George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 27 August 1793

From Henry Knox

War Department. 27th August 1793


I have the honor to submit, the draft of a letter to his Excellency the Governor of the State of Delaware;1 and also, a letter just received from James Brice, President of the Council of Maryland, dated August 23d 1793.2 I am, Sir, Most respectfully, Your very humble Servt

H. Knox


1In his letter to Joshua Clayton of 27 Aug., Knox acknowledged Clayton’s letter to GW of 23 Aug. 1793, which has not been found and which concerned the presence of a French prize, the American ship Ann and Susan, and the French privateers Carmagnole and Petite Démocrate at the port of New Castle, Delaware. Knox also informed the governor that GW “has desired me to request that you will please to cause it to be notified to the French Privateers Petit Democrat and Caramagnole to depart without any further loss of time; and in case of refusal or unnecessary delay that it would be proper that your Excellency should endeavour to find the means to enforce the execution of your Orders” (De-Ar: Executive Papers). For GW’s approval of the draft, see JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 232. On this incident, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 22 Aug., and note 1, and GW to Knox, 26 Aug. 1793, and note 1.

By this date Clayton probably had already received Knox’s circular letter to the southern governors of 21 Aug., in which Knox wrote that GW requested “that in case any of the privateers specified in my letter of the 16th instant, should bring or send any prizes belonging to any of the belligerent parties into any harbour or port … that you will please to cause such prizes to be restored to the persons who were masters or owners at the time of their being captured,” or to the consul of the country to which the prizes belonged. Knox continued: “This interposition of the Executive is rendered necessary by our Courts having hitherto declined to take cognizance of such cases. But as in the instance of American citizens and other neutrals there has as yet appeared no objection in the Courts to interpose, I am directed by the President to inform you that he wishes their cases to be brought before the judicial tribunals; he will afterwards take into consideration, any representation which may be made to him” (Knox to Clayton, 21 Aug. 1793, De-Ar: Executive Papers). The Carmagnole and Petite Démocrate were among those privateers specifically mentioned in Knox’s first circular letter to the governors of 16 Aug. 1793 (Knox to Tobias Lear, 17 Aug. 1793, n.1).

In a letter of 22 Aug. 1793, Knox specifically instructed Clayton to oversee the immediate seizure of the Ann and Susan, in order that it might be restored to its rightful owner. Knox also wrote that “the President directs me to request that your Excellency will immediately cause” the two privateers to depart New Castle harbor (De-Ar: Executive Papers).

2James Brice, president of the executive council of Maryland, wrote Knox from Annapolis on 23 Aug. 1793 in response to Knox’s request of 6 Aug. to investigate two French privateers reputed to be fitting out at Baltimore. For a description of the suspected vessels, see Cabinet Opinion, 5 Aug. 1793, n.8. Brice wrote that he sent John Kilty to Baltimore to investigate the matter, and that Kilty, after enlisting the assistance of British vice-consul Edward Thornton, determined that “either those described by the Secretary of War were not there, or that they were not in such a state of preparation for cruising as to make it possible to discover their intention.” He did, however, locate Industrie, a schooner that came with the French fleet from Saint Domingue and which was “mounting twelve Guns.” After making inquiries, Kilty concluded that “it appeared that she had added to her number of Guns and made some alteration to her waist since her arrival.” Kilty, accompanied by Deputy U.S. Marshal Jacob Graybell and several other men, boarded the schooner in the absence of its captain and officers and disabled the vessel to prevent its sailing. Upon departing the ship, he met “a considerable body of Frenchmen with a leader and a Drum at their Head marching hastily towards the Schooner.” Believing that they intended to retake the ship, “he opposed their progress, and some circumstances of tumult ensued which at length subsided by these people protesting their ignorance of her having been taken by authority.” Kilty later met with Jean-Baptiste Carvin, the captain and owner of Industrie, who presented papers showing that the ship “has carried Guns these three years and that on the 11th of April last she mounted sixteen and had a Crew sufficient for privateering. He produced likewise a Commission or license for cruising, by which as he explained it, the prizes went to the Government, and the Captains received a reasonable gratification.” Carvin declared that he had not purchased “Guns, or anything of a military nature” in Baltimore, “but that the Guns he appeared to have mounted since his arrival were brought in his hold.” After meeting with French vice-consul Moissonnier to discuss the authenticity of Carvin’s papers, Kilty decided that he did not have enough evidence to detain the ship and ordered its release (DLC: Jefferson Papers). For later problems associated with Kilty’s release of Industrie, see Thomas Sim Lee to GW, 7 Oct. 1793.

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