George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Dobbs Spaight, 6 September 1794

From Richard Dobbs Spaight

North Carolina New Bern 6th sep: 1794


I have to acknowledge the receipt of the Secretary of the treasury’s letter of the 18th August respecting the proscribed privateers who were to be denied asylum in the ports of the United States except upon condition of their being dismantled of their military equipments.1

There have never been but two privateers of that description fitted in the ports of this state to wit the Vanqueur de Bastille and L’amee Margueritte the former of these I did myself the honor to inform you in a former letter was dismantled and lay at one of the wharves at Wilmington the other has agreably to the instructions received from the secretary of War been restored to her former owners.2 I do not know that any privateers of that description fitted out in other parts of the United States have been in any of the ports of this State as strict orders have been given to the commanding Officers in those counties in which the different ports lay to compel all such privateers to depart the port unless they deprive themselves of their military equipments, and I have received no accounts from them of the arival of any such vessel.

I shall make use of every exertion in my power to carry into complete effect the instructions contained in the Secretary’s letter. I have the honor to be &c.

Rd Dobbs Spaight

LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.

1Alexander Hamilton’s circular letter to the state governors of 18 Aug., written on behalf of the War Department, pointed out that some of the privateers "By running from one port to another" had "in effect enjoyed the asylum, which it was intended to deny them, and have thereby placed the Government in the unpleasant situation not only of seeing itself trifled with but of being liable to the suspicion of connivance in an evasion of its positive assurances to Foreign powers." Therefore, GW had decided that "every such Vessel" which had "had an opportunity to acquire a knowledge" of the order denying them asylum should hereafter "be deprived of her military equipments" when "found in any Port or District of the United states" (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17: 107-8).

2Spaight reported the dismantling of the Vainqueur de la Bastille in his letter to GW of 21 Oct. 1793. One of that ship’s prizes, the Providence, was fitted out as a privateer and renamed L’Aimée Marguerite, and in Secretary of War Henry Knox’s letter to Spaight of 12 Nov. 1793, he directed that in such case the vessel should be restored "to her master, or the consul of the nation to whom she belonged at the time of her capture" (Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks; see Spaight to GW, 19 Dec. 1793, n.1).

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