George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 2–4 September 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[2–4 September 1793]

Th: Jefferson has the honor to inclose to the President his letter of Aug. 7. to mister Hammond, which was confined to the special cases of three vessels therein named. the object of mister Hammond’s letter of Aug. 30. is to obtain from the government a declaration that the principle of those special cases shall be extended to all captures made within our waters or by the proscribed vessels, whether before or after the 7th of Aug. & to establish, as a general rule, restitution, or compensation.1 the forming a general rule requires great caution. Th: J. in preparing the draught of an answer to mister Hammond, has endeavored to establish what he thinks the true grounds on which a general rule should be formed. but, if the President approves of it, he would wish to send the draught to the Secretaries of the Treasury & war, & Attorney Genl for their consideration & amendments, or to meet on the subject, when an answer to the latter part of the letter might also be agreed on.2

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.

The docket on the back of the AL reads, “From the Secy of State begining of Septr 1793.” The letter-book copy contains a similar phrase. Jefferson probably wrote this letter between 2 and 4 Sept. (see notes).

1Jefferson’s letter to George Hammond of 7 Aug. promised restoration of, or compensation for, the Lovely Lass, Prince William Henry, and Jane (of Dublin), taken as prizes by French privateers armed within U.S. ports (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 , 26:634–35). For Hammond’s letter to Jefferson of 30 Aug., see 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 , 26:789–90. Jefferson submitted Hammond’s letter to GW on 2 Sept. (see JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 236).

2Jefferson proposed distinguishing cases where the U.S. had “used all the means in our power” to obtain restitution of the vessel from those in which the U.S. had failed to make such an effort, and offering compensation only when a full effort had not been made. On 4 Sept. a divided cabinet approved Jefferson’s reply to Hammond of 5 Sept., which made that distinction (see 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 , 27:32–34). The latter part of Hammond’s letter of 30 Aug. claimed “reparation for any loss, which the vessels captured or their cargoes may sustain, from detention, waste, or spoliation” and asked Jefferson to “prescribe the mode” whereby such damages could be ascertained (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 , 26:790). In the 5 Sept. reply, Jefferson proposed that, “as a provisional measure,” the collectors of customs and British consuls should appoint persons for that purpose (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 , 27:35–38).

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