From Timothy Pickering
Philadelphia March 30. 1797.
I believe I mentioned in my last,1 that I was going to sketch a state of facts relative to Mr. Pinckney’s mission for publication. I now inclose it. That the facts should be known to our citizens was deemed important. I thought it highly important that the Representatives should come together2 impressed with the sentiments of their constituents on the reprehensible conduct of the French Government, which made loud complaints of wrongs, but refused to hear our answer, or to enter on any discussion of the subjects of complaint, by refusing to acknowledge a special minister, sent from the U.S. for the direct purpose of making explanations; and that demanded of conscious innocence a confession of offences and redress of injuries never committed, as the preliminary of receiving our minister. The abominable depredations on our commerce—their unfounded complaints—their preposterous refusal to hear our answer—and the indignities offered to our ambassador, combined, and fully known to the people of the U.S. it might be fairly hoped would so powerfully operate in removing their ill founded and ill requited attachments to France, and even excite such a spirit of just resentment & pride, as would effectually controul certain men who have seemed willing to chain us to that republic & make us lick the feet of her violent and unprincipled rulers.
The statement of facts being prepared, I expected to hand it yesterday to Mr. Fenno3 for publication: but some scruples arose about its expediency. The facts are carefully extracted from General Pinckney’s letters of December 20,4 & January 6.5 The objections were, that, it might be deemed irritating—that it would be deemed an official publication, tho’ anonymous—that such manifestly official publications have not heretofore been made, except to Congress, and that at their approaching session the letters themselves will be laid before both Houses. That America will expect the Executive to use every means of cultivating peace, and to hazard nothing which can be construed into a tendency to provoke a war. But the same objections, substantially, were made by our French-American patriots to my letter to General Pinckney,6 tho’ written with extreme moderation, & containing answers and explanations to complaints which the French minister himself had the impudence to address to the Citizens of the U.S.7 whom those patriots would gladly continue to keep in the dark; and in short, prostrate by an unconditional submission at the feet of the most ambitious and horrible tyrants that ever cursed the earth.
The publication being thus suspended, I inclose the statement for your information. You need not return it, as I have a fair copy. I need not have been so minute in the detail: but the substance of the facts I still think ought to be published, and without delay; and in such form as to bear evident marks of authenticity, without which they will not gain universal belief, & therefore fail of the impression which I wished to have had produced by the publication. If you can drop me a line expressing your opinion on the matter, I shall be much obliged.
I am with sincere respect Dr Sir Your obt. servt
Alexr. Hamilton Esq
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
2. On March 25, 1797, President John Adams issued a proclamation convening Congress on May 15 (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 , VII, 49).
3. John Fenno was editor of the Gazette of the United States, & Philadelphia Daily Advertiser.
4. LC, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to France, 1789–1869, Vol. 5, November 17, 1796-September 24, 1797, National Archives. This letter is printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, II, 5–8, where it is mistakenly dated December 10, 1796.
5. LC, RG 59, Despatches from United States Ministers to France, 1789–1869, Vol. 5, November 17, 1796-September 24, 1797, National Archives. An extract of this letter is printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, II, 9–10.
6. Pickering to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, January 16, 1797 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 3, June 5, 1795-January 21, 1797, National Archives). See also George Washington to H, January 22, 1797; H to Washington, January 19, 25–31, 1797; H to Pickering, February 6, 1797; Rufus King to H, March 8, 1797, note 9.
7. This is a reference to letters of protest which Pierre Auguste Adet sent to Pickering on October 27 and November 15, 1796 (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, 576–77, 579–83). These letters were then printed in several newspapers. See, for example, Claypoole’s [Philadelphia] American Daily Advertiser, November 1, 28, 1796. See also Washington to H, November 2, 3, 21, 1796, January 22, 1797; H to Washington, November 4, 5, 11, 19, 1796, January 19, 25–31, 1797; H to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., November 1, 1796; Wolcott to H, November 17, 1796.