George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 21 August 1793

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia August 21. 1793.


Recollecting an expression in the letter, which was considered yesterday, respecting the motives of the jury in acquitting Hanfield, I made a particular enquiry this morning. I find, that the leading man among them expressed himself thus: “People must not suppose, that because Henfield was acquitted, every person in his situation would be. On the contrary, his declaration, that he would never have inlisted, had he known it to be against General Washington’s opinion, was the reason of my voting for his acquittal.”1

A mechanic, who came from New-York yesterday, brings intelligence, that the revolution was astonishing in the professions of the mass of people towards Mr Genet, when they heard, that he had offended the executive. He added, that as soon as the facts should be substantiated, Mr Genet would be abandoned by his former violent admirers.2 I have the honor, sir, to be, with sincere attachment & respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph


1According to Thomas Jefferson’s notes on the cabinet meeting of 20 Aug., the cabinet “met at the President’s to examine by paragraphs the draught of a letter I had prepared to Gouverneur Morris, on the conduct of Mr. Genet” (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 , 26:730–32). In his letter to Morris, dated 16 Aug., Jefferson mentioned the trial and acquittal of mariner Gideon Henfield. On the federal government’s failure to obtain a conviction of Gideon Henfield for his service aboard a French privateer, see GW to Cabinet, 3 Aug., n.4. The particular passage relating to the jury’s motives reads: “It is true, indeed, that, in the case of Henfield, the Jury which tried, absolved him. But it appeared on the trial that the crime was not knowingly and wilfully committed; that Henfield was ignorant of the unlawfulness of his undertaking; that in the moment he was apprised of it, he shewed real contrition; that he had rendered meritorious service during the late war, and declared he would live and die an American” (ibid., 702).

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