George Washington Papers

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson, 11–13 July 1793

Memorandum from Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia, c.11–13 July 1793]

Th: J. has the papers in the following cases which require as early consideration as the President can well give them. Vainqueur de la Bastille. Genet’s letter July 8. & Govr of Carolina’s June 24.1

Le Citoyen Genet and prizes. Hammond’s letter July 10.2

Genet’s letter June 26. covering protests of the Consuls against interference of the Admiralty courts, and expressing very improper principles.3

Th: J’s letter to Genet. June 25. } arrangement that prizes
reclaimed may remain
in hands of Consuls,till
decision.4
Genet’s answer. June 26.
Ship William. reclaimed.
  Hammmond’s letter June 21.
  Th: J. to Genet. June 29.
Brig Fanny. reclaimed.
  Hammond’s letter June 26.
  Th: J. to Genet. June 29.5
Brig Swallow. papers } two British letters of
Marque. required to
be ordered away.
 from the President.
Ship Jane. Governor’s
 letter & papers. July 5.

  Genet’s letter to Th: J. July 9.6

Genet’s letter to Th: J. June 25.7

  Governr of Maryland’s letter & papers. June 20. the Trusty.

  Th: J’s letter to Genet. June 30.

 this is a complaint of enemy ships armed in the ports of the U.S.8

Genet’s letter. July 9. complaining of
        Vexatious usage of French passengers on an American
        vessel, by a British privateer [and] French property taken
        out of an American vessel by a British privateer.9

AD, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Tobias Lear’s docket reads: “Memo. of papers submitted to the Presidt by the Secy of State July 9th: 1793.” The inclusion of a letter of a later date suggests that Lear erred in dating this document. Jefferson may have composed this memorandum after submitting all or some of these letters over a period of two or three days. Some of these letters, especially those concerning the British and French ships, may have been made available to GW for use at the 12 June Cabinet meeting (see Cabinet Opinion, 12 June 1793). Lear returned some of the letters to Jefferson with a memorandum of 15 July.

1For Genet’s complaint about the North Carolina government’s seizure of the French privateer Vainqueur de la Bastille while it was docked at the port of Wilmington, N.C., see Genet to Jefferson, 8 July, 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 , 26:452–53; translation, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:163. GW had enclosed North Carolina governor Richard Dobbs Spaight’s letter to him of 24 June 1793 in a letter to Jefferson of 4 July 1793. Spaight’s letter described his orders for the local militia to seize the Vainqueur de la Bastille.

2On the capture of the British brigs Prince William Henry and Lovely Lass by the French privateer Citoyen Genet, see George Hammond to Jefferson, 10 July, 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 , 26:461–62. All three ships presently were at the port of Baltimore.

3It is Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 22 June 1793 that covers the respective protests of 21 and 22 June from French consuls Alexandre Maurice d’Hauterive at New York and François Dupont at Philadelphia. Genet protested that “instead of waiting till Congress had taken into consideration the important subjects which should already have occupied them,” the executive branch had been “urged on by I know not what influence.” The administration had “multiplied difficulties and embarrassments in my way. Our treaties have been unfavorably interpreted: arbitrary orders have directed against us the actions of the tribunals.” Continuing his complaint, Genet wrote: “It is not thus that the American people wish we should be treated. I cannot even suppose, and I wish to believe, that measures of this nature were not conceived in the heart of General Washington” (translations, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:153–56; 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 , 26:339–42). GW received Genet’s cover and its enclosures on 13 July (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 195). For the administration’s response to this letter, see Jefferson to GW, 16 July, and note 1.

4In his letter to Genet of 25 June, Jefferson wrote that “vessels suggested to be taken within the limits of the protection of the united States” by French privateers “should be detained under the orders of yourself or of the Consuls of France in the several ports, until the Government of the united States shall be able to inquire into and decide on the fact” (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 , 26:358). For Genet’s apparent agreement with Jefferson’s suggestion, see Genet to Jefferson, 26 June 1793 (ibid., 374–75; translation, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:160–61). GW received Genet’s letter on 13 July 1793 (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 195).

5The British minister George Hammond wrote Jefferson on 21 June that he “entertains no doubt that the executive government of the United States will consider the circumstances” of the capture of the British ship William by the French privateer Citoyen Genet “as an aggression on its sovereignty, and will consequently pursue such measures as to its wisdom may appear the most efficacious for procuring the immediate restoration to its rightful owners” (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 , 26:335–36). For GW’s earlier receipt of this letter from Jefferson on 22 June and for the subsequent measures taken to prevent the William from leaving the port of Philadelphia, see JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 187; Thomas Mifflin to GW, 22 June (third letter), and notes, and GW to Henry Knox, 23 June, and note 4. On Hammond’s argument for the return of the British brig Fanny, which had been captured on 8 May by the French privateer Sans Culotte and was also at the port of Philadelphia, see his letter to Jefferson of 26 June (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 , 26:378–79). In his first and second letters to Genet of 29 June, Jefferson asked Genet to order Hauterive to take possession of the vessels and deliver the ships to their owners if he considered the British complaints justified. If Genet disagreed with the evidence provided by Hammond, then Jefferson asked that the consul “retain” the ships “in his custody” until GW could “consider and decide finally” on the issues raised by these two ships (ibid., 398–99).

6For the papers concerning the presence of the British ships Swallow and Jane at the respective ports of New York and Philadelphia, see GW to Jefferson, 30 June 1793 (first letter), and note 1, and Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin to GW, 5 July 1793, and notes 1–2. In his second letter to Jefferson of 9 July, Genet wrote that “it is not necessary to await the decision of the President, to cause this privateer [Jane] to depart.… The treaties being considered by the American People the most sacred laws, the local governments of the United States are bound to acknowledge them, and all the magistrates obliged to execute them without delay” (translation, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:163; 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 , 26:457–58).

7Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 25 June covered extracts of reports from the French consuls at Charleston (Mangourit), Baltimore (Moissonnier), Philadelphia (Dupont), and New York (Hauterive) attesting to the fact that British and Dutch vessels had entered these ports and “have been armed there, have entered armed, remained there, and have gone out from thence armed, in contempt of our treaties,” while French ships have been “pursued with rigor” by the state governments (translations, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:159; 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 , 26:359–61). GW received this letter and its enclosed extracts on 13 July (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 195).

8Enclosed in Thomas Sim Lee’s letter to Henry Knox of 22 June 1793 was Lee’s letter to collector of customs Otho H. Williams of 20 June requesting information about the British ship Trusty and deputy collector Daniel Delozier’s reply to Lee of 21 June. According to Delozier this ship had departed the port of Baltimore amid uncertainty over whether it had been outfitted at Baltimore as a privateer (ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:160). Jefferson wrote his letter to Genet of 30 June in response to Genet’s letter of 25 June (see note 7). In this reply, Jefferson included an extract of Lee’s letter and copies of its enclosures in order to explain why the Maryland authorities allowed the Trusty to depart. He wrote that the case of the British privateer Swallow, currently at the port of New York, “is different from any which has yet been presented to the President” and “shall be submitted to him on his return” from Mount Vernon (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 , 26:417–18). For the administration’s decision on the Swallow, see Cabinet Opinion, 5 Aug. 1793. On 13 July GW received an extract of Lee’s letter, its enclosures, and Jefferson’s letter to Genet (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 196). For GW’s return to Philadelphia on 11 July, see ibid., 190.

9Genet’s third letter to Jefferson of 9 July protested “the revolting treatment which the English vessels of war use on the high seas towards American vessels,” and its enclosures concerned “the severe visits” which the British impose upon U.S. ships and “the seizures they make on board of them, and under the protection of the flag of the United States, of the persons and property of the French citizens.” The enclosed depositions described the seizure of French property aboard the American brig Columbia after its capture by the British brig Fanny and the treatment of passengers aboard the American galliot Regulator when stopped and plundered by the crew of the British privateer Joseph and Mary (translations, ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:164–65; 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 , 26:458–60). GW received these documents on 13 July (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 195).

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