George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 15 November 1793

From George Clinton

New York 15th Nov.


In my last letter dated the 8th September (and to which I ⟨mutilated ⟩ yet been favored with an answer) I have omitted to mentio⟨n⟩ the French vessel, called the Republican, a prize to the Brit⟨ish⟩ frigate Boston, had departed, and was without the reach of my a⟨mutilated ⟩ previous to the receipt of the Letter from the Secretary of war, directing her detension.1 It will appear from the communications which ⟨mutilated ⟩ in the first instance, on the subject of this vessel, that I had (under an impression that conformably to the 17th article of our Treaty with France, which declares that no vessel aught to receive any shelter or refuge in any of the Ports of the United States, she appearing both in ⟨the⟩ character of a prize, and Tender to the above mentioned Frigate being brought in here by one of her officers and part of her crew) I directed her immediate departure 2—I now enclose copies of a corespondence which has lately taken place, between me and the minister of France, respecting a vessel which was reported to me as repairing in this port, whose appearances indicated as if she was intended for military purposes,3 as this case is nearly if not exactly similar to the one reported in my last letter, I conceive it proper to desist from doing any thing farther therein, until I shall receive your advice on the subject. I am with the greatest respect & esteem,

Geo. Clinton

LB, N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton.

1Clinton had asked for guidance regarding the Republican in his letter to GW of 30 July. Secretary of War Henry Knox replied on GW’s behalf in a letter to Clinton of 2 Aug., but the surviving letter-book copy of that document has been so damaged that the advice given is not clear (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton). On 3 Aug., however, Knox wrote Clinton to report that Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had asked the British minister to have the vessel detained (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton).

2Clinton was referring to the correspondence enclosed with his letter to GW of 30 July. For the 17th article of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce of 1778, see Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 16–17.

3The enclosed copies of Clinton’s letter to Edmond Genet of 9 Nov. and Genet’s response to Clinton of 11 Nov. have not been identified. Clinton asked Genet about reports of a sloop under French colors in the East River that “appears as if intended for military purposes.” Citing Genet’s previous assurances that he would stop the fitting out of privateers in U.S. ports, Clinton claimed to “have a confidence” that the vessel was either non-military or being fitted out without Genet’s knowledge, but added, “it has become my duty to make enquiry into the object of her equipments, I have therefore to request of you to give directions to the officer having charge of her, not to leave the wharf until this can be Affected” (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton). Genet replied that the vessel under repair was the schooner Carmagnole, which he had renamed Columbia. The ship, initially fitted out by private citizens as a privateer, was now to be used as an “advice boat, and the Military preparations ⟨which you are⟩ informed are making on board her, have absolutely no other object ⟨than⟩ to enable her to act on the defensive” (N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton; DLC: Genet Papers).

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