George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 11 January 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia January 11. 1794.


I saw Mr Bourne and Mr Bradford together yesterday. The former is disinclined to the office of district attorney, saying, among many other things by way of objection, that nothing would tempt him to bring down upon him the fire of both parties.1 They agreed in the superiority of Howell as to talents; but as he never read the law, until he began to practise, I cannot conceive, that he possesses any depth of law-knowledge. In other respects, they did not speak with much ardor in his behalf.2 Barnes is but moderate in skill, a new-comer, and would be liable to more exception, than his competitor 3 But they were decided in thinking, that Green was equal in abilities to the office; of fair and amiable character; universally beloved; and that the people would not only take an interest in any thing, which gratified him; but that his appointment would also content the parties. They seemed to me to go, as far as delicacy would permit, in pronouncing, that it would be an advantageous circumstance, if you were to fix on him.4

Did you hear, sir, the report, which was circulating yesterday, that Mr Genet intended to return to France immediately, and that he had taken a farewell dinner with the democratic society two days ago? The report came to me, without farther authenticity, than that Mr Wadsworth, and Mr Hunter, owner of my lodgings, told me of its general circulation. Indeed Mr Wadsworth added, that his recal had been debated in the national convention, and no result had transpired.5 I have the honor, sir, to be with sincere & respectful attachment yr mo. ob. Serv.

Edm: Randolph


1Benjamin Bourne and William Bradford represented Rhode Island, respectively, in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Randolph apparently had discussed the current vacancy in the office of U.S. district attorney for Rhode Island. On political divisions within that state, see Arthur Fenner to GW, 7 Oct. 1793, and Issac Senter to GW, 24 Jan. 1794, and n.4 to that document.

2On David Howell’s legal expertise, see John Brown et al. to GW, 2 Oct. 1793, and Issac Senter to GW, 24 Jan. 1794.

3For a letter recommending attorney David Leonard Barnes, see Arthur Fenner to GW, 7 Oct. 1793.

4Ray Greene (1765–1849), who was born in Warwick, R.I., graduated from Yale in 1784, studied law, and then practiced in Providence, Rhode Island. He was the eldest child of former Rhode Island governor William Greene and his wife Catharine Ray. At this time he was the state attorney general. He later served in the U.S. Senate, 1797–1801. For other recommendations, see Henry Marchant to Alexander Hamilton, 9 Dec., and William Ellery to Hamilton, 16 Dec. 1793, Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 15:447–48, 458–59. For Greene’s nomination as district attorney, see GW to U.S. Senate, 24 January.

5On the U.S. request that the French government recall its minister to the United States, see Cabinet Opinion on the Recall of Edmond Genet, 23 Aug. 1793. Genet may have attended the meeting of the Democratic Society of Philadelphia that met on 9 January. During this meeting the society passed a resolution supporting “agents of foreign powers” and protested attempts “to vilify a foreign minister” (General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 11 Jan. 1794). On the recent reports from France concerning official action on the request for Genet’s removal, see n.4 to Alexander Hamilton’s Proposed Presidential Message to Congress, 6–13 Jan. 1794. Genet did not return to France, but instead he settled permanently in New York State.

Jeremiah Wadsworth represented Connecticut in the House of Representatives. William Hunter (1756–1814) had emigrated from Scotland to Philadelphia in 1774 with other members of his family, and by 1794 he owned the largest coach factory in Philadelphia. Randolph was among the many prominent customers, both in the United States and Saint Domingue, who purchased a coach from Hunter. During the 1780s, Hunter speculated in Philadelphia land with his brother, George Hunter (1755–1823), a partner in the coach factory until 1792. Together the brothers built a series of three-story brick townhouses on the north side of High Street, now Market Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets, including the one at 319 High Street that Randolph rented from 1794 until late 1795 (Richard E. Powell, Jr., “Coachmaking in Philadelphia: George and William Hunter’s Factory of the Early Federal Period,” Winterthur Portfolio 28 [1993], 247–77; Lu Ann De Cunzo, “An Historical Interpretation of William Birch’s Print ‘High Street, from Ninth Street, Philadelphia,’” Pennsylvania History 50 [1983], 109–47).

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