Circular to American Merchants, 27 August 1793

Circular to American Merchants


Complaint having been made to the Government of the United States of some instances of unjustifiable vexation and spoliation committed on our merchant vessels by the privateers of the Powers at War, and it being possible that other instances may have happened of which no information has been given to the Government, I have it in charge from the President to assure the merchants of the United States, concerned in foreign commerce or navigation, that due attention will be paid to any injuries they may suffer on the high seas, or in foreign countries, contrary to the law of Nations, or to existing treaties; and that on their forwarding hither well authenticated evidence of the same proper proceedings will be adopted for their relief: the just and friendly dispositions of the several belligerent Powers afford well founded expectation that they will not hesitate to take effectual measures for restraining their armed vessels from committing aggressions and vexations on our citizens or their property.

There being no particular portion or description of the mercantile body pointed out by the laws for receiving communications of this nature, I take the liberty of addressing it to the merchants of New-York for the State of New York1, and of requesting that thro’ them it may be made known to all those of their state whom it may concern. Information will be freely received either from the individuals aggrieved, or from any associations of merchants who will be pleased to take the trouble of giving it in a case so interesting to themselves and their country. I have the honor to be with great respect, Gentlemen, Your most obedt. servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC (CtY: Woolsey Family Papers); in a clerk's hand, signed by TJ. PrC to Charleston merchants (DLC); in a clerk's hand, with dateline and signature by TJ; at head of text in ink in the hand of George Taylor, Jr.: “copy this only once.” PrC to Savannah merchants (DLC); in a clerk's hand, with dateline and signature by TJ; at head of text in ink by Taylor: “Duplte.” PrC to Boston merchants (DLC: TJ Papers, 92: 15809); in a clerk's hand; undated and unsigned. PrC to Portsmouth merchants (same, 15807); in a clerk's hand; undated and unsigned. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); follows Charleston text; at head of text: “To—.” Enclosed in TJ's first letter to George Washington, 26 Aug. 1793. The following list identifies recipients of this circular and those to whom it was entrusted by the covering letters recorded below:

New Hampshire. Portsmouth. John Langdon.  
Massachusetts. Boston. Messrs. Russel Jones, Higgenson & Parsons Thos. Russel
Rhode Island. Providence. Messrs. Brown, Franks, Clarke, & Nightengale. John Brown
Connecticut. Hartford. Jeremiah Wadsworth.  
New York New York. The Chamber of commerce Constable
New Jersey. Elizabethtown. Laurence, Dayton & Co. & Wm. Shute. Mr. Laurence
Pennsylvania. Philadelphia. Nixon, Fitzsimmons, Wilcocks, Swanwick, Nesbitt, Crawford, Ball, Gurney, Vanuxem, Miller, Waln, Stewart, Ralston.  
Delaware. Wilmington. Jacob Broom  
Maryland. Baltimore Messrs. Mc.Henry Gilmer & Sterrett. Mr. Mc.Henry
Virginia. Richmond The mayor of the City of Richmond.  
North Carolina. Newbern. Messrs. Turner, Mc.Kinly, Sheppard, Mc.Carthy, Davis & Guion Mr. Turner mercht. Newbern N. Carolina
South Carolina. Charleston. The Chamber of commerce. delivd. to Mr. Butler
Georgia. Savannah. Messrs. Wayne, Cuningham, Mc.Readie & Hill do. to Mr. Butler

(PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 92: 15812, in a clerk's hand, undated; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). The covering letters were of two types. In those sent to individuals, one of which was dated 27 Aug. 1793, TJ wrote: “I take the liberty of putting under cover to you the inclosed letter, and of asking the communication of it according to its superscription” (RC in Ct, in a clerk's hand, signed and franked by TJ, and addressed by George Taylor, Jr.: “The Honorable Jeremiah Wadsworth Merchant Hartford Connecticut”; PrC of another RC in DLC: TJ Papers, 92: 15810, in a clerk's hand, undated and unsigned; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL, undated, addressed “To ——”). In those sent to groups TJ wrote: “I take the liberty of requesting you to communicate the inclosed to the merchants of ” (PrC in DLC: TJ Papers, 92: 15811, in a clerk's hand, undated and unsigned; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL, undated, addressed “To ——”)

  1. Relevant city and state substituted in other texts.