George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 3 October 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello [Va.] Oct. 3. 1793.

Dear Sir

I have the honor to inclose herewith the following papers.

1. a Note from mister Coxe which covered a letter from Nassau.1

2. a letter from George Nicholas which covered his commission, returned.2

3. a letter from mister Gore, relating to mister Duplaine, & the communications between him & Govr Hancock, which I asked at the desire of the Secretary at war, & which are for him.3

4. a letter from mister Genet of Sep. 14. which, being merely an answer to one of mine, requires no reply.4

5. a letter from mister Genet of Sep. 13. this is an answer to the written and verbal applications made to him on the subject of the William & the Fanny.5 after being in his hands between two & three months, the Consul at Philadelphia is still too busy to furnish the information I had desired. he is since dead, which of course furnishes a new excuse for delay. this indicates clearly enough that Mr Genet does not mean to deliver them up. however he adds that the information would be useless until we settle what is to be deemed the extent of the limits of our protection. as this has never yet been decided, I am not able to answer him until you shall be pleased to determine what shall be proposed on that subject. I think myself that these limits are of great consequence, & would not hesitate the sacrifice of money to obtain them large. I would say, for instance, to Great Britain, “we will pay you for such of these vessels as you chuse; only requiring in return that the distance of their capture from the shore shall, as between us, be ever considered as within our limits: now say for yourself, which of these vessels you will accept payment for.” with France it might not be so easy to purchase distance by pecuniary sacrifices: but if by giving up all further reclamation of the vessels in their hands, they could be led to fix the same limits (say 3. leagues) I should think it an advantageous purchase, besides ridding us of an article of account which they may dispute. I doubt on the whole whether any thing further can be effectually done on this subject until your return to the seat of government, or to the place where you will fix for the time.

Mr Genet’s answer with respect to his opposing the service of process on a vessel is singularly equivocal. I rather conjecture he means to withdraw the opposition, and I am in hopes my letter to mister Hammond will have produced another effort by the Marshal which will have succeeded. should this not be the case, if military constraint cannot be used without endangering military opposition, this vessel also may become a subject of indemnification.6

Mr Bankson writes me word that Genl Moylan’s residence being off the Post road, he had been obliged to send an express to him, which was not yet returned. Besides the duplicate dispatches for Gouvernr Morris, I had left in his hands letters for all our foreign ministers & Consuls. he writes me that the communications with Philadelphia had been so much intercepted that he had not yet obtained conveyances.7

The death of Wright will require a new nomination of an engraver. if it be left to mister Rittenhouse, I think he would prefer Scott.8

Just before I left Philadelphia I received from mister Genet a claim of exemption from tonnage for their vessels which quitted the Cape in distress & made the first ports in the U.S. & particularly as to those which came to Baltimore, the tonnage of which amounted to a large sum. as you were come away, I thought it would shorten the business to send his claim in a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Treasury, but (as he was sick) under cover to mister Wolcott, in hopes they would make a report thereon to you for your consideration.9 the necessity of these abridgments of formalities in our present distant situations requires that I should particularly suggest to you the expediency of desiring Genl Knox to communicate to the foreign ministers himself directly any matters relative to the interpositions of his department through the governors. for him to send these to me from Boston to this place merely that I may send them back to the ministers at Philadelphia or New York, might be an injurious delay of business.

I shall hope to have the honor of a line from you whenever you shall have fixed on the time and place at which you shall decide to reassemble us. I have the honor to be with sentiments of the most perfect respect & attachment Dear Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

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.

1See Tench Coxe to Jefferson, 15 Sept. (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 , 27:118). Coxe requested that the letter from Nassau attorney general Moses Franks to Coxe’s brother John D. Coxe be kept secret and “returned in the course of the Month,” with no copy taken.

In a fifth letter to GW of this date, Jefferson had “the honor to inclose to the President a Note to mister Coxe & a letter which is the subject of it. when perused he will ask the favor of the President to stick a wafer into the cover and forward it by post. mister Coxe’s note to Th: J. is put into a separate packet among papers to be returned to Th: J.” (AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Jefferson’s note to Coxe, dated 3 Oct., returned the Nassau letter and commented: “The oppressions of our commerce in the West Indies are really grievous: but it seems best to take no small measure, but to wait for the mass of the matter we expect from the merchants and to require indemnification for the whole” (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 , 27:184). The Nassau letter has not been identified.

2This enclosure, a letter from Nicholas to Jefferson, 25 Aug., evidently declining to serve as federal district attorney for Kentucky, has not been identified.

3See Christopher Gore to Jefferson, 10 Sept. (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 , 27:79–82). In Jefferson’s letter of 2 Sept. he had asked Gore “to communicate copies of any memorials, representations or other written correspondence which may have passed between the Governor and yourself with respect to the privateers and prizes which have been the subject of your letters to Mr. Lear” (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 , 27:13–14).

4French minister Edmond Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 14 Sept. responded to Jefferson’s letter of 7 Aug., which informed Genet that it was “expected” that he would “cause restitution to be made” of prizes brought into American ports after 5 June by the French privateers armed at American ports, and that he would take “efficacious measures to prevent the future fitting out of Privateers in the Ports of the united States.” Genet replied that he could not agree to the indemnity and lacked the power to withdraw the privateers’ commissions, but that he would try to persuade the privateers to suspend their cruises and change their destinations (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 , 26:633– 34, 27:112–14; ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:184–85).

5British minister George Hammond had alleged that the ship William and brig Fanny had been seized within American territorial waters. In two letters to Genet of 29 June (letters 1 & 2), Jefferson directed that he order the French consul to deliver the vessels to their owners or supply evidence to contradict the allegation. Having received no response, Jefferson wrote Genet again on 9 Sept. repeating his request and protesting the delay. To this, Genet responded in the letter of 13 Sept. that Jefferson summarizes here (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 , 26:398–99, 27:67–69, 103–6).

6Genet’s letter to Jefferson of 13 Sept. also responded to Jefferson’s complaints (in the letter of 9 Sept.) that Genet had interfered with the attempt of “an officer of Justice” to take the prize William Tell into custody. Genet observed that the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce prevented the courts from taking cognizance of prizes and that Jefferson’s letter of 25 June had stated that the ships were to be in the custody of French consuls until final judgment, but he added that he would direct a compliance with the president’s wishes as soon as the court cited the law that gave authority. Meanwhile, Jefferson’s letter to Hammond of 9 Sept. had informed him that the president had addressed “the act of opposition made to the Service of legal process on the Brig William Tell, and he presumes the Representations made on the subject to the Minister of France, will have the effect of opening a free access to the officer of Justice when he shall again present himself with the precept of his Court” (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 , 27:67–72, 103–6).

7See Benjamin Bankson to Jefferson, 23 Sept. (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 , 27:145– 46). Stephen Moylan (1737–1811) had served during the Revolutionary War as mustermaster general, an aide-de-camp to GW, quartermaster general, and, from 1777 on, colonel of the 4th Continental Dragoons, being breveted brigadier general in 1783. At this time he resided on a farm near West Chester in Goshen Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Moylan, who was a justice of the peace, register and recorder for Chester County, and major general of the 3rd Division of Pennsylvania militia, was being offered a commission as federal marshal for the Pennsylvania district. He declined the appointment, but later this year accepted an appointment from GW as commissioner of loans for Pennsylvania, a post he held until his death.

8Robert Scot (1745–1823), born in Edinburgh, was working as an engraver in Virginia by 1780 and at Philadelphia by 1782. He was commissioned as engraver for the mint on 23 Nov., and his appointment was confirmed by the Senate in December.

9See Jefferson to Alexander Hamilton, 12 Sept., enclosed in Jefferson to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 12 Sept. (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 , 27:99, 103).

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