Thomas Jefferson to Edmond Charles Genet, 30 November 1793

To Edmond Charles Genet


I have laid before the President of the US. your letter of Nov. 25. and have now the honor to inform you that most of it's objects being beyond the powers of the Executive, they can only2 manifest their3 dispositions4 by acting on those5 which are within their powers. Instructions are accordingly sent to the district attornies of the US. residing within States wherein French Consuls are established, requiring them to inform6 the Consuls of the nature of the provisions made by the laws for preventing7 as well as punishing injuries to their persons, and to advise and assist them in calling these provisions into activity whenever the occasions for them shall arise.

It is not permitted by the law to8 prohibit the departure of the Emigrants to St. Domingo, according to the wish you now express9 any more than it was to force them away according to that expressed by you in a former letter. Our Country is open to all men to come and go peaceably when they chuse; and your letter does not mention that these emigrants meant to depart, armed and equipped for war. Lest, however, this should be attempted, the Governors of the States of Pennsylvania and Maryland, are requested to have particular attention paid to the vessels named in your letter and to see that no military expedition be covered or permitted10 under11 colour of the right which the passengers have to depart from these States.

Provisions not being classed among the Articles of Contraband in time of war, it is possible that American vessels may have carried them to the ports of Jeremie and la Mole, as they do to other Dominions of the belligerent powers: but if they have carried arms also, these, as being contraband, might certainly have been stopped and confiscated. In the letter of may 15. to Mr. Ternant, I mentioned, that in answer to the complaints of the British Minister,12 against the exportation of arms from the U.S.13 it had been observed that the manufacture of arms was the occupation and livelihood of some of our Citizens; that it ought not to be expected14 that a war among other nations should produce such an internal derangement of the occupations of a nation at peace, as the suppression of a manufacture which is the support of some of its citizens: but that if they should export these arms to nations at war, they would be abandoned to the seizure and15 confiscation16 which the Law of nations authorized to be made of them on the high Seas. This letter was handed to you, and you were pleased in your's of may 27. expressly to approve of the answer which had been given. On this occasion therefore we have only to declare that the same conduct will be observed which was announced on that.

The proposition to permit all our vessels destined for any port in the french West India islands to be stopped unless furnished with passports from yourself, is so far beyond the powers of the Executive, that it will be unnecessary to enumerate the objections to which it would be17 liable. I have the honor to be, with great respect Sir, Your mo. obedient and Most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., and partly overwritten in ink by him, signed by TJ; at foot of first page: “Mr. Genet.” Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ's hand; altered date and other significant emendations are recorded below; endorsed by Taylor. Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL). Printed in Message , 101.

  1. Month and day interlined in place of “Dec. 1.” in Dft.
  2. In Dft TJ here canceled “shew their desire of.”
  3. In Dft TJ here canceled “good.”
  4. Remainder of sentence interlined in Dft in place of “towards the French nation by going as far as the laws permit.”
  5. In Dft TJ here canceled “wherein the laws.”
  6. Word interlined in Dft in place of “advise.”
  7. In Dft TJ here canceled “the protection.”
  8. In Dft TJ here canceled “prevent.”
  9. In Dft TJ first wrote the sentence to this point as “The departure of the Emigrants to St. Domingo, which you wish to have prevented is not permitted by law” and then altered it to read as above.
  10. Preceding two words interlined in Dft.
  11. In Dft TJ here canceled “the pretext of a peaceable.”
  12. This and the preceding clause interlined in Dft in place of “informing him that the British Min. had made representations.”
  13. In Dft TJ here canceled “we informed him that” and above it interlined “I mentioned to.”
  14. Preceding six words interlined in Dft in place of “we could not consent.”
  15. Preceding two words written in the margin of Dft.
  16. Remainder of sentence interlined in Dft in place of “and seisure which might happen to them on the sea.”
  17. Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “is.”