George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 16 July 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] July 16. 1793.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to submit to the President the rough draught of an answer to Mr Genet’s letter of June 22. it is left unclosed, in case any other matters should be thought proper to be added. otherwise he would propose to close it with reiterations of friendship to his nation.1

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1On Edmond Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 22 June and its enclosures, all of which protested U.S. neutrality policies that limited the authority of French consuls over French privateers and prizes brought into American ports, see Jefferson’s memorandum to GW of 11–13 July, and note 3. The content of Genet’s letter and its enclosures induced Jefferson in his reply of 16 July to oppose the assertion that “the limits of the Consular jurisdiction depend solely on the foreign government for which it acts, … that the government of France has recently given to their foreign consulates jurisdiction of prizes at sea, and thus completely constituted them courts of admiralty: that no authority on earth has the right to interpose between the French nation and it’s enemies … that if a privateer of that nation commits a hostility within the jurisdiction of the US. neither the Executive nor Judiciary of the country has a right to punish the aggressors, nor make restitution to the injured party.” Jefferson began his rebuttal of these claims by informing Genet that these “principles are so diametrically opposite to what we conceive to be the common rights of nations, and to the particular laws of our own which the Executive are abound to see preserved, that it becomes it’s duty to declare in opposition to them” (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 , 26:510–14). After reviewing Jefferson’s reply, GW evidently determined that it should not be sent until the cabinet had an opportunity to review both Genet’s 22 June letter and Jefferson’s reply. The cabinet, at its 23 July meeting, then referred these letters to Attorney General Edmund Randolph “for his consideration & opinion” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 206). Jefferson’s reply was never sent, and on 1 Aug. the cabinet decided to ask for Genet’s recall (Cabinet Opinion, 23 Aug. 1793; Notes on a Cabinet Meeting, 1 Aug., 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 , 26:598).

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