From David Humphreys
Lisbon Augst 30th 1794.
My dear & respected Sir.
Captain Burnham, who will have the honour of delivering this letter, was commander of the first American Ship captured by the Algerines in Octr last. He has lately been ransomed for 4000 Dollars paid by himself, through the medium of the Dutch Admiral, who concluded the Treaty of Peace between Holland & Algiers.1 Captain Burnham will be able to give you a good deal of information on Algerine affairs. Although he was born in the same State with myself, I had not the pleasure of his acquaintance, until since his return from Captivity. By what little I know of him personally & from hear-say, he appears to be an active, intelligent & respectable man. As he judges it not improbable, that he may wish to be employed, as a Lieutenant in one of the Frigates now building by the U.S., for the protection of their Commerce against the Algerines; I could not hesitate in giving him this introduction to you as my friend: taking the liberty, at the same time, to refer you as President to the testimonies which may be given in favour of Captn Burnham by Mr Mitchel & Colo. Chester, who must be well acquainted with him as being born in the same Town.2 If the information of those Gentlemen & others better acquainted with him than I am, should represent him as adequate in all respects to the office which he may solicit (as I have great reason to suppose will be the case) I have no doubt, that his particular knowledge, situation & sufferings will be thought to contribute not a little in giving him some claim to public Notice. With sentiments of perfect respect & esteem I have the honour to be Your Most devoted & Most humble Servant
1. John Burnham (1758-1837) was captain of the ship Hope, captured on 6 Oct. 1793. For his letter of 11 Nov. 1793 reporting the capture to the ship’s owners, see American Minerva, and the New-York (Evening) Advertiser, 2 April 1794, and for his account of his captivity, see American Minerva, and the New-York (Evening) Advertiser, 27 Oct. 1794. Burnham was redeemed on 27 March and arrived at Cadiz on 24 May 1794 (American Apollo [Boston], 6 Nov. 1794; The Diary; or, Evening Register [New York], 24 July 1794). By laws passed in 1796, 1812, 1830, and 1832, Congress reimbursed Burnham for the ransom (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 . 1:487-88; 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 . 6:103, 412, 493).
For discussion of the treaty between the Netherlands and Algiers, see Edmund Randolph to GW, 25 July, n.5.
2. Stephen Mix Mitchell (1743-1835) of Wethersfield, Conn., who had served in the Continental Congress, 1785-1788, was at this time a U.S. senator. He subsequently served on the Connecticut supreme court. John Chester was inspector of the revenue for the district of Connecticut. Burnham reportedly met with GW upon returning to the United States (H. Rep. 305, 33d Cong., 1st sess., serial 744, p. 3), but no evidence that he sought a naval appointment has been identified.