PAINE, Thomas (1737-1809) Pamphleteer, American Patriot. Autograph letter signed (Thomas Paine") to an unidentified French magistrate ("Citizen Director"), n.p., n.d. [Fall 1803 - Spring 1804].
2½ pages, 4to, untrimmed, with deckle edges intact, very slight spotting.
PAINE ATTEMPTS TO AID AN AMERICAN CAPTAIN "WHO CARRIED MY LETTER...TO EX-PRESIDENT WASHINGTON, ON THE SUBJECT OF [JAY'S] TREATY..."
Paine tries to help Captain Nathan Hayley, an American who had performed services for Paine during his years in France. Hayley--originally from Stonington, Connectiut--operated as a privateer in his vessel, the Brutus and had recently intercepted a British vessel and seized its cargo. On landing in Dieppe, perhaps without proper papers, he had been arrested and imprisoned as a smuggler. Here, Paine persuasively testifies to Hayley's strong anti-British sentiments (he had been mistreated while a prisoner during the Revolutionary War) and attests to Hayley's unqualified republican principles. "...It is at the request of several friends" Paine writes, "that I trouble you...with respect to the Case of a prize Cargo in which Captain Hayley is concerned. It was condemned at Dieppe as a Prize to the Republic as if it had been a smuggled cargo and the report was made to you in that manner whilst you were Minister of Justice. The appeal is now depending...."
"I enter not into the Case whether it was right or wrong in Hayley to make a prize of the Cargo by the stratagem he employed. He had been cruelly treated by the British whilst he was their prisoner in the American Revolution, and, as I am informed, has been cheated by the London insurancers, and besides the British made no ceremony of seizing American vessels. I admit the supposition that under a sense of such injuries he may have sought to redress himself by an act which though it appears right to him may not appear in the same light to others. I know that his resentment against the British and the British Party in America are high. It was Hayley who carried my letter addressed to the ex-president Washington, on the subject of the British [Jay's] Treaty, to be printed...From every thing that I know of the case and of the political sentiments of Hayley, who has been uniformly attached to the French Revolution, and has been engaged in several broils with the English Party in America in supporting it, the cargo in question is not a smuggled cargo. The Capture was a stratagem, and the tribunal...has mistaken the stratagem for smuggling."
Paine, at this date living in New York, specifically refers to one of his most controversial writings, his famous public letter to George Washington of 30 July 1796, written after his release from a French prison. Paine, who had narrowly escaped the guillotine during the Terror, bitterly indicted Washington for neglecting to help seek his release ("treacherous in friendship" were his exact words). The author of Common Sense went on to excoriate Washington for military incompetence during the Revolution and mismanagement of the government. He attacked Jay's Treaty (viewing it as a concession to Britain and an undeniable affront to France). By highlighting here the "British Treaty" portion of his public diatribe against Washington, Paine is deliberately playing to the French magistrate.