George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edward Newenham, 29 September 1792

From Edward Newenham

[Ireland] 29 Sepr 1792.

My Dear Sir

A Ship having announced her Departure in two or three Days, I have sent to Dublin to muster up Some of the Last Papers, as Every hour is pregnant with Important News.

Knowing those Virtuous Principles that adorn your Character, & which Justly render you the First Character of the Age, I venture to give my opinion—I was a Zealous & ostensible Supporter of the Revolution in France as settled in 1789, but that of the 10th of August, appears to me, as the most dreadfull Scene of Murder, Anarchy & Confusion, that Ever occurred in the annals of Ancient or Modern History—our Noble & Virtuous Freind Marquiss de La Fayette, has acted a Noble Part—if possible, he has Added to his Fame; I think, the Prussian & Austrian Generals, had no right to withhold him, as he travelld as a Stranger, & not as Deserter or an Emigrant—The Cheifs of the Reigning Power in France have amassed Vast fortunes, as they have purloind the Revenues—the amount of the Church Plate—the rent of the Absentees, the Profits of the Royal Forests—& the best Part of the forfeitures1—My fourth son, whom you will probably be acquainted with, has just arrived here; he was Captain in the National Guards untill the 10th of August; he left Marsailles on the 11th; bought a Coach, & Luckily arrived Safe here,2 as the Mob were so furious, that it was Expected Every Englishman would be Massacred, for Reports were Spread that the English Fleet were saild to attack Brist3—these Kinds of reports are dayly Spread, as serving to Inflame & Keep alive the fury of the Mob & not leave them a moment for Recollections.

I fear this Ship will sail before we get the Papers of the 11th from Paris; we have now 5 Pacquets, to the 16th Instant due, & I think, when they arrive, that we must have some very Important News; If the whole of what is stated (350000) to Compose the ⟨d⟩ifferent Armies of France, is Collected & armed, an Enthusiastic Spirit may give them a Victory over the Combind Royal Armies, which are not more than 122000 Effective Men—it is thought, that the Russians will soon arrive to join them, & that the Kings of Spain & Sardinia will not any longer preserve a Neutrality.4

The Papists here, are Exerting Every Nerve to obtain the Elective Franchise—they are upwards of 3 & ½ to 1, & consequently if they obtain the Elective Franchise, they will return Every County Member, & also the Representatives for all Free Cities & open Boroughs, consequently the Elective Franchise would be useless to the Protestants—they have committed a most Barbarous Murder on a Protestant Farmer for declaring his sentiments; & I fear, that in the Course of next Session of Parliament, the Metropolis will Experience dreadfull Convulsions unless the Protestants take some strong & Decisive Measures to protect themselves—In America they are so few, that they cannot Change your Constitution or Interrupt your Happiness—I assure you, we go to Bed with fears of a Nightly rising, not a Protestant, but what is Doubly Armed—they have so Contrived Matters, that our Popish Servants report Every word that passes at our Table to their Committees.5

This moment I recived the Enclosed Paper, & as an Extract of your Letter has been published by Mr Frost the Companion of Mr Paine, I Enclose it in this Letter;6 the Custom House officers have made a daring Breach of the Constitution, in opening Letters; this affair will undergoe a Very Serious Investigation.

Lady Newenham joins me in most Sincere & Respectfull regards to Mrs Washington & you—I have the Honor, to be, with the greatest respect—Dear Sir your Excellency’s most obt & affte Humble Sert

Edward Newenham

I did not Know of the sailing of this ship (the Cardiff) untill this Morning, or I should have Collected more papers.


1For the recent events in France, including the storming on 10 Aug. of the Tuileries, where Louis XVI and his family were living, the subsequent arrest of the king, and the capture and imprisonment of Lafayette by the coalition army of Austria and Prussia, see Gouverneur Morris to GW, 23 Oct. 1792, and source note and note 1. For background to the recent anticlerical policies of the French government, see Bouscat to GW, 17 May 1792, note 3.

2Newenham, who was the father of eighteen children including five sons, frequently mentioned his fourth son in his letters to GW without identifying him by name. Robert O’Callaghan Newenham was probably this son, but it is also possible that he was Burton Newenham. The eldest two sons were Edward and William, and another son, Charles, was an officer in the British navy. In 1786 Newenham wrote GW in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to have his son Robert appointed the U.S. consul at Marseilles (see Newenham to GW, 12 Aug. 1786, and note 2). In his letter to GW of 24–27 July 1789, Newenham wrote: “my fourth Son, whom I bound to a Merchant at Marsailles, . . . enlisted as a Member of the Marsailles Corps.”

3Brest was the principal French navy base on the Atlantic. France and Great Britain were not officially at war until France declared war upon Britain on 1 Feb. 1793.

4Contrary to Newenham’s expectations, Russia did not join the Austro-Prussian alliance against France at this time. Sardinia, although currently defending its provinces from French aggression, officially did not join the alliance until 1793, when Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands also entered into what is known as the First Coalition. Charles IV was the king of Spain from 1788 to 1808, and Victor Amadeus III was the king of Piedmont-Sardinia from 1773 to 1796.

5Although the Irish Parliament by this time had acquired a degree of legislative independence, it still represented the interests of the British Empire and the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic majority was excluded from the franchise until 1793.

6None of the enclosures have been identified. Attorney John Frost (1750–1842) was a founder and leader of the London Corresponding Society, a radical political group inspired by the French Revolution and the ideas found in Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Frost was arrested by the British government in 1793 and found guilty of sedition for his public advocacy of the abolition of the British monarchy.

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