George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Humphreys, 23 November 1793

From David Humphreys

(Secret & confidential)

My dear Sir.Alicant [Spain] Novr 23d 1793.

By my letter of the 19th to the Secry of State, & particularly by that of this date to him (of which I forward Duplicates) you will find that the Dey of Algiers has refused to grant a Passport for me to come to Algiers.1 All hopes of any accomodation by negotiation for the present are therefore at an end. To use the Dey’s own expression, “he would not treat with us, even if we were to lavish Millions.”

It seems unfortunate that my full Powers had not arrived at the time, or soon after, the notice did of their being in preparation, in order that an experiment of treating might have been made before these late innovations had taken place at Algiers: but it was exceedingly fortunate, arriving when they did, that I was obliged by the Instructions of the Secretary of State to go to Gibralter to settle Mr Barclay’s accounts 2—otherwise the property of the U.S. now with us would in all probability have been lost, & other disagreeable consequences might possibly have ensued.

It is now some consolation, that the money is at hand, to be applied (at least a part of it) to the immediate cloathing & comfort of our naked & distressed Countrymen who are in captivity. I hope & trust that my arrangements herein (which will be more fully explained in my next letter to the Secry of State) will meet with your approbation;3 and that I may have the satisfacton of knowing that to be the case—That circumstance, in addition to the consciousness of having attempted to do my duty, will be the only compensation I can ever receive for no small portion of fatigue, anxiety & distress, that I have experienced in the course of this business.

When I arrive at Madrid, I shall disclose the whole state of affairs to Mr Carmichael & Mr Short, and shall be influenced very much by their advice in respect to the ulterior measures which ought to be pursued. I need not mention to you, my dear & most respected General, that a naval force has now (to a certain degree) become indispensable; or that the future reputation of the U.S. in Europe & Africa will depend very much, & for a very great length of time, on the success of our fleet at its very first appearance on the Ocean. For this effect, it will not, I am confident, escape your recollection that the whole Nation ought, from every sentiment of patriotism, liberty & humanity, to be roused into exertion, as one Man.4 Whether, in the midst of such an afflicting national calamity, the resources of Religion ought not to be called into our aid, by setting apart a day of solemn fasting & prayer, throughout the U.S., to implore the blessing of Heaven on our arms, and for the liberation of our fellow Citizens from Slavery, you can best determine.

It will doubtless be thought expedient to publish some Proclamation, Manifesto, or Statement of facts—Forcible truths set home to men’s feelings are apt to have an effect. It is time to awaken mankind from the Lethargy of Ages.

How far considerable preparations can be made for offensive war, under a public idea of only furnishing convoys to our merchantmen, I do not know—but this would probably be the only way by which we could hope to catch some of the Corsairs seperated, & perhaps out of the Mediterranean. I will not be remiss in my endeavours to make combinations with any Nation in similar circumstances, & to keep you informed of the result. Adieu, my dear General, and believe me, in offering my best respect to Mrs Washington and our friends. Your most affe and devoted Servant

D. Humphreys

P.S. I leave the discussion of the policy & agency which brought about those inauspicious truces to a more convenient occasion.5

This ought to be the time (& I hope to God it will) for extinguishing all the little affects of party spirit among ourselves.

D.H.

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (duplicate), DLC:GW.

1For Humphreys’s letters to the Secretary of State of 19 and 23 Nov., see DNA: RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Portugal (see also 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 , 1:413–14).

2The powers and credentials for Humphreys’s mission to Algiers and the instructions for him to go to Gibraltar were sent with Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Humphreys of 21 March, which was carried by Nathaniel Cutting. Cutting, who was directed to proceed via London to consult first with Thomas Pinckney on the “Algerine Business,” did not arrive at Lisbon until 28 Aug., while Jefferson’s subsequent letter to Humphreys of 30 March, which mentioned that Cutting was bringing the credentials, was received by Humphreys in early May (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 , 25:420–22, 468–69; 26:60; 27:4–5).

3Humphreys discussed his arrangements for the care of the Algerine prisoners in his next two letters to the Secretary of State (received by Edmund Randolph), 7 and 25 Dec. (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to Portugal; see also Humphreys, Life and Times of David Humphreys description begins Francis Landon Humphreys. Life and Times of David Humphreys: Soldier—Statesman—Poet, “Belov’d of Washington”. 2 vols. New York and London, 1917. description ends , 2:191–92; 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 , 1:418–19).

4On the duplicate, Humphreys underlined the words “whole Nation” and “as one Man.”

5Humphreys was referring to the September truce between Portugal and Algiers (see Humphreys to GW, 7 Oct., and n.1 to that document) and to a truce negotiated about the same time between the Netherlands and Algiers (see Edward Church to Jefferson, 12 Oct., 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 , 27:230–35).

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