George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 24 November 1793

From George Clinton

New York 24th November 1793


I have recently received a Letter from the Secretary of War dated the 12th and also another dated the 13th1 Instant in Answer to mine of the 8th of September last.

On recurring to my Correspondence with the Minister of France a Copy of which was enclosed in that letter it will appear that my Object was to procure the departure of the privateers Petit Democrat and Carmagnole Agreeably to your decision communicated to me in a letter from the Secretary of War dated the 16th of August;2 but as it was mentioned to be your desire that forcible Measures Should not be resorted to until every other effort had been tried, I thought it proper to Submit to your Consideration the Measure proposed by the French Minister—In the interim the Petit Democrat departed from this harbour without any Augmentation of her Military equippments So far as my knowledge extends. The Carmagnole Still remains here, And it Seems is the Vessel to which my letter of the 15th refers. I now transmit a Second letter which I have written to the French Minister on this Subject And his Answer,3 And have only to request to be informed whether Any farther interferences on my part is expected.4

As I Shall in a Short time Set out for Albany to Attend the Meeting of our Legislature I take this opportunity of Apprising You of it in Order that if any Arrangements are thought Necessary which may require my personal Attention they may be concerted before my departure, As it is Uncertain whether I Shall return to this City before Spring. I am with Sentiments of the highest Respect Your most Obedient Servant

Geo. Clinton

Copy, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton. This document was enclosed with GW’s message to the United States Senate and House of Representatives of 5 Dec. 1793.

1The letter-book copy gives this date as “15th,” which is correct. Secretary of War Henry Knox’s letter of 12 Nov. was a circular announcing that GW “conceived it best as far as shall concern the Executive powers to take the distance of a Sea league, for the Limits of the protection of the United States. . . . within which all hostilities are interdicted.” Governors were requested in case they “should take possession of any vessel upon an allegation of her having been captured within our Limits . . . to Cause the attorney of the United states within your State to be notified thereof, in order that he may take the proper Steps for the Examination of the necessary witnesses upon the affair.” In addition, each governor was instructed “that if any Privateers, which have been illegally fitted in any of our ports, should by any circumstances be constrained to come into any of the ports” of his state, “they may be permitted to make no repairs whatever, but on the Condition of their divesting themselves of all warlike equipments.” After disarming, they were “permitted to make any repairs belonging Solely to a commercial Vessel” (the LB of this letter in N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton is severely damaged, so the quotations are taken from the intact LS of Knox to Joshua Clayton, 12 Nov., De-Ar: Executive Papers; see also Knox to Thomas Mifflin, 12 Nov., DLC; Knox to Henry Lee, 12 Nov., Vi; and Knox to Arthur Fenner, 12 Nov., R-Ar). For Knox’s letter to Clinton of 15 Nov., see Clinton to GW, 8 Sept., n.2.

2For a summary of Knox’s circular letter of 16 Aug., see Clinton to GW, 2 Sept., n.7.

3In his letter to French minister Edmond Genet of 21 Nov., Clinton enclosed a copy of Knox’s letter of 15 Nov., adding, “you will perceive it to be the sense of the President, that the vessel should be intirely devested of her warlike equipments and which from the readiness you are pleased to express, to conform to the views of the federal government, I cannot doubt will on the receipt hereof be complied with, and that until this is effected, you will not permit her to leave the harbour.”

Genet replied on 23 Nov.: “The fresh requisitions which have lately been transmitted to you respecting the schooner Columbia formerly called the Carmagnole, are only a continuation of the system which has been observed towards me from the very commencement of my mission, and which evidently appears to be calculated to baffle my zeal, to fill me with disgust, and to provoke my country to measures dictated by a just resentment, which would accomplish the wishes of those whose politics tend only to disunite America from France, the more easily to deliver the former into the power of the English, warned by this conjecture which is unfortunately but too well founded, instead of proving to you, as I could easily do, that the orders which have been given to you are contrary to our treaties, to the conduct of the Federal government even towards the British nation, whose packets, and a great number of merchant vessels, I am well informed have been permitted to arm for defence in their ports. to the bonds of friendship which unite the people of both Republics and to their mutual Interest, since the vessel in question is intended to serve as an advice boat, in our Corespondence with the French Islands, which by our treaties you are bound to guarantee, and in whose fate your prosperity is no less interested than ours; I will give orders to the Consul and to the French Commodore of the road, to conform themselves to every thing that your wisdom, may think proper to direct” (both N-Ar: Papers of George Clinton).

4GW received this letter on 26 Nov., and his secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., wrote Knox on that date: “By the President’s order B. Dandridge has the honor to enclose herewith a letter just reced from the Gov. of New York, with his correspondence with mister Genet respecting the Carmagnole. The President desires you will take them into consideration, & prepare such answer to the Govrs letter as to you may seem proper” (DLC:GW). For Knox’s action, see his letter to GW of the same date.

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