George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 15–16 September 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Schuylkill [Pa.] Sep. 15[–16]. 1793.

Dear Sir

I have duly received your two favors from Chester and Elkton, and have now the honour to inclose you an address from the town & vicinity of Petersburg, which in a letter from mister Peachey I was desired to deliver you.1

I also inclose you a letter from mister Genet on the subject of Galbaud, and his conspiracies, with my answer sent to him. my hurry of business has prevented my translating the former, but if it cannot be done in your family, I shall be in time to do it myself.2

I inclose also mister Hammond’s reply to my letter of the 9th3 Mr Pinckney’s letter of July 5. Mr Hammond’s letter of Sep. 12. communicating the English instructions for the seizure of corn, and the answer I propose to send to him if approved by you.4 I expect also to recieve from the office the blank commission for the collector of Annapolis in time to inclose it herein.5

Having found on my going to town, the day you left it, that I had but one clerk left, & that business could not be carried on, I determined to set out for Virginia as soon I could clear my own letter files. I have now got through it so as to leave not a single letter unanswered, or thing undone, which is in a state to be done, and expect to set out tomorrow or next day. I shall hope to be at Mount Vernon on the 5th day to take your orders. the fever here, is still diffusing itself. it is not quite as fatal. Colo. Hamilton & mistress Hamilton are recovered. the Consul Dupont is dead of it. so is Wright.6 the Consul Hauterive has sent me an answer to my circular letter, as proud as could have been expected, and not very like a desisting from the acts forbidden.7 As I shall probably be with you as soon as this letter, I shall add nothing further than assurances of the high respect & esteem with which I have the honor to be sincerely Dear Sir Your most obedt & most humble sert

Th: Jefferson

P.S. Sep. 16. I find I shall not be able to get away to-day. since writing the above I have more certain accounts from the city. the deaths are probably about 30. a day, and it continues to spread. Saturday was a very mortal day. Dr Rush is taken with the fever last night.

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

1GW wrote Jefferson from Chester, Pa., on 10 Sept., and from Elkton, Md., on 11 September. For the enclosed address to GW, see Resolutions from Petersburg, Va., Citizens, 2 September. For the letter from Thomas Griffin Peachy to Jefferson of 3 Sept., 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 , 27:28–29.

2Edmond Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 6 Sept. announced his discovery of “la plus affreuse conspiration” against French vessels and colonies involving François Thomas Galbaud and Claude Corentin Tanguy de la Boissière (d. 1799). He noted that he had obtained warrants against Galbaud and the other conspirators in New York, but when the conspirators had escaped, he requested federal warrants, since the effect of the New York warrants was limited to that state. Genet also requested that the government exercise “la Surveillance la plus active” against these plots (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 , 27:41–43).

Jefferson’s response of 12 Sept. stated that no federal warrant could be issued. Since “The laws of this Country take no notice of crimes committed out of their jurisdiction,” the men could be arrested only if they were part of a ship’s crew and covered by the consular convention with France, and in that case Congress had left the remedy to the district judges of each state, with no authority “to any one officer to send his process through all the States of the Union.” However, for preventing future hostile acts, if Genet would provide “such information as to persons and places as may indicate to what points the vigilance of the officers is to be directed, proper measures will be immediately taken for preventing every attempt to make any hostile expedition from these States against any of the dominions of France.” Jefferson added that he would immediately communicate the matter to GW, and “if he shall direct any thing in addition or alteration, it shall be the subject of another letter” (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 , 27:97–99).

For discussion of the New York warrants against three of the accused conspirators, see Clinton to GW, 2 Sept., and enclosures. Tanguy de la Boissière was a journalist refugee from Saint Domingue who was in the process of establishing a newspaper (Journal des Révolutions de la Partie Française de Saint-Domingue) at New York. Publication of the paper, which was highly critical of Genet, had shifted to Philadelphia by 27 September. Tanguy went on to edit other short-lived papers before he returned to France in 1798.

3For discussion of Jefferson’s letter to British minister George Hammond of 9 Sept., see Cabinet Opinion, 7 Sept., and n.5 to that document. Hammond’s first letter to Jefferson of 12 Sept. took issue with Jefferson’s assertion that the French squadron at New York had merely brought refugees from Saint Domingue and was not involved in cruising against the British. Hammond claimed “the establishment of a regular succession of cruizers” and cited the Favorite, Cerf, Concorde, and La Normande as vessels so employed (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 , 27:100).

4Thomas Pinckney’s letter to Jefferson of 5 July enclosed a copy of “additional Instructions to the Commanders of British men of War and Privateers,” dated 8 June and issued by the British admiralty on 28 June, which authorized the commanders to stop all vessels carrying corn, flour, or meal to any port controlled by the French and send them into British ports, where they would be required to sell those provisions to the British government or to give security that the provisions would be delivered to countries at peace with Britain. In addition, the commanders were authorized to seize for condemnation all ships, regardless of cargo, attempting to enter a blockaded port.

Hammond’s second letter to Jefferson of 12 Sept. transmitted a copy of those same instructions with the British justification for their policy. Jefferson’s reply to that letter, dated 22 Sept., informed Hammond that “The paper had been before communicated to the President, and instructions immediately sent to our Minister at London to make proper representations on the subject, in the effect of which we have all that confidence which the justice of the British Government is calculated to inspire” (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 , 26:439–42, 27:100–102, 143–44). An ADfS of Jefferson’s reply is in DLC: Jefferson Papers. The dateline, “Mount Vernon Sep. 22 93,” may have been added later.

5GW had requested this in his letter to Jefferson of 11 September.

6Joseph Wright (1756–1793) went to London in the early 1770s, studying with Benjamin West and establishing a reputation as a portrait painter. He returned to America in 1782 and thereafter worked in New York and Philadelphia, completing a portrait of GW in 1784 (see GW to Wright, 10 Jan. 1784, Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 1:32–33).

7For Jefferson’s circular letter to French consuls and vice-consuls, 7 Sept., see Cabinet Opinion, 7 Sept., and n.1 to that document. Alexandre Maurice Hauterive, the French consul at New York, replied on 10 Sept. that his activities, including enlistments, were to maintain his nation’s rights. It was impossible for him to respond to Jefferson’s threats because they “attentent à L’honneur d’une puissante République qui m’a imposé une Loi que je trouve bien facile à Suivre”: to fear nothing in the world but compromising their rights or his duties. On this subject, he would, he told Jefferson, receive the orders of the French minister and obey 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 , 27:83–84).

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