George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Reuben Harvey, 3 March 1794

From Reuben Harvey

Cork [Ireland] 3d March 1794

Respected Friend,

Unwilling to break in upon thy Time which is so precious at this critical period, I have check’d a very ardent desire of addressing thee those some Months past, but as I conceive it my duty (considering the love & affection I have for America) to lay before thee some few observations that have occurr’d & impress’d my Mind, I trust there needs no farther apology for the liberty now taken.1 I may therefore say that there is, in my poor opinion, a necessity for a residing American Consul in Ireland, And that such Consul should be a Native of America, For want of one, since my friend Knox’s departure, many Ships & Vessels belonging to the United states have suffer’d injurys & insults from British Officers, by having their Seamen impress’d, & cajoled to enter in Men of War, whereby considerable losses befel the Owners, which would in a good degree have been prevented, had a Consul been in the Kingdom to interfere;2 I believe there were many instances of most intolerable insolence & abuse offer’d American Masters of Vessels by Lieuts. & other Officers employ’d on the Impress Service; An unreasonable Quarentine was enforced here for many Months on all Vessels from New york, tho’ no malignant Sickness prevail’d there, And it was only taken off about 2 Weeks ago, in consequence I am apt to think of a letter which I wrote to Thos Pinckney Esqr. the 28. of January, requesting his application to the British Minister (who governs every material Matter in both Kingdoms) to have the Quarentine removed, as the answer which I received dated Feby 7th mention’d that he expected Administration would shortly order it to cease.3 It however gives me concern to inform thee that on another Affair of some Moment which I had occasion to trouble the Envoy about he has not been even so condescending as to answer any of the letters written him the 4: to the 13: Ultimo—The Affair is this; About 6 Weeks ago an American Brig, the Hannah of Kennebeck Wm Springer Mastr, laden with 280 pipes of Brandy from Bordx for Philadelphia, put into Kinsale a little leaky & rather short of Provisions, In 2 days after her arrival there she was seized by the Govr. Col. Browne, on an information, as he alleges, that the Cargoe was ship’d by Deputys of the National Convention, & that the Consignee at Phila. Thos Lee has been dead some time; The Brandy is mark’d T.L.4 An Englishman named Thos Cox escaped by the aid of Capt. Springer, in the attire of a Sailor, And he is suspected of giving this information, as he pretends that the Convention deprived him of considerable property, & he hopes to recover some or all of it out of the present contested Cargoe, which is worth above £10.000 Stg: From what I can gather it seems likely that the Natl Convention ship’d this Brandy, & three more very large Cargoes at same time (all consign’d to Thos Lee) for remittance to Congress or for some reciprocal Concern of the two Governments, as the quantity of Brandy was very great in these 4 Vessels; I presume not far short of 2000 pipes.5 I suggested to Thos Pinckney Esqr. that if he could prevail on the British Minister to direct a suspension of procedure respecting the Hannah’s Cargoe until he could hear from Congress, it might answer a good purpose, as thereby the fact would be ascertain’d, but he has disregarded the Master’s & my letters, And I have just now received a letter from the poor Man, acquainting me of the Business being put into the Proctor’s hands in order to proceed, so that there needs no foresight to see that Condemnation will ensue, for Oaths in these Cases are easily had, & the temptation of Gain predominates in most trials of the kind, throughout the British Dominions, which I am grieved to observe has been fatally felt by too many suffering Americans. Indeed I cannot help (through long affection) saying that I was astonish’d at seeing American Ships seized & their Cargoes landed in England, when found carrying Wheat & flour, the produce of America, to France where they had been accustom’d to carry such Goods for many Years—I say I was astonish’d to find no publick remonstrance or retaliation or cessation of intercourse adopted by America, & I am convinc’d that if on the first capture, instant satisfaction had been insisted on, England would have relaxed & your Colours have been respected, equally with Russia & other Neutral Powers in the Years 1780 &c. Possibly your Patience will ultimately prove a wise Measure, & that the horrid plan (whoever effected it) of the Algerine business6 may cause you to look for & to obtain ample Satisfaction which is the ardent wish of A true friend to America And Thy sincere Well Wisher

Reuben Harvey

P.S. The 3 other Vessels with Brandy, were

Ship Aurora

Ship Merchant

Brig Columbia7

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. GW’s docket reads, “Receiv’d 21st of May 1794. refered to the Secy of State May 22d.” No reply from Randolph to Harvey has been identified.

1Merchant Reuben Harvey had been corresponding with GW for several years, beginning with his letter to GW of 12 Feb. 1783 (DLC:GW). The previous extant letter from Harvey is that of 1 March 1792.

2On the departure of William Knox, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 19 Aug. 1792, and n.2. Joseph Wilson was nominated on 28 May to be U.S. consul at Dublin (Senate Executive Journal description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 158).

3The quarantine on vessels sailing from New York may have been a response to the yellow fever epidemic that took place in Philadelphia during the late summer and fall of 1793. Harvey’s correspondence with U.S. minister Thomas Pinckney, which is mentioned throughout this letter, has not been identified. William Pitt the Younger served as prime minister of Great Britain from 1783 until 1801.

4The brig Hannah was under the command of Capt. William Springer of Pittson, Maine, which is located on the Kennebec River (Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 16 June 1792). This ship was one of many American vessels whose presence at the French port of Bordeaux was noted in the 17 Feb. 1794 issue of the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser. The port of Kinsale, Cork County, is on the south coast of Ireland. Browne probably was the British officer in command of Fort Charles, at the head of Kinsale harbor. The intended recipient of the brandy, Thomas Lee, has not been identified.

5A pipe is a large cask used especially for wine and oil and often of a capacity equal to 2 hogsheads, or approximately 126 gallons.

6On the British role in obtaining a truce between Portugal and Algiers, which left American shipping in the Atlantic Ocean vulnerable to seizure, see n.9 of Tobias Lear to GW, 4 February.

7The ship Aurora sailed under Capt. John Seaward of Kennebunk, Me., the ship Merchant under Capt. John Jones of Portland, Me., and the brig Columbia under Capt. William Sole of Freeport, Me. (Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 17 Feb. 1794; General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 18 Feb. 1794).

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