From Rufus King
London June 6. 1798
My Dear Sir
We have certain intelligence that the Toulon expedition has sailed.1 The number of Troops, of Transports, and of men of war are variously stated, but it is known that Buona parte commands and that the fleet is a very great one—its Destination is the subject of inquietude and of conjecture. A few Days will bring us more perfect accounts, and from the Force and Position of the Br. fleet under Ld. St. Vincents the public are in daily, not to say hourly expectation of hearing that he has discovered and destroyed this boasted Armada.2
If Ireland is the object, the Insurrection has been ill judged and premature—in almost every instance the insurgents have been dispersed and killed, and the quarter round Dublin is now nearly restored to the Kings Peace.3 Still however if a moderate french force with a supply of Arms could now be thrown into Ireland, the issue wd. be dubious, so deep and general is the Defection. Great Britain is unquestionably in a better and more secure, as well as more united state than she has been since the commencement of the war. With her the question with france is at issue; and so far as regards Europe upon her alone must it essentially depend, for upon the continent french principles & french Influence seem still to extend themselves in every Direction. Tho it is more than a fortnight since the Publication of the Instructions & Dispatches of our Envoys must have been received at Paris4 neither their Papers, nor Letters from France take any notice of them. Gerry is still there, but about to return home, and if I mistake not will be the bearer of a soothing and treacherous Message from the Directory.5 Be upon your Guard; france will not declare war agt us; no her policy will be to pursue with us the same course she already has done, and which has served her purpose in Italy and among the honest but devoted and ruined Swiss.6
I will say if after all that ⟨has occured⟩7 among ourselves, and in other Countries, we are content ⟨to⟩ be duped, and cajoled, and betrayed, we shall deserve the fate which they are preparing for us.
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, New-York Historical Society, New York City.
1. Napoleon sailed from Toulon with thirty-five thousand men on May 19, 1798. He took Malta on June 12, landed in Egypt on July 1, and occupied Alexandria the following day.
2. The English at first thought that Ireland was the objective of the French expedition. On May 2, 1798, Admiral Sir John Jervis, earl of St. Vincent, who was commanding the English fleet blockading Cadiz, sent Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson with a few ships to ascertain the nature of the French plans. After the French had sailed from Toulon, St. Vincent dispatched Nelson with a large squadron with orders to follow and destroy the Toulon fleet.
3. In 1791 Wolfe Tone had founded the society of “United Irishmen,” which enlisted the support of both Protestants and Catholics in Ireland and which became the principal organization in Ireland opposed to British rule. The outbreak of war between France and England in 1793 increased Irish hopes of independence, and the French on more than one occasion sent expeditions—all of them unsuccessful—to Ireland. In the spring of 1798 the Irish, like the English, thought Ireland was the objective of the Toulon expedition. Anticipating the arrival of the French fleet, the Irish rebels took up arms in May, 1798. Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful, and on June 21, 1798, they were defeated at Vinegar Hill.
4. For Congress’s decision to print the dispatches concerning the XYZ affair from the United States envoys to France, see 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, 536–37; VIII, 1377–80. See also Timothy Pickering to H, April 9, 1798, note 1.
5. At the request of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elbridge Gerry remained in France after his fellow envoys, John Marshall and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, had left the French capital (Gerry to Pickering, October 1, 1798 [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, 204–08]). Marshall sailed for the United States on April 24, 1798. Pinckney, who remained in France because of his daughter’s illness, moved to the south of France. See King to H, May 12, 1798, note 1. On June 25, 1798, Secretary of State Pickering ordered Gerry to return to the United States (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, 204); Gerry arrived in the United States on October 1, 1798 (Gerry to Pickering, October 1, 1798 [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, 204–08]).