George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 31 January 1795

From Alexander Hamilton

Treasury Department January 31. 1795.


I have the honor to send you the copy of a Letter of the 27 instant from the Collector of Philadelphia—of another letter of the 30 ultimo from that officer to the Atty of the District of Pennsylvania, and of a deposition of Charles Hemes taken before Judge Peters.1

These documents establish an improper attempt of Mr Petri the French Consul to evade a Law of the United States, and allow a suspicion of the privity of a higher official character. It is impossible to avoid the reflection that there is too much connexion between the affair of the Powder, and the unlawful equipment of the privateer Les Jumeaux.2

I fear that Agents of France have not ceased to countenance proceedings which not only contravene our neutrallity but may prove a source of very serious expense to the United States. With perfect respect, I have the honor to be &c.

Alexandr Hamilton


1The letters from Sharp Delany to Hamilton of 27 Jan. 1795 and to William Rawle of 30 Dec. 1794 and the deposition of Charles Hemes have not been identified. The letter to Rawle was undoubtedly a response to Hamilton’s request that Delany communicate to Rawle information about the fitting out of privateers (see Hamilton to Rawle, 28 Dec. 1794, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:570–71), while the letter to Hamilton was a response to Hamilton’s request that Delany send “a particular Statement in writing of all the circumstances … attending the fitting out & Sailing of Three Vessels which have been armed in this Port in whole or in part as Cruisers in the service of France” (Hamilton to Delany, 20 Jan. 1795, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 18:157). Secretary of State Edmund Randolph sent copies of the two letters to British minister George Hammond on 2 Jan. 1795, as documents “respecting the privateer Gemeaux” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

2Hamilton was referring to “An Act in addition to the act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” 5 June 1794, sections of which concerned “the furnishing, fitting out or arming of any ship or vessel with intent that such ship or vessel shall be employed in the service of any foreign prince or state to cruise or commit hostilities upon the subjects, citizens or property of another foreign prince or state with whom the United States are at peace” (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 381–84).

The “affair of the Powder” evidently was a reference to the case of the Amiable Gentil, for which, see Edmund Randolph’s second letter to GW of 2 July 1794, and n.2.

Les Jumeaux, a merchant vessel, left Philadelphia in mid-December. However, before it had left the river, accusations surfaced that it had been illegally equipped, and Delaware militia attempted to stop the ship but failed. Subsequently the vessel was renamed Le Cassius and sailed as a French privateer. On its return to Philadelphia in August 1795, the owner of a vessel seized by Le Cassius instituted court proceedings that became a source of tension between the U.S. and French governments. In addition, in May 1795 Jeanne Etienne Guinet and John Baptist Le Maitre were convicted in U.S. circuit court for illegally fitting out the vessel (The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 17 Dec. 1794; Aurora General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 3 Jan. 1795; Timothy Pickering’s circular of 6 Jan. 1795 in Pickering to Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., 7 Jan. 1795, n.2; ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Foreign Relations, 1:564–65, 586–88, 629–39; U.S. v. Guenet et al., 1795, DNA: RG 21, Criminal Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1791–1840; Dunlap and Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 29 May 1795; Francis Wharton, State Trials of the United States during the Administrations of Washington and Adams … [Philadelphia, 1849], 93–101).

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