George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Stephens Smith, 13 July 1791

To William Stephens Smith

Philadelphia July 13th 1791.


I have received since my return to this place the letter which you were so kind as to write on the 6. of June, and am now to make you my acknowledgements for the information it contained.1 Very soon after I came to the government I took measures for enquiring into the disposition of the british cabinet on the matters in question between us: and what you now communicate corresponds very exactly with the result of those enquiries.2 Their intention indeed to send a minister is more strongly indicated on this occasion as one of the Secretaries of State has come forward voluntarily to say so3—how far they may be disposed to settle the other points which are really interesting to us is still a subject of conjecture—in all events we are to thank you for the trouble you have taken, & the lights you have contributed to throw on this subject.

Having taken copies of the documents, which accompanied your letter I herewith return the originals.4 I am Sir, with great regard, Your most obedient servant5

G. Washington

LB, DLC:GW; Df (letterpress copy), in the hand of Thomas Jefferson, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers.

1William Stephens Smith left England immediately after meeting with British home secretary Lord Grenville and reached New York on 5 June. After writing his report of 6 June to GW, he traveled to Philadelphia to meet with Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Rufus King, and others who shared his pro-British sentiments, arriving on 12 June. He sent his father-in-law, John Adams, on 5 Aug. a copy of his report to GW, noting: “Mr Jay. Hamilton and King, were much pleased with the contents of it, But I believe The President Mr Jefferson & Mr Maddison would have rather I had stayed at home” (MHi: Adams Papers).

2The first part of this sentence is similar to the relevant part of GW’s message of 14 Feb. to Congress, which Jefferson had also drafted.

3For rumors of the appointment of a British minister to the United States, see Hamilton to GW, 11 April. George Hammond was not named to that post until September. He arrived in America the following month but did not immediately present his credentials. See George III to GW, 2 Sept. 1791.

4This sentence appears only in the letter-book copy.

5Upon receipt of this letter, Smith drafted an angry reply, which was not sent and has not been found. As Smith wrote to Adams on 5 Aug.: “Inclosed I send you the Presidents answer to that Letter, and my reply to it, but being advised by Colo. Hamilton to take no notice of it, but leave it to its own operation on the minds of the Government, I reluctantly withheld it, and only replyed, Thus ‘I have the honor, to acknowledge the receipt of the Presidents Letter of the 13th of July in answer to the Communications I thought it my duty to make on the 6th of June after my return from Europe’” (MHi: Adams Papers).

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