I have the honour to remain My dear Sir Your sincere friend & Most obliged, humble Servt

D. Humphreys

P.S. I will again ask the favour, of having my most affectionate regards presented to Mrs Washington & the family.


1Richard O’Bryen (O’Brien) was the captain of the Dauphin, an American ship captured by Algerian pirates in 1785. On behalf of the American captives held at Algiers, he periodically appealed for help to GW, Thomas Jefferson, and other American officials (Mathew Irwin to GW, 9 July 1789, and source note, and O’Bryen to GW, 8 Jan. 1792, and note 1). John Bulkeley & Son was the Lisbon banking firm used by Humphreys.

2For American attempts to achieve a peace with Algiers, see Thomas Barclay to GW, 27 Dec. 1792, note 1. GW had recently appointed Humphreys, the U.S. minister to Portugal, as the “Commissioner Plenipotentiary” to negotiate with Algiers (GW to Dey of Algiers, 21 Mar. 1793).

3For the unsuccessful attempt by William Carmichael and Robert Montgomery to supply relief to the captives at Algiers, see Jefferson to GW, 26 Oct. 1792, note 1; Memorandum on Consuls and Consular Appointments, 15 Feb. 1793, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 25:203. On 16 Mar., GW had received Humphreys’s letter to Jefferson of 23 Jan., which included enclosures explaining that, as a result of Carmichael’s lack of communication and inability to assist the captives, Humphreys had authorized O’Bryen to obtain funds from the Bulkeleys to purchase provisions and pay debts related to the captives’ subsistence (ibid., 86–88; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 91–92). Carmichael’s failure to write regularly was not a new habit, and GW had criticized such behavior in the past (GW to Jefferson, 23 Aug. 1792).

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