George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 30 August 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Aug. 30. 93.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to inclose to the President a letter received from Mr Maury, Consul at Liverpool, inclosing a copy of the order of the British government for intercepting our commerce in Grain.1 we shall doubtless receive it authentically & soon from mister Pinckney.2 in the mean time mister Maury’s information seems sufficient foundation to instruct mister Pinckney provisionally to make proper representations on the subject, and to return an answer by the meeting of Congress. for this however Th: J. will await the pleasure of the President.3

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; AL (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1On 28 Aug. 1793, Jefferson received James Maury’s letter of 4 July 1793. Neither it nor its enclosure has been identified. Jefferson received a duplicate copy on 9 Sept. 1793. In this letter, Maury reported that British privateers had seized and brought to Liverpool the Ariel of Philadelphia, Stephen Decatur master, bound from Bordeaux, France, to the Danish colony of St. Thomas in the Caribbean Sea, and the George of Baltimore, Capt. Latouche, bound from Baltimore to Le Havre, France (DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Liverpool; abstracted in 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 , 26:433). A copy of the “Additional Instructions to the Commanders of his Majesty’s Ships of War, and Privateers that have or may have Letters of Marque against France,” 8 June 1793, was enclosed in both of Maury’s letters. These instructions authorized the commanders “to stop and detain all ships loaden wholly or in part with Corn, Flour, or Meal” that were bound for French ports, or any port occupied by French troops, and to send them to Great Britain. The captured ships would be released after the British government purchased the confiscated grain or when the commanders gave “due security” that they would deliver the cargo to some nation not at war with Britain. Ships attempting to enter a blockaded port were to be seized and condemned, no matter what their cargo. Ships from Denmark and Sweden, however, were only to be prevented from entering such ports on their first attempt but would be seized on their second attempt (DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Liverpool).

2On 12 Sept. 1793 Jefferson received a letter from Thomas Pinckney of 5 July, and it also enclosed a copy of the British order-in-council of 8 June (ibid., 439–42).

3Tobias Lear wrote Jefferson later this date: “The President returns to the Secretary of State the letter from Mr Murry with its enclosure—and observes, that if the Secretary is clear in the propriety of proceeding on the subject in the manner stated in the Secretary’s note, he wishes the Secretary to do so; but in case he is not, the President thinks it would be best to have a consultation upon it.” Jefferson’s docket indicates that he received Lear’s letter on this same date (DLC: Jefferson Papers). For the discussion of this topic by the cabinet and the instructions sent to Thomas Pinckney, see Cabinet Opinion, 31 Aug. 1793, and note 3.

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