From Edmund Randolph
[Philadelphia] March 31. 1794.
E. Randolph has the honor of submitting the inclosed application for a passport to the President, and whether if all the ministers of foreign nations here should assent, most of the objections will not be overcome.1
AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.
1. The enclosure came from Louis Osmont, who emigrated from France in 1790. At this time, his mercantile business was located at 117 North Second Street in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Directory 1794 description begins James Hardie. The Philadelphia Directory and Register . . .. Philadelphia, 1794. description ends , 110). His letter to Randolph of this date requested a passport in order to circumvent the recent embargo enacted by Congress (see 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 . 1:400). Osmont’s intention was to send a ship full of French refugees to their homes in Saint Domingue. “I was about fitting out a Vessell to carry them,” he wrote. “They are about Fifty in Number, have nothing left in this part of the World; what they have paid me for the Consideration to be paid here, the remainder being payable at Hispaniola, would not by any means be sufficient to support them one Week; their resources are at home, & they can no longer support themselves without Assistance or liberty to go with their Wives and Children now in distress, & take possession again of their Properties; I myself should be a great sufferer, If I was to make void the Contract; They join themselves to me, Sir, to beg of the executive power of the United States to permit me to send out a Vessell for the only purpose of carrying them. I shall give full and sufficient Security to the United States, (tho’ I have sworn fidelity & obedience to their Constitution and Laws) that I do represent you nothing but the truth. I shall take in no Cargo whatsoever, but the necessary Victuals for the Voyage, and the Vessell shall not go out, except We can obtain of all and every the Ministers of other Courts or Nations to the United States, a passport of such nature as can prevent any Insults from the Privateers or Men of War of the Belligerent Powers.
“I shall further engage, if required, to send those Passengers in a french Bottom, shall also transact the whole Business in any Shape you may think proper to prevent demands of the same sort from being asked upon the Grounds of this being granted” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). On 2 May, GW granted a passport to Osmont’s ship America, Capt. Edward Rice, “to proceed to the West Indies in ballast to carry french passengers” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 301).
The cabinet opinion on granting Osmont’s request was written below Osmont’s signature:
Randolph, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Knox signed the following opinion, of which the beginning text is in Randolph’s handwriting and the text after the colon is in Hamilton’s: “I am of opinion that a passport ought to be granted, under the restrictions, proposed by the petitioner: (viz.) the vessel to be American, in ballast & to have passports from the several foreign Ministers.”
William Bradford then wrote and signed his dissenting opinion: “I am inclined to think that the Embargo extends to all vessels which are not in some degree or other considere⟨d⟩ as under the direction of the President of the U.S.”