Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Gouverneur Morris, 6 April 1792

From Gouverneur Morris

London 6 April 1792

Dear Sir

I had the Honor to receive (this morning) your favor of the twenty third of January with its Enclosures, excepting the Cypher which seems accidentally to have been omitted in making up your Dispatches, or perhaps it has been put by Mistake in the Letter directed to Mr. Short which at Mr. Johnsons Request I have taken Charge of. I shall deliver it as speedily as may be, intending to make my Arrangements for leaving this City as soon as the present Hollidays are over.

Nothing can be more just than your Observations respecting the Propriety of preserving Silence as to the Government of France; and they are peculiarly applicable to the present state of Things in that Country. Changes are now so frequent, and Events seem fast ripening to such awful Catastrophe, that no Expressions on the Subject, however moderate, would be received with Indifference.

Feeling with you the Importance of our commercial Connections I shall of Course bend all my Attention to establish and extend them. Permit me to entreat, my dear Sir, that you will send me all the Informations which can be collected on the Subject. If at the same Time you could favor me with the particular Points which it is desired to carry I shall feel myself more at Ease than in a general Pursuit which may perhaps be directed to Objects less important than I may suppose them.

I thank you for the accurate Statement you have been so kind as to make respecting my Salary &ca. and you may rely that I shall exactly conform to your Wishes on that Head. And I take this opportunity to say that you will never receive from me any Observations respecting the Amount. If it proves insufficient I will supply the Want from my own Funds, as far as they will permit, and the Ballance must be made up by Retrenchment.

As you have yourself ran thro the Career which I am now about to commence you know much better than I do the Importance of early Information and therefore I feel more Confidence in acting under you than I should in any other Situation. If you would kindly afford me your good Counsel it would confer a great Obligation. Pardon me I pray you one Observation. The Distance of America is such that probable Events are almost of equal Importance with those which have actually happened because Measures must be squared in some Degree to the one as much as to the other. You will from hence infer my Desire to know on some Subjects the best Opinion which can be form’d, and I am sure I cannot better address myself for that Purpose than to you.

FC (DLC: Morris Papers); in Morris’ hand. Recorded in SJL as received 13 June 1792.


In reality, the new American minister to France was unwilling to confide in TJ to the same extent that he expected the Secretary of State to confide in him. In a letter written to Washington this day, Morris reminded the President that in the past he had “communicated to you many Things which I should not willingly entrust to others” and asked if in the future he could withhold from the Secretary of State certain information that in his judgment the President alone should know, pointedly observing that “I cannot have the same unreserved Confidence in others that I have in you.” In the same letter, moreover, he stated that he had just been credibly informed by a member of the Pitt administration that the United States had asked for British mediation in the war with the Western Indians-a significant, though erroneous, report he saw fit to conceal from TJ (Morris to Washington, 6 Apr. 1792, DLC: Washington Papers). Washington advised Morris to keep TJ informed of most “things of a public nature” concerning his ministry to France, but authorized him to report to the President alone “other matters, more remote in their consequences, of the utmost importance to be known that not more than one intermediate person would be entrusted with” (Washington to Morris, 21 June 1792, Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, 1931-44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxii, 63–4). Morris undoubtedly wished to maintain a confidential line of communication with Washington because he realized that his own views of the French Revolution were irreconcilably opposed to those of TJ.

Shortly before receiving official notification of his confirmation by the Senate, Morris initiated a confidential correspondence with another member of the executive branch of government who was more sympathetic to his views on foreign policy than TJ. He asked Hamilton “to favor me with your Correspondence and to give me Information, which otherwise I may not obtain,” offering in return “to apprize you of what is doing on this Side of the Water confidentially which I will not do to every body” (Morris to Hamilton, 21 Mch. 1792, Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , xi, 162). The Secretary of the Treasury promptly accepted Morris’ offer (Hamilton to Morris, 22 June 1792, same, p. 545–6).

Index Entries