George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 5 February 1794

From Gouverneur Morris


My dear Sir,Paris 5 Feby 1794.

In a New’s Paper of this Day I find the Translation of your Message of the fifth of December to Congress, and observe that after stating the Violation of the Treaty by a Decree of the national Convention you tell them I have been instructed to make Representations on the Subject.1 Now this my dear Sir is the first I hear and all I know of such Instructions. Indeed I have received no Letters New’s paper or other Intelligence from America since those which Captain Culver brought.2 I suppose this arises from the Difficulty of Communication but whatever be the Cause I feel the Effect. It would be of some Use if a Clerk in the Office of foreign Affairs had by Triplicates mention’d from Time to Time which of my Letters were receiv’d. Thus on the present Occasion, I should know whether my Correspondence with the Minister on the Subject of this obnoxious Decree was before you.3 As it is, not being able to determine the nature of the Representations which you have desired me to make, I am oblig’d to be silent. And unless more than one Copy has been sent I may never receive your Orders, and at any Rate it will be at no early Day. I am sure it is superfluous to tell you how painful it is for a Person in my Situation to be totally ignorant of what passes in his own Country, and whether the Conduct which under Circumstances continually changing he finds it necessary to pursue does or does not consist with the Views of Government. Blaming a wrong Step would prevent a Repetition of it, but really at present I walk in the Dark or at best by the feeble Light of my own Conjectures. I know not whether my Brethren have the same Dearth of Intelligence. Mr Short complaind of it much when I last saw him and has since mentiond the same thing from Madrid so that I conclude the Evil to arise from the Negligence of those to whom Letters are entrusted.4 Might it not be adviseable to send every Month a small Packet to Europe. They might come alternately to Havre and Lisbon and that which arrives at Lisbon come on thence to Havre that which arrives at Havre go from thence to Lisbon. In this way a regular correspondence would be kept up and seizing for unimportant Communications, the private Conveyances which offer full Intelligence would be given and receiv’d. Six packets would be amply sufficient for the Service and if, as I believe, small Schooners could be safely employd the prime Cost would not be above three thousand Pound Sterling and the annual Expense I should suppose not more than Half that Sum.

I beg your Pardon my dear Sir for troubling you with this groaning Scheeming Epistle. I will not say one word of news as in supposeable Circumstances it might prevent this Letter from reaching you. I adhere to the Opinions exprest in my last.5 adieu I am very truly yours

Gouvr. Morris

P.S. I am sorry to see that your Love of Retirement struggles so strongly against a Continuance of public Life.6 I am afraid the Devil (for it is from him you know that comes all Evil) will put it in your Head one Day to quit Outright which God in his Mercy forbid for I tell you, and you know me well enough to believe me, it will be a very sad Day for America. As to yourself I know that you will be more happy at Home and I judge from my own feelings how strong must be your Desire to get there. Apropos whenever you think the United States can gain any thing no matter how little by giving me a Successor let it be done.7

ALS (Duplicate), DLC:GW; ALS (fragment), DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers.

1On 9 May 1793 the French national convention approved a decree authorizing the seizure of “merchant vessels which are wholly or in part loaded with provisions, being neutral property, bound to an enemy’s port, or having on board merchandise belonging to an enemy.” This was interpreted by the United States as a violation of Article 16 of the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and France. After a protest from Morris, the French government issued a decree of 23 May “that the vessels of the United States are not comprised in the regulations of the 9th of May.” A subsequent decree of 28 May, however, repealed that of 23 May (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 , 1:244; 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 , 2:14–15; Morris to Thomas Jefferson, 25 June 1793, 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 , 26:363–69).

2On the letters of late August 1793 entrusted to the care of William Culver, captain of the sloop Hannah, see Cabinet Opinion on the recall of Edmond Genet, 23 Aug., and notes 2 and 4.

3The correspondence between Morris and the French foreign minister, first Lebrun and then his successor Deforgues, concerning restrictions on U.S. trade was presented to the U.S. Senate along with GW’s address of 26 Feb. 1794 and is printed in ASP, Foreign Affairs 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 , 1:358–78.

4William Short was the current U.S. minister to The Hague in the Netherlands. In January 1792, however, he received the additional appointment of commissioner plenipotentiary to Spain and was thereby responsible for resolving several points in dispute with that nation. He arrived at Madrid in February 1793 (GW to Thomas Jefferson, 23 Aug. 1792, and n.2 to that document).

6For GW’s expression of his reluctance to serve a second term as president, see his letter to Morris of 25 March 1793.

7For the nomination of James Monroe as Morris’s successor, see GW to U.S. Senate, 27 May (LS,DNA: RG 46, entry 38).

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