The Secretary of the Treasury upon two Letters from the Minister plenipotentiary of France to the Secy. of State severally bearing date the 11. & 14 of November inst.4 respectfully reports to the President of the United States as follows.
1. The object of these Letters is to procure an engagement that the bills which the Minister may draw upon the sums, which according to the terms of the Contracts respecting the French debt would fall due in the years 1794 and 1795, shall be accepted on the part of the United States, payable at the periods stipulated for the payment of those sums respectively.
The following considerations are submitted as militating against the proposed arrangement.
1. According to the view entertained at the Treasury of the situation of the account between France and the UStates, adjusting equitably the question of depreciation, there have already been anticipated payments to France equal or nearly equal to the sums falling due in the course of the year 1794.
II. The provision by law for discharging the principal of the French debt contemplates only loans.5 Of those, which have been hitherto made, the sum unexpended is not more than commensurate with a payment which is to be made on the first of June next upon account of the Capital of the Dutch Debt.6 It is possible that a fund for this payment may be derived from another loan; but it is known to the President that from advices recently received full reliance cannot be placed on this resource; owing to the influence of the present state of European Affairs upon the measures of the UStates for borrowing.7 It need not be observed that a failure in making the payment referred to would be ruinous to the credit of the UStates.
The acceptance of the bills of the Minister of France would virtually pledge the only fund, of which there is at present a certainty, for accomplishing that payment. And as this is a matter of strict obligation, directly affecting the public credit, it would not appear adviseable to engage that fund for a different object, which if the ideas of the Treasury are right, with regard to the state of our account with France, does not stand upon a similar footing.
It would be manifestly unsafe to presume upon contingencies, or to enter into engagements to be executed at distant periods when the means of execution are uncertain.
But as there appears to be a difference of opinion between the Minister of France and the Treasury with regard to the state of the account between the two countries, it is necessary that something on this head should be ascertained. With this view the Secretary of the Treasury will proceed without delay to take arrangements for the adjustment of the account.
Secy of the Treasy.
Novemr. 23. 1793.
3. LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives; letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Arch. des Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., Etats-Unis description begins Transcripts or photostats from the French Foreign Office deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Supplement Vol. 20; copy, Arch. des Aff. Etr., Corr. Pol., Etats-Unis description begins Transcripts or photostats from the French Foreign Office deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Vol. 33.
4. On November 11, 1793, Genet wrote to Jefferson: “The funds which were at the disposition of the French republic for the year 1793 being exhausted by the colonial bills drawn on them; by the considerable expense which the continuance of the vessels of the republic in the ports of the United States occasions; by the succor which I have given to the refugees from the Cape, the supplies of all kinds which I have sent into the French colonies in America; in fine, the divers expenses of the legation and of the administration confided to me; I request the favor of you to make known to the President of the United States, that I am forced, in order to face our engagements, and to relieve our most pressing necessities, to draw on the sums which will become due to France, in the years 1794 and 1795, until Congress shall have taken into consideration the mode of reimbursement which I have been instructed to propose to the Federal Government; our contractors will be content with these assignments, provided they are accepted by the treasury of the United States, to be paid when they become due” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 185).
On November 14 Genet again wrote to Jefferson and repeated the request that he had made in his letter of November 11 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 185–86).
5. See “An Act making provision for the (payment of the) Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 138–44 [August 4, 1790]).
6. This is a reference to the payment due on the principal of the 1782 Holland loan. For a description of this loan, see Willink, Van Staphorst, and Hubbard to H, January 25, 1790, note 15.