George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Dobbs Spaight, 15 March 1794

From Richard Dobbs Spaight

No. Carolina 15th March 1794.


In the Secretary of wars letter to me of the 18th of January giving me instructions to cause the money detained in the hands of the Marshall of this district to be delivered to the agent of the Spanish Commissioners, He informed me that the expences which had or might be incurred in the prosecution of the business were to be defrayed by the general government, upon accounts which shall be authenticated by me and transmitted to the accountant of the war office.1 Accordingly when I gave orders to the Marshal to deliver the money papers & other property taken from on board the Spanish brig St Joseph and then in his possession to the agent for the Spanish Commissioners; I likewise directed him to make out his account of the expences incurred by him in safekeeping the money, supported by proper vouchers and transmitt it, to me that I might send it forward to the war office.2

I now do myself the honor to enclose you a copy of his answer to my letter, declining to make out any account of his services but leaving it to the Government of the United States to make him such compensation for his trouble & expence as they may deem proper.3 I am sir &c. &c.

R. D. Spaight

LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.

1Spaight is paraphrasing Knox’s instructions regarding money and other property from the Spanish brig San Josef that were currently being held in protective custody by U.S. Deputy Marshal John Blakeley. These instructions are in Henry Knox’s letter to Spaight of 13 Jan. (see n.1 of Spaight’s second letter to GW of 8 Feb.). Edward Jones was hired by diplomats José Ignacio de Viar and José de Jaudenes to represent Spanish interests.

2Spaight wrote Blakeley on 11 Feb. to deliver the money and other property in his custody to Jones. He also instructed him “to make out your Account of the expenses incurred by you . . . and transmit the same to me with the necessary vouchers that it may be forwarded to the accountant of the War Office” (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks). Joseph Howell, Jr., was the accountant for the Department of War (GW to U.S. Senate, 8 May 1792 [first letter]).

3In his reply to Spaight of 1 March, Blakeley wrote that in compliance with the wishes of Mr. Jones, he had deposited the money in “the bank at Charleston. . . . With regard to the expences that accued on the safekeeping of the trunk which contained the Spanish gold, as I had no less than three times to open it, count it, and weigh it, I thought (& so did Mr Jones) I was entitled as marshal to 3 p. cent, but if this is not allowed I must leave it entirely to your Excellency & the Executive of the United States, what you choose to allow me for my personal services in taking care of it at my own risque from the 5th day of Oct: 93. to the 14 day of Feb: 1794 as the law has not pointed out any fixed payment for such services. the price for taking care of Vessels when seized is 150 cents per day. . . . I called out a guard as often as it appeared necessary I suppose about thirty nights six each night. I did not keep a regular account of them or the expences as we had no hope of being paid for it. . . . I believe I am far within bounds when I say it cost me out of my own pocket between thirty and forty dollars for fire room & refreshments for the guards at different times, besides many anxious nights and days, I being confined to my room every night during the time I had it in care. All this your Excellency will be so good as to take into consideration and report accordingly to the Secy of War what may appear to you right I have no doubt but the United States will allow me such a compensation as may appear to them just” (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks). Knox informed Spaight in a letter of 2 April that the “Statement made by the marshal and his claim founded thereon seemed to be so just that no objections are made thereto. accordingly I have directed the amount to be transmitted him by the present post” (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks).

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