Cabinet Meetings. Proposals Concerning
the Conduct of the French Minister
[Philadelphia, August 1–23, 1793]
At meetings of the heads of departments & the Attorney General at the President’s on the 1st. & 2d. of Aug. 1793.1 On a review of the whole of mr Genet’s correspondence & conduct, it was unanimously agreed that a letter should be written to the Minister of the US. at Paris, stating the same to him, resuming the points of difference which had arisen between the government of the US. & mr Genet, assigning the reasons for the opinions of the former, & desiring the recall of the latter: and that this letter with those which have passed between mr Genet & the Secretary of state, & other necessary documents, shall be laid by mr Morris before the Executive of the French government.2
At a meeting of the same at the President’s Aug. 15 the rough draught of the 2d letter having been prepared by the Secretary of state was read for consideration, and it was agreed that the Secretary of the treasury should take measures for obtaining a vessel either by hire or purchase, to be sent to France express, with the dispatches when ready.3
At a meeting of the same at the President’s Aug. 20. the 2d: letter was read & corrected by paragraphs & finally agreed to.
At a meeting of the same at the President’s Aug. 23. it was agreed that the preceding letter should bear the date of the last document which is to accompany it, to wit, Aug. 16 & the draught of a second letter to our Minister at Paris was read & unanimously approved, & to bear date this day.4 Stated & signed this 23d. day of Aug. 1793.
DS, in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Df, in the handwriting of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
1. In the “Anas” Jefferson described the proceedings at the cabinet meeting on August 1 as follows: “Met at the President’s to consider what was to be done with Mr. Genet. All his correspondence with me was read over. The following proposns were made. 1. That a full statement of Mr. Genet’s conduct be made in a letter to G. Morris, & be sent with his correspondence, to be communicated to the Exec. Council of France, the letter to be so prepared as to serve for the form of communication to the council. Agreed unan. 2. That in that letter his recall be required. Agreed by all, tho’ I expressed a preference of expressing that desire with great delicacy, the others were for peremptory terms. 3. To send him off. This was proposed by Knox, but rejected by every other. 4. To write a letter to Mr. Genet, the same in substance with that written to G. M. and let him know we had applied for his recall. I was against this, because I thot it would render him extremely active in his plans, and endanger confusion. But I was overruled by the other three gent. & the Presidt. 5. That a publication of the whole correspondence, and statement of the proceedgs should be made by way of appeal to the people. Hamilton made a jury speech of ¾ of an hour as inflammatory & declamatory as if he had been speaking to a jury. E. R. opposed it. I chose to leave the contest between them. Adjourned to next day” (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , I, 252–53).
On August 2 the cabinet “Met again. Hamilton spoke again ¾ of an hour.” Jefferson opposed publishing the Government’s difficulties with the French Minister, but the President, according to Jefferson, was “manifestly inclined to the appeal to the people.” At this point Knox brought up the subject of a broadside, “The Funeral Dirge of George Washington and James Wilson, King and Judge,” attributed to Philip Freneau, and describing the death on the guillotine and the funeral of the President and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court James Wilson (Freeman, Washington description begins Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington (New York, 1948–1957). Volume VII of this series was written by John Alexander Carroll and Mary Wells Ashworth. description ends , VII, 113). “The Presidt was much inflamed, got into one of those passions when he cannot command himself, ran on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him, defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the govmt which was not done on the purest motives, that he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office, & that was every moment since, that by god he had rather be in his grave than in his present situation. That he had rather be on his farm than to be made emperor of the world and yet that they were charging him with wanting to be a king. That that rascal Freneau sent him 3 of his papers every day, as if he thought he would become the distributor of his papers, that he could see in this nothing but an impudent design to insult him. He ended in this high tone. There was a pause. Some difficulty in resumg our question—it was however after a little while presented again, & he said there seemed to be no necessity for deciding it now: the propsns before agreed on might be put into a train of execution, & perhaps events would show whether the appeal would be necessary or not …” (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1892–1899). description ends , I, 253–54).
3. In the margin opposite this paragraph in the draft H wrote and signed the following: “Approved. It does not appear necessary to be more particular with regard to the Express boat.” Under H’s signature Knox wrote: “Agreed to H Knox.”
4. Jefferson’s letter of August 23, 1793, to Gouverneur Morris was written as a covering letter for the official letter of August 16 to Morris requesting Genet’s recall. Jefferson instructed Morris to present the August 16 letter to the French Ministry, “doing every thing which can be done on your part, to procure it a friendly and dispassionate reception and consideration” (LS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).