George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 19 October 1793

From Gouverneur Morris

Paris 19 October 1793

My dear Sir

I had Hopes untill last Evening that the Persons who are to go out as Commissioners from hence would have embarkd with Captain Culver, but Circumstances have delay’d the Appointment. The Plan which was in Agitation and which will probably be carried into Effect is to send over three or four Commissioners one of whom will be charg’d with Letters of Credence but instructed to conform to the Directions of the Board. It is probable that the new Minister immediately on being presented will ask you to aid in securing the Person and Papers of the old one. My public Dispatch of this Day contains a remote Hint to lead the Investigation of the Secretary of State. I did not chuse to be more particular because You can both give and take the Informations you chuse.1

I have favor’d or rather excited the Idea of this Proceedure for the following Reasons. First such a public Act will place in a contemptible Light the Faction connected with Mr Genet. Secondly the Seizure of his Papers by exposing his Connections with prime Movers will give a Lesson of Caution to others. And thirdly the Commissioners who exercise this high handed Authority will on Reflection feel the Necessity of respecting your Government lest they should meet a similar Fate. Having alarm’d their Apprehensions as to the Effect which Mr Genet’s Imprudence might produce, and knowing the public and private Views of the Parties I have insinuated the Advantages which might result from an early Declaration on the Part of the new Minister that as France has announced her Determination not to meddle with the interior Affairs of other Nations so he can know only the Government of America. In Unison with this Idea, I told the Minister that I had observed an overruling Influence in their Affairs which seem’d to come from the other Side of the Channel, and at the same Time had traced the Intention to excite a Seditious Spirit in America. That it was impossible to be on a friendly Footing with such Persons, but that at present a different Spirit seemd to prevail &ca &ca &ca. This Declaration producd the Effect I intendd. The Minister has himself the wish to go out as plenipotentiary and Mr Otto his principal Secretary having the same wish they will I beleive endeavor while they stay to put things in good Train here2—It may be an important judicial Question how far A Minister is protected by the Law of Nations after the Arrival of his Successor. In my opinion the same Principles which exempt him from the municipal Law subject him to the will of his Sovereign and of Course the Aid given to the new Minister is not an Act of the judiciary but of the executive, perform’d as an Ally and friend and is meerly discretionary—I find that this Commission will endeavor to get Hold of the Debt from America to france by Anticipation:3 if no other Reasons militated against the Advance the Advantage of a Pledge to satisfy Damages our Citizens may sustain during the present Violences is considerable and will not I presume be overlook’d. I am my dear Sir very truly yours

Gouvr Morris

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers.

1William Culver, who commanded the sloop Hannah out of Philadelphia, had been entrusted with carrying the dispatches asking Morris to request the recall of French minister Edmond Genet (Thomas Jefferson to Delamotte, 26 Aug., 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 , 26:759). Morris sent this letter and his official dispatches by Culver’s ship, which arrived at Philadelphia in mid-January 1794 (Gazette of the United States and Evening Advertiser [Philadelphia], 14 Jan. 1794). Morris wrote in his letter of this date addressed to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson that the French foreign minister had “assured me that Genet should be punished. I replied that the United States had only ordered me to ask his recall, and I could go no further. The idea is to send over a commission of three or four persons, and to authorize that board to send him over a prisoner. . . .

“It is probable that the successor of M. Genet may ask the interposition of our Government in the discussions likely to arise. I have given assurances to the extent of what our laws and constitution may authorize. You will be able to measure better than I can that extent, and, at any rate, this hint will be kept secret, for that is, as you will readily see, of the utmost importance” (ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:374–75).

2Louis-Guillaume Otto, comte de Mosloy (1754–1817), formerly chargé d’affaires for the French legation in the United States, became chef de la première division politique of the French foreign ministry in January 1793. After falling out of favor during the Reign of Terror, he resumed his diplomatic career in 1798. In the preceding part of this paragraph, Morris evidently was referring to the new French foreign minister, François Louis Michel Chemin Deforgues, rather than to the new minister to the United States.

3For the contract for the payment of America’s debt to France, 25 Feb. 1783, see Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 115–22. Genet had already proposed an advanced payment on that debt (see GW to Thomas Jefferson, 5 June, n.1), and he renewed the effort in November (see the report on Genet’s debt proposal enclosed in Alexander Hamilton to GW, 23 Nov.).

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