U.S. Consul Skipwith – Letter regarding Prisoner

U.S. Consul Skipwith

In 1799, the U.S. Consul General in France, who would later assume the role of Governor in the briefly existing Republic of West Florida, penned a letter to the French Minister of Maritime Affairs. This letter sought the liberation of a passenger who had been seized as a captive from an American vessel during its seizure by privateers.

This letter spans two pages and has dimensions of 7½” x 12½”. It is composed in the French language and appears on official stationery bearing the heading “Le Consul General des Etats-Unis de L’Amerique.” The letter is dated as “Paris Ventose 23 an 7” (March 13, 1799) and is endorsed with the signature of Fulwar Skipwith on the back.

Translation U.S. Consul Skipwith

“In your letter dated the 24th of this month, you apprised me that an individual named John Lennon, who is one of my correspondents, had been turned over to your custody. He was a passenger aboard the American vessel Patapsco and possessed documents that, in my understanding, should qualify him as an American citizen. This, in turn, would enable me to request the necessary passport for his journey to Hamburg. U.S. Consul Skipwith

Enclosed, I am forwarding a fresh petition to Mr. Lennon and kindly ask you to incorporate it with the other pertinent documents, subsequently informing me of your decision. Additionally, you will find a notarized certificate from Dieppe confirming Mr. John Lennon’s inclusion on the Patapsco’s passenger manifest.

I had presumed that, being a mere traveler under the protection of American authority, Mr. Lennon should not be subject to detention or hindered in his ability to depart or tend to his business affairs. I respectfully request that you consider my viewpoint in this matter.”

U.S. Consul Skipwith, Letter, Paris 1799
U.S. Consul Skipwith, Letter, Paris 1799


was ultimately released, though Skipwith’s letter was somewhat less forthright. Lennon had previously served as an officer in the British Navy during the American Revolution and had recently captained the Marque schooner, Favorite. Subsequently, during the War of 1812, he successfully guided four merchant vessels, carrying cargo worth half a million pounds, through an American blockade near St. Thomas.

Fulwar Skipwith U.S. Consul Skipwith

departed the College of William and Mary to join the American Revolutionary War, and subsequently, he held the position of a U.S. Consul in the West Indies. During the period when this letter was composed, he held the role of U.S. Consul General in France. In 1803, he played a pivotal role in assisting Robert Livingston in the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, contributing to the successful transfer of those 828,000 square miles to the United States.

Later, Skipwith relocated to Baton Rouge and actively participated in the victorious rebellion against Spanish rule in Florida. Following this rebellion, he assumed the role of the inaugural Governor of the short-lived independent Republic of West Florida until its occupation by the U.S. Army on December 10, 1810. Sold for $1400.