Edmund Randolph to Alexander Hamilton
and Henry Knox1
Philadelphia, July 2, 1794. “The Secretary of State has the honor of forwarding to the Secretaries of the Treasury and of War the opinion of the President, as to the answer to be returned to Mr. Hammond on the subject of compensation; and requests their judgment upon the kind of answer, which will best conform to the President’s views.”2
LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 7, June 27–November 30, 1794, National Archives.
1. For background to this letter, see “Opinion on Compensation for Captured Vessels,” June 22, 1794; H to George Washington, June 22, 1794.
2. Washington’s letter to Randolph, dated June 27, 1794, reads in part as follows: “I am not disposed, under my present view of the case, to inform Mr. Hammond, that our Envoy at the Court of London, shall be specially instructed on the point of compensation for british vessels, captur’d by French privateers, contrary to the rules which have been established by this Government; as the general powers of the sd. Envoy extend to and embrace this object. But would it be amiss to let him know informally & verbally, that Mr. Jay’s powers go to this, as well as to other cases.
“I well remember the precaution I used to prevent any further commitment of the Executive on this head, than a mere expression of his opinion as to the expediency of the measure. This having been complied with in the communication to Congress of the 5 of December, the matter had better remain, in my opinion, upon the ground it now stands, until things are a little more developed. In the mean time, some such written official answer as you have suggested (softened as it can well bear) might be given to Mr. Hammond.” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)
On July 2, 1794, Randolph wrote to Washington: “The expression on the opinion of the secretary of the treasury, to which you refer in your favor of the 27th. ultimo, appears to me to amount to this: that we have lost ground in not being able to give as strong proofs of our neutrality now, as we were some time ago. No doubt he alluded principally to the rejection of the clause, sent from the Senate to the house of representatives, for prohibiting the sale of prizes; and the general prediliction discovered by that house in favor of the French nation” (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 7, June 27–November 30, 1794, National Archives). See H to John Jay, June 4, 1794, note 4.
On July 28, 1794, Randolph wrote to George Hammond: “Your inquiry concerning compensation for certain illegal captures was submitted, as I had the honor of informing you, to the President of the United States. He retains the same opinion, which he has always entertained upon the subject, and called the attention of Congress to it, at their last session, it being their province to vote money. It has happened however, that a provision was omitted. He will therefore again impress upon them at the ensuing session his opinion, that Compensation is obligatory on the United States, and that adequate funds ought to be granted” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State. Vol. 7, June 27–November 30, 1794, National Archives; copy, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends [Great Britain], 5/5).
In a dispatch to Lord Grenville on August 3, 1794, Hammond wrote: “… Mr. Randolph’s letter … is an answer to a part of one from me,… and though it expresses an assurance of the President’s retaining his former opinion, relative to the vessels for which a compensation, ‘out of the funds of France,’ was formally promised, it defers the fulfillment of that promise to a very distant day” (ALS, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends [Great Britain], 5/5).