George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 1 February 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Feb. 1. 92.

Th: Jefferson sends to the President a letter he has received from mister Hammond, with the general sketch of an answer he had proposed to write to him. he will have the honour of seeing the President on the subject to-day.1

1The enclosure was the letter that British minister George Hammond wrote Jefferson on 30 Jan. 1792, explicitly denying that the British had provided assistance to the hostile Indians in the Northwest. Hammond wrote that he had “passed over in silent disregard many malevolent insinuations upon the subject of the Indian war, which have been repeatedly thrown out against my Country, in the public prints” since his arrival in the United States (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 23:90–91). Specifically, a congressman asserted in debate in the U.S. House of Representatives on 26 Jan. that the war could not be brought to a close as long as the British retained posts in the region, “for it is from those forts that they [the hostile Indians] obtain their supplies and ammunition” (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. 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. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 338). Hammond incorrectly believed that Andrew Brown, the editor of Philadelphia’s Federal Gazette and Daily Advertiser, in which that statement was printed on 30 Jan., was also a clerk in Jefferson’s employ in the State Department. In making his official denial Hammond referred Jefferson to Lord Dorchester’s speech of 15 Aug. 1791, informing the Indians that they would receive no military assistance from the British (see Knox to GW, 4 Oct. 1791, n.1). After examining Hammond’s letter GW instructed Lear to send Jefferson copies of Dorchester’s speech and the accompanying letter from George Beckwith to Alexander Hamilton. The president requested Jefferson to read them before meeting with him (see Lear to Jefferson, 1 Feb. 1792, DLC: Jefferson Papers). Although Lear’s note was dated 1 Feb., Jefferson endorsed it as being received on 31 Jan. 1792.

Jefferson’s official reply to Hammond, dated 2 Feb., stated that Hammond’s letter was “communicated to the President, and I am authorized to assure you, that he is duly sensible of this additional proof of the disposition of the court of London to confine the proceedings of their officers in our vicinage within the limits of friendship and good neighbourhood” (Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 23:97). In response to Hammond’s protest about the newspaper publication of the charge against the British, Jefferson commented: “You have seen too much, Sir, of the conduct of the press in countries where it is free, to consider the gazettes as evidence of the sentiments of any part of the government” (ibid.). For the government’s official view of the matter he referred Hammond to Knox’s recently published statement on the causes of the Indian war (see GW’s Preface to Henry Knox’s Statement on the Causes of the Indian War, c.25 Jan. 1792, editorial note).

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