George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 7 April 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadephia Apr. 7. 1793.

Sir

The accounts of the last week from Lisbon, announcing an actual declaration of war by France against England & Holland, when applied to the preceding note of the British court ordering the French minister to leave London (which is generally considered as preliminary to a declaration of war), now render it extremely probable that those powers are at actual war, and necessary in my opinion that we take every justifiable measure for preserving our neutrality, and at the same time provide those necessaries for war which must be brought across the Atlantic. the British packet is arrived, but as yet we hear nothing further of the news she brings than that war is declared, & this is only a rumour here as yet.1 if any letters are come by her for me, they are not yet received.2 you will learn by this post that our intelligence from the South as to the Indians is discouraging. we met on Tuesday last on the subject of your circular letter, and agreed in all points, except as to the power of ceding territory, on which point there remained the same difference of opinion as when the subject was discussed in your presence.3 we have no further news of mister Genest.4 Mr Dupont leaves town for France on Wednesday next. by him I shall send my dispatches for mister Morris.5 stocks are down @ 17/10. we determined yesterday to lay out the interest fund (about 25,000. Dollars) the only money at our disposel.6 I have the honour to be with sincere attachment & respect, Dear Sir, your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS (letterpress copy), MHi: Jefferson Papers—Coolidge Collection; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1The ships Dispatch and John Bulkeley had arrived from Portugal with reports that France had declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands (Tobias Lear to GW, 29 Mar., Jefferson to GW, 1 April, Alexander Hamilton to GW, 5 April 1793). GW received this letter while at Mount Vernon, and before his return to Philadelphia on 17 April, he asked his cabinet to prepare a plan of American neutrality (GW to Hamilton, 12 April, to Jefferson, 12 April; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 107). On 19 April the president held a cabinet meeting to discuss the neutrality question, and on 22 April he issued a neutrality proclamation (GW to Cabinet, 18 April, and Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting, 19 April). The British packet Roebuck arrived in New York City on Friday, 5 April, and the London newspapers it carried confirmed France’s declaration of war of 1 Feb. (General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 8 April). On the expulsion from London of the marquis de Chauvelin, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 5 April, n.4.

2Jefferson probably was waiting for letters from Thomas Pinckney, the U.S. minister to Great Britain, whose letters to Jefferson of 3, 31 Jan., 10, 11 Feb. 1793 arrived later this month (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 25:11–13, 106–7, 166–67, 169–70).

3Jefferson is referring to GW’s letter to the cabinet of 21 Mar. 1793. In order to discuss the upcoming treaty at Lower Sandusky and draw up instructions for the commissioners, the cabinet had met on 25 Feb., 25 Mar., and 2 April. GW did not attend the third meeting, where the cabinet continued to disagree about the legality and feasibility of transferring lands gained under previous treaties back to Indians (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 106; Cabinet Opinion on a Proposed Treaty at Lower Sandusky, 25 Feb. 1793, and note 4. For the reports of James Seagrove, in which the Indian agent described Indian raids in Georgia and blamed Spain for fomenting war between the Creeks and the United States, see Knox to GW, 8 April, n.3.

4Edmond Genet, the new French minister to the United States, landed at Charleston, S.C., on 8 April, but he did not arrive in Philadelphia until 16 May (Provisional Executive Council of France to GW, 30 Dec. 1792, note 2, and GW to Alice Delancey Izard, 20 April 1793).

5Jefferson entrusted his letters to Gouverneur Morris of 12 and 15 Mar. to François Dupont, the French consul at Philadelphia (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 25:367–69, 387–89).

6GW approved this expenditure from the sinking fund, for the purchase of stock, on 12 April (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 108–9; Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 14:292–93).

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