From Edmund Randolph
[Philadelphia] Feby 27. 1794.
The Secretary of State has the honor of submitting to the President of the United States the following observations on the act, providing for the relief of such of the inhabitants of St Domingo, resident in the United States, as may be found in want of support.1
As soon as the act had passed, a letter (marked A) was written to the Representatives of the several states in Congress.2 Answers have been received from all, except the Representatives of Delaware and Jersey.3 It is known with certainty, that in New Hampshire, Vermont and Kentucky, none of these unfortunate people have taken refuge; and in the other states, to wit, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode-Island, and Massachusetts, the numbers cannot be considered as authentic, altho’ pains have been used, while the law was on its passage, to obtain an accurate account. From the present view, however, of the subject, the heads of the Departments concur in the following ideas:
1. That the numbers in the ten last mentioned states be estimated according to the following conjecture.
2. That for the present only 10,000 dollars be distributed; the remaining 5,000 being reserved to redress any inequalities, which may be found on a more precise knowledge of the numbers.
3. That the proportions of the sum of 10,000 dollars will consequently be to each person five dollars, and to the ten states aforesaid as follows.
4. That the rates of mere subsistance are exceedingly various in the different places in which the refugees are situated, and cannot be ascertained by any means so effectual, as by referring the distribution of these sums to the committees, which already exist for superintending their accommodation; or to other confidential persons, where committees have not yet been constituted.4
5. That letters be immediately written by the Secretary of State to these committees, or other confidential persons, requesting them to undertake the partition of this money; exhorting them to use œconomy; to keep accounts; to report their proceedings to the President; and to forward accurate intelligence.5
LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with his Secretaries of State.
1. See “An Act providing for the relief of such of the inhabitants of Saint Domingo, resident within the United States, as may be found in want of support,” 12 Feb. 1794, in which an amount not exceeding $15,000 was appropriated for this purpose (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 6:13). Civil war in this French colony prompted hundreds of refugees to flee to the United States in the summer of 1793.
2. Randolph’s copy of his circular letter to members of Congress, which was written on Friday, 14 Feb., reads: “The President of the United States is anxious to execute immediately the law, which has been lately passed, for the relief of the distressed fugitives from St Domingo. But without an actual or probable enumeration of them, according to the places of their dispersion the distribution to be made, of the money granted will be liable to great inequalities; particular places may absorb too much of it; and the time, for which the support of those unfortunate persons was contemplated by Congress may be abridged by the exhausting of the fund. I must therefore entreat you, altho’ precision cannot be expected, to furnish me with the best information in your power of their total number, with a distinction of those who may not be desirous of receiving aid, the places of their residence within your State, and the lowest price for subsistence of Adults and Children at the spot. If you can prepare an estimate by monday next, it will hasten the succours to the indigent and lay me under a particular obligation” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).
4. For some of the local and state relief efforts, see n.1 of Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 24 Aug. 1793; n.1 of GW to De Saxÿ and De Verneüil, 26 Dec. 1793; William Patterson et al. to GW, 30 Jan. 1794; and Robert Taylor to GW, 30 Jan. 1794.
5. The circular letter from Randolph of this date reads: “I do myself the honor of inclosing to you the copy of an Act, passed on the 12th instant by Congress, for the relief of certain inhabitants of St Domingo.
“As soon as it was approved by the President, measures were taken for ascertaining the number of those, who might be objects of the law in the different States. It being impossible to postpone the Succour, until an accurate estimate could be obtained from a distance, it was thought best to request a conjectural account from the Representatives who are on the spot. This has been in general furnished but still this procedure promises so little accuracy, that the President has resolved to distribute at present no more than Ten thousand dollars, and to reserve the remaining Five thousand for the purpose of redressing any inequalities in the partition.
“The quota allotted to the State of [ ] out of the 10,000 dollars, is [ ].
“This sum the President consigns to your care and management, relying, that the trust, reposed in you, will be accepted as a proof of his confidence in your philanthropy. But as it is not improbable, that you may wish to be aided by some other humane Citizens, he requests, that you will ask, in his name, the co-operation of such, as you may think proper to associate with yourself. If, however, a Committee has been already formed, for the purpose of superintending the accommodation of these unfortunate people, I must beg you to deliver the money and this letter over to them, who will be pleased to consider both, as addressed to them.
“The particulars of the law, most deserving your attention, will be found to be the following:
1. The persons to be relieved are, thus described—Such of the inhabitants of St Domingo resident within the United States, as shall be found in want of support.
2. The distribution is to be much for their relief, in such manner, and by the hands of such persons, as shall, in the opinion of the president, appear most conducive to the humane purposes of the act.
3. A regular statement and account are to be kept of the monies expended, and to be lodged in the proper Office of the Treasury Department.
“In the execution therefore of this law, the President recommends, that the following mode be pursued, with any addition, which your prudence may suggest.
“1st. To give public notice in Newspapers or otherwise, that you are ready to make partition among all persons, coming within the foregoing description. But this is not to interfere with an immediate relief to those, who are immediately known to you; as you will reserve a sum for fresh applicants.
“2d. To observe perfect equality in the distribution; and to fix the dividend of each at the cheapest rate of subsistence.
“3d. To return to the Treasury Department a regular statement and account of your expenditures; to which it will be proper to add the vouchers, usually expected on public settlements.
“The 5,000 Dollars still left, being dependant upon the information, which may be hereafter received, I must entreat you to supply it as far as may be in your power. To this end the principal points to be established, are the number of persons in each State, entitled to relief, and the lowest sum, necessary for such relief, as the law contemplates. The necessity of an early answer appears indispensable; and I beg leave to solicit the most speedy reply on this head” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).