To Thomas Jefferson
Philadelphia June 1st 1793
To call upon Mr Hammond without further delay for the result of the reference to his Court concerning the surrender of the Western Posts—or to await the decision of the trial at Richmond on the subject of British debts before it be done, is a question on which my mind has been divided1 for sometime.2
If your own judgment is not clear in favor of one, or the other, it is my desire, as the heads of the Departments are now together, that you would take their opinion thereupon, & act accordingly.3
ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. Jefferson docketed the ALS as received on 1 June.
1. The letter-book copy has the word “balanced” instead.
2. Jefferson had written a lengthy letter to George Hammond on 29 May 1792, in which he reviewed “those obstacles to a cordial friendship, which have arisen from an inexecution of some articles” of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The British failure to surrender possession of military posts on American soil, in compliance with Article 7 of the treaty, particularly troubled the Americans. The British justified their recalcitrant behavior, in part, by claiming that the failure of American debtors to pay pre-war debts to their British creditors violated Article 4 (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 , 23:551–613; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 96–107).
The case at Richmond involving the payment of pre-war debts was brought by British plaintiff John Tyndale Ware. The U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Virginia heard the case of Ware v. Hylton at Richmond during its spring session, 22 May–8 June 1793. The defendants raised five pleas and the first, which asserted payment of the debt, was continued over to the next session for trial. For the intricate legal history of this case and the court’s opinion on the other four pleas, see Charles F. Hobson, “The Recovery of British Debts in the Federal Circuit Court of Virginia, 1790 to 1797,” Va. Mag description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1893—. description ends 92 (1984), 177–200; see also Documentary History of the Supreme Court description begins Maeva Marcus et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. 8 vols. New York, 1985-2007. description ends , 2:339 and note 4, 380.
3. Whether Jefferson discussed these unresolved issues with Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph at the Cabinet meeting on this date is not known, but having received no response to his lengthy letter of 29 May 1792, Jefferson wrote Hammond on 19 June 1793 asking for the British government’s reaction to it (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 , 26:321; see also Jefferson to GW, 19 June 1793 [second letter], and Cabinet Opinion, 20 June 1793).