To George Washington
New York April 2d. 1796
I rejoice in the decision you have come to, in regard to the papers.3 Whatever may happen, it is right in itself—will elevate the character of the President—and inspire confidence abroad. The contrary would have encouraged a spirit of usurpation the bounds of which could not be foreseen.
If there is time, I should like to have back the paper lately sent to correct prune guard & strengthen.4 I have no copy. But of the expediency of this the circumstances on the Spot will decide. There is great fitness in the message to the House. I see only one point the least vulnerable, the too direct notice of the debate in the house—which may be attacked as contrary to parliamentary usage.5 I hear the criticism here among the L——s.6 But this cannot be very material.
Most respectfully & Affectny I have the honor to be Sir Yr very obed ser
The President of the UStates
ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. When this letter was written, George Washington Motier Lafayette, who had arrived in the United States in October, 1795, was living with his tutor, Felix Frestel, at Ramapo, New Jersey. On repeated occasions H and Washington had exchanged letters on the possibility of political repercussions if Washington were to entertain young Lafayette at Philadelphia. See H to Washington, October 16, 26, November 19, 26, December 24, 27–30, 1795, March 7, 1796; Washington to H, Washington to H, October 29, November 10, 18, 23, 28, December 22, 1795, February 13, 1796. On February 28, 1796, Washington wrote to Lafayette inviting him and his tutor to Philadelphia. See H to Washington, March 7, 1796, note 30. But the situation was then altered by a resolution which Edward Livingston of New York introduced in the House of Representatives on March 4, 1796. The resolution reads: “That a committee be appointed to inquire whether the son of Major General Lafayette be within the United States, and also whether any, and what, provision may be necessary for his support” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States: with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , V, 423). On March 10, before any action had been taken on this resolution, Livingston sent a copy of it to Lafayette and urged him to come to Philadelphia so “… that the legislature of America may no longer be in doubt wether the son of la Fayette is under their protection and within the reach of their gratitude” (copy, in the handwriting of Lafayette, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Lafayette replied to Livingston on March 28, 1796, with a polite letter (copy, in the handwriting of Lafayette, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). On the same day he wrote to Washington, enclosing copies of Livingston’s letter and the resolution and expressing his wish to do whatever Washington advised (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). On March 31, 1796, Washington replied and repeated his earlier invitation to Lafayette and his tutor to “proceed immediately to this City, and to my house; where a room is prepared for you & him” (ALS, letterpress copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).
5. In his message to the House on March 30, 1796, in response to the demand for papers relating to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty, Washington wrote: “The course which the debate has taken, on the resolution of the House, leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the Constitution of the United States” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).
6. This is a reference to the members of the Livingston family who were opponents of Washington’s administration. Edward Livingston had opened the House debate on the implementation of the Jay Treaty on March 2, 1796. See the introductory note to H to Washington, March 7, 1796.