George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Newton, Jr., and William Lindsay, 5 May 1793

From Thomas Newton, Jr., and William Lindsay

Norfolk [Va.] May 5—1793


We have taken the liberty, considering it a duty to give you information of two small schooner boats cruizing of[f] our Capes, as privateers under French Commissions, who are daily chasing vessels bound in & out to the great prejudice of our trade, & contrary to the Law of Nations, to be chasing & boarding vessels within our territories. one of these vessels is Called the San Calotte & commmanded by a mr Farre, the other called the Eagle,1 they are about the size of the largest pilot boats & rigged as they are. mounting four carriage Guns each & fitted from Charleston, by reference to Capt. Tuckers report you will find how the San Calotte is manned & from report of negro Cæsar the pilot, the Eagle has but one Frenchman on board her, the others Americans & Englishmen. One of these vessels belonged to mr Hooper of Cambridge in Maryland.2 mr Hooper is gone with Capt. Tuckers vessel to that place, where his father lives & Capt. Tucker says he understood she was to be laid up in some creek thereabouts.3 from the circumstance of erasing the name out of her stern it appears as if some fraud was intended. we are with the greatest respect Yr Excys Obt Servts

Thos Newton Jr

Wm Lindsay

I am sorry to inform your Excy that we have no kind of defence here, not a Gun mounted, nor the militia aranged as yet. I have seventeen 18 & 24 pounders on my land where fort Nelson stood belonging to the United States, some of them were spiked by the Brittish but coud soon be put in order.4 They are fine guns & never been used. I am respectfully Yr Excys Obt Servt

Thos Newton Jr

LS, in the writing of Newton, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; L (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers. The copy at DNA and the letterpress copy are in the writing of unidentified clerks and do not include Newton’s postscript.

1Lindsay and Newton were Norfolk merchants. Lindsay also was the current superintendent of the lighthouse and collector of customs at this seaport. For the administration’s reaction to the outfitting of French privateers in American ports, see GW to Cabinet, 18 April 1793, source note, and the memoranda on privateers by Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph dated 15, 16, 16, 17 May. The Sans Culotte, captained by Jean-Baptiste-André Ferey, was one of four privateers commissioned in Charleston, S.C., in mid-April by the French minister to the United States, Edmond Genet. The French schooner Eagle originally had sailed from Cambridge, Md. (see note 2; Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 8 May 1793). Tobias Lear, at the request of GW, enclosed this letter in his first letter to Thomas Jefferson of 14 May.

2The enclosed report reads: “Capt. Lindsay of the Schooner Greyhound in 23 days from Jamaica reports that he arived here the 4th instant, that on the day before about half past 11 OClock A.M. he fell in with the pilot boat Ranger of Hampton belonging to mr Latimer who haild him and Asked what vessel he commanded to which he replyd the Greyhound of Norfolk, (Capt. Lindsay having erased the name of the port he belonged to & substituted Norfolk) and added that he was from St Eustatius, upon which Mr Latimer give information to a small schooner privateer at not more than twenty four yards from them & not a half mile from Cape Henry, by this deception Capt Lindsay supposes he escaped being taken.

“Capt. [Henry] Tucker of the Schooner Eunice of New Providence reports that he was on the 29th last month taken by a privateer schooner called the San Calotte commanded by Capt. Farre in the latitude 36 in 27 fathoms water that after being in possessio⟨n⟩ of the privateer the name of his shooner was erased from the Stern and a Mr [John] Hooper of Cambridge in the State of Maryland was put on board as prize master & he understood she was to be carried there & laid up in some creek & that mr Hooper was to go to Philadelphia on some business that whilst he was prisoner both the privateer & the prize came into Hampton road & lay in Hawkins Hole part of two days & two nights & then saild out on a cruize he says that a Major Gansel of New England was on board the privateer & acted as a marine officer & a lieutennant in the absense of mr Hooper.

“Mr Hooper own’d the schooner Eagle & plied from this to Georgia & Charleston as a packet she Was fitted originally from Cambridge. from every circumstance Capt. Tucker was of opinion they wou’d take vessels in the Bay of Cheasapeake as they lay along side one all night but she proved to be an American vessel” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Maryland congressman William Vans Murray sent a similar report to Hamilton on 8 May and to Jefferson on 9 May (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 14:425–28; 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 25:698–99).

3Maj. John Hooper (died c.1798) was the son of Henry Hooper, Jr. (c.1727–1790), of Transquakin Hundred, Dorchester County, Md., who had served as a justice of the peace and Maryland assemblyman.

4For Gov. Henry Lee’s attempts to fortify Norfolk, see Lee to GW, 2 May, and notes 1, 3. Virginia had erected Fort Nelson in 1776 on the eastern shore of the Elizabeth River near Portsmouth. The British burned the fort in May 1779.

Index Entries