George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Peter Carpantier, c.19–21 December 1794

From Charles Peter Carpantier

[c.19–21 Dec. 1794]1

May it please your Excellency

Charles peter Carpentier takes the Liberty to lay under your Excellency’s perusal 1° the petition of Messrs Munnikhuysen & Saddler to juge paca.2 2° the decision of his honour the Secretary of the treasury Concerning some difficulties arised between them and the Collector of Baltimore3 in which your petitioner is wholy concerned throu’ the medium of Said Munnikhuysen & Saddler agreably to the Law a Security of Six thousand dollars was given by them to the officers of the Custom’s which bond was warranted to them by your petitionner. by the perusal of the two peices of writing herewith annexed, your Excellency will be informed of the motives which gave rise to those difficulties. your petitioner dares to Expect from the Justice his Cause, the Equity and humanity of your Excellency you will be pleased to discharge Munnikhuysen and Saddler of their Bond,4 the Secretary of the treasury not thinking it to be within the limits of his power So to do, what will enable your petitioner to Enjoy a Little property by them detained on that account, the only remains of a fortune left to him to Support himself in a Strange Country. and your petitioner as in duty bound will pray


ALS, DNA: RG 59, entry 103, Undated Miscellaneous Letters.

1This undated letter evidently was written after Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s decision of 18 Dec. and before Attorney General William Bradford’s opinion of 22 December.

2The Baltimore mercantile firm Munnikhuysen & Sadler, a partnership of John Munnikhuysen (d. 1805) and Thomas Sadler (c.1721–1801), traded at least from 1792 to 1798. A copy of their petition of 12 Sept. to District Judge William Paca, certified as a true copy on 18 Dec. by Treasury clerk Edward Jones, is in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The merchants were owners of the schooner Martha, which had sailed from Baltimore in May carrying French refugees to Hispaniola. Finding conditions worse than expected, the refugees decided to return to the United States, and passage also was given to some of their friends from the island “whose Political principles endanger’d their liberty.” Some property brought with the new passengers violated the embargo and made the ship subject to penalties. As evidence that there was no intent to violate the law, the petitioners pointed out that, as the embargo was near expiration, a mere two days’ wait before sailing would have removed its restrictions and that the amount of freight brought in was “inconsiderable” in value. They asked to be “released from the pains & Penalties” incurred. Paca’s note of 12 Sept. also was copied: “Upon inquiring into the facts stated in the within Petition I find them to be true.”

3Under the authority granted by “An Act to provide for mitigating or remitting the forfeitures and penalties accruing under the revenue laws, in certain cases therein mentioned,” of 26 May 1790, which allowed mitigation or remission in cases “without wilful negligence or any intention of fraud” (1 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 122–23), Hamilton decided to “remit to the said Munnikhuysen & Sadler all the right claim & demand of the United States and of all others whomsoever to the said penaltys and forfeitures they … first paying the duties, Costs & Charges attending the proceedings” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

4GW evidently referred this case to Attorney General Bradford through Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. Bradford reviewed the papers and wrote a brief note, dated 22 Dec., under Paca’s statement: “I am of opinion that the penalty incurred by the petitioners may be remitted & the offence pardoned by the President of the United States.”

On 23 Dec., Randolph sent to GW “the opinion of the attorney general in favor of his power to pardon the violation of a bond, given for a passport during the embargo” (AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State).

On 24 Dec., GW issued a pardon, as the penalty was “incurred without fraud, or improper views … but in consequence of certain acts of benevolence and humanity” (LB, DNA: RG 59, Copies of Presidential Pardons and Remissions, 1794–1893; copy, DNA: RG 59, entry 690, Petitions for Pardon, 1789–1869). Hamilton conveyed that decision to the new Baltimore collector, Robert Purviance, in a letter of 27 Dec. (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:567).

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