George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Ternant, 22 September 1791

From Ternant

Philadelphia septr the 22d 1791


A most alarming insurrection of the negroes broke out on the 23d of last month in our Settlements of hispaniola: many devastations and massacres have already taken place, and more distressing ones are Still likely to follow, if the colony does not receive an immediate assistance1—a speedy supply of arms, ammunition and comestibles, being what it Stands most urgently in need of, and the means I can command at present, being unsufficient for the purchase of those objects, I found myself under the necessity of requesting the secretary of the threasury to put funds in my disposal to the amount of forty thousand dollars, to be accounted for in any future reimbursement of the United States to france2—I have al⟨so⟩ requested the secretary at war to let m⟨e⟩ have 1000 Stands, 50 thousand cartridg⟨es⟩ and 20 thousand weight of powder, ⟨to⟩ be either returned in nature, or account⟨ed⟩ for in the same manner with the funds advanced me from the feder⟨al⟩ threasury, as you may chose to determin⟨e⟩.3

I hope the extreme urgency of the case will excuse any irregular⟨ity⟩ in my applications, and that the President of the United States wi⟨ll⟩ not disapprove a measure which may rescue from imminent da⟨nger⟩, and perhaps from a total ruin, a⟨n⟩ important posession of their first and most attached ally.4 I am with great respect sir your most obedient very humble servant


as soon as I have been able to collect the details of this unfortunate event I shall have the honor of forwarding them to the President.5 no arrival from france, and no news from the Packet.

Translation, DNA: RG 59, Notes from the French Legation; LB, FrPMAE. The text of the French copy appears in CD-ROM:GW.

Jean-Baptiste, chevalier de Ternant, sent copies of his relevant correspondence with the administration to his superior, the comte de Montmorin, on 28 Sept.–2 Oct. and reported that he first addressed himself to the secretaries of war and treasury because the president and secretary of state were both in Virginia. Ternant wrote that Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton responded in a most satisfactory manner, proceeding to meet his needs with zeal and eagerness: Knox immediately dispatched a courier with orders to transfer the necessary arms and munitions from West Point to New York, and Hamilton put at France’s disposal the sum of $40,000. Ternant notified Montmorin that he also informed GW by letter of his proceedings with the department heads and that the president’s response consisted of all he had hoped (see Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 45–51, especially 48–49).

1For the slave uprising that broke out on 22–23 Aug. in northern Saint Domingue, see Samuel Wall to GW, 16 Sept., n.1.

2For the request of Ternant to the secretary of the treasury, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 22 Sept., n.1.

3For the request of Ternant to the secretary of war, see Henry Knox to GW, 22 Sept. (first letter), n.1.

5Ternant sent details of the uprising to GW on 24 September.

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