George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 4 November 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Novr 4. 1794.


I have the honor of inclosing to you the translation of a letter from Mr Fauchet; and to request your instruction, whether it may not be better to grant a pardon under the peculiar circumstances of the case.1

I ought to have added, when you did me the honor of calling at the office this morning, that the lists, for which Colo. Hamilton has written,2 were copied at the desire of Mr Peters and Mr Rawle, and after a consultation with Mr Bradford; it being supposed that the originals were proper for our archives. I have the honor to be, sir, with the highest respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph.

P.S. I take the liberty of submitting to your perusal two letters, which passed between Mr Hammond and myself, during your absence, on the subject of piracy.3

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Fauchet’s letter, which was received on 1 Nov., has not been identified. From Randolph’s reply to Fauchet of 6 Nov., it evidently concerned the case of Samuel Rogers, an American formerly of Nova Scotia, who was acting as a pilot for the tender of the French frigate Concorde when, on 3 Sept., the tender fired upon and seized the schooner Success, which had left Boston bound for Halifax. At that time two passengers were plundered of clothing and money. That same week Rogers was captured in possession of a sum of money and some of the clothes. When examined, he admitted to piloting the tender and claimed that the items had been given him by a lieutenant of the Concorde. Despite the arguments of Rogers’s counsel that Rogers as a pilot did not come within the purview of the law about Americans enlisting on foreign vessels, and the counsel’s efforts to use GW’s earlier pardon of the French chancellor John Jutau in another case involving a ship seizure (see Cabinet Opinions on the Roland and Relations with Great Britain, France, and the Creek Indians, 31 Aug. 1793, n.2), Rogers was required to give bail to appear at the next circuit court. Two cases resulted from the incident: the trial of Rogers, who was found guilty on 15 Oct., and a suit by the owners of the Success against her captors (in which the Massachusetts district attorney Christopher Gore represented the owners, and Rogers’s attorney the captors). The latter case, tried in the district court and then affirmed by the circuit court in mid-October, resulted in a judgment that returned the ship and fined the captors (Columbian Centinel [Boston], 6 and 10 Sept.; Mercury [Boston], 26–30 Sept., 17–21 Oct.; American Apollo [Boston], 16 Oct.; Massachusetts Spy: Or, The Worcester Gazette, 22 Oct.; Worcester Intelligencer: Or, Brookfield Advertiser, 28 Oct.). Randolph wrote Fauchet on 6 Nov. that GW had directed that a pardon be prepared for the pilot of the tender “if he should have appeared innocent,” but that a letter from the district attorney had altered that decision. The pardon was being withheld “in order that if any mistake has occurred in the suit, it may be rectified” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

3Randolph wrote British minister George Hammond on 23 Oct. to protest about a letter of British navy captain Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane which purportedly declared that American citizens taken on French privateers would be tried as pirates (see Randolph’s second letter to GW of 23 Oct., and n.5). Hammond replied on 26 Oct. that he had no knowledge of the letter, but that there must be an error because he had “the greatest reason to believe that” British officers “are directed—to treat as prisoners, such subjects or citizens of neutral powers, as may be found serving in French vessels of war, having legal commissions” and to consider “as pirates” only those serving on vessels without legal commissions. Hammond presumed that the American government would not attempt “to reclaim” those who fit the latter case (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation). Randolph transmitted a copy of Cochrane’s letter to Hammond on 28 Oct., and Hammond responded on 29 Oct. that—although Cochrane’s letter failed to “specify the privateers to which the prisoners confined on board of the Thetis had belonged”—Randolph could “rest assured that” the prisoners’ treatment would accord with the rules mentioned in his previous letter. He added that any trial of American citizens in a British court of admiralty “will be conducted with the strictest justice and impartiality” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

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