George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 21 December 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Dec. 21. 93.

Th: Jefferson with his respects to the President incloses a letter from the Governor of Pensylvania in answer to one from mister Genet praying him to deliver the French sailors (whom he calls deserters) on board a vessel to be transported to New York, there to be put on board a man of war.1 The Convention having directed the proceeding to be observed in this case, and the laws having directed the District judge to attend to it, Th: J. has prepared an answer to the Governor informing him that the Federal Executive has nothing to do in it, but to leave the law to take it’s course.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1For the impetus behind Genet’s letter to Thomas Mifflin of 16 Dec., see Sundry Frenchmen in a Philadelphia Jail to GW, 3 Dec., and source note to that document. Genet advised Mifflin that he would have recourse to Mifflin’s good offices to have the prisoners brought under guard to a ship that would transport them to New York, where they would be kept aboard the French ship Normande (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Mifflin’s letter to Jefferson of 20 Dec. enclosed the copy of Genet’s letter, in order “to know the sentiments of the General Government” on Genet’s “request, which I do not, at this time, think myself authorised to grant” (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 , 27:597).

2For the “Convention Defining and Establishing the Functions and Privileges of Consuls and Vice Consuls” (1788), 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 , 228–44. Jefferson’s response to Mifflin of this date, which GW approved on 23 Dec., stated that as the prisoners were in the custody of the judicial authority, “the Federal Executive does not think itself authorized to interfere either as to their enlargement or detention” (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 , 27:605; JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 272).

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