George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 14 October 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Oct. 14. 1792.

Th: Jefferson presents his respects to the President & incloses him some letters for his perusal. those from G. Morris & mister Short require immediate notice, because there are vessels about to sail by which answers should be sent.1 the President will see by mister Remsen’s letter the peculiar misfortune of the dispatches to Carmichael & Short, of which, from their particular delicacy, it was thought best not to risk duplicates, because being put on board a vessel bound directly to Amsterdam, they seemed to run no other danger than of the sea. but it so turns out as to bring on them what is tantamount to a loss by the sea, and the possibility of their getting into other hands. this loss was not ascertained till yesterday. the clerks are now all employed in copying the dispatches over again to go by a vessel which sails for Amsterdam on Wednesday.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1Gouverneur Morris’s letter to Jefferson, written from Paris on 10 July 1792 and received by Jefferson on 6 Oct., contains news of political developments in France, including a veiled hint of the king’s plans for escape from Paris and the increasing military presence of the Austrian and Prussian armies on French borders. Morris also reported that the French were interested in negotiating a new commercial treaty with the United States (see 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 24:207–9). William Short’s letters from The Hague of 20, 27 (two letters), and 31 July 1792, all received on 6 Oct., devote much attention to events in France and on the growing threat of a war against France (see ibid., 240–46, 260–61, 270–72). Jefferson replied to Morris’s letter on 15 Oct. and to those from Short on 14 and 16 Oct. (see ibid., 482–85, 490–91).

2Henry Remsen, Jr., former chief clerk of the State Department, wrote Jefferson from New York on 10 Oct. 1792 to report that “dispatches made up in February for Mr. Short” and Jefferson’s letters to Short of 18 Mar. were placed on the brig Sion, captained by William Oliver, which set sail between 22 and 26 Mar. from New York. Unfortunately the ship sprung a leak in the midst of a gale, and “the Captain finding she could not be kept from sinking, went with his crew on board an English vessel which fortunately appeared . . . taking with him the bag containing the letters.” The English vessel “was bound to Newfoundland, and arrived there in safety, from whence the Captain of the Sion informs his owners, in a letter dated in April, that he purposes sending the bag of letters to Amsterdam by any vessel bound thither, or by the way of London” (ibid., 463–64). The ship preparing to sail for Amsterdam on Wednesday, 17 Oct., was the Columbia, captained by William Maley (see General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 12 Oct. 1792).

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