Alexander Hamilton Papers

Conversation with George Beckwith, 12 August [1791]

Conversation with George Beckwith1

August 12th [1791]

An Officer at the Head of an Executive Department

Mr. —— Since I saw you, we have got Mr. Ternant, the minister pleniopotentiary from France; I have seen him for a few minutes only. You will find him a man of easy, pleasing manners, and very fit for the objects of his appointment. There has been a sort of alarm in France, and a degree of jealousy of your having lately turned your attention more towards this Country than formerly.2

From the nature of our government foreign affairs are totally in the department of the Secretary of State; we have no Cabinet, and the heads of Departments meet on very particular occasions only, therefore I am a stranger to any special views, that may be in the contemplation of the French government from the appointment of this Minister, but I think it probable, that a revision of their whole commercial condition with us may be in agitation, in the Hope of acquiring thereby some share in the trade and consumption of this country; he is a fit man in many respects for such purposes.

Monsieur de la Fayette has written several letters by Mr. Ternant;3 they contain his opinions of the state of France, and declare his expectation of a completion of the Revolution without a civil war.

Geo. Beckwith

D, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Records Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Series 4, Vol. 12, Part II.

1This document was enclosed in a letter Beckwith wrote to Lord Grenville, August 26, 1791.

Beckwith was the informal representative of the British government in the United States.

As Beckwith identified his informant as “An Officer at the Head of an Executive Department,” and as H held frequent conversations with Beckwith, it has been assumed that the remarks recorded by Beckwith were made by H.

2By England directing its “attention more towards this Country than formerly,” H is probably referring to the recent appointment of George Hammond as Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States.

3Among the letters sent by Lafayette was one to George Washington (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXI, 362). No letter from Lafayette to H has been found.

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