George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edward Newenham, 11 February 1794

From Edward Newenham

Dublin [Ireland] 11th Feby 1794

Dear Sir

It is, in my mind, an Age since I had the Honor and the real pleasure of a Letter from you—on my part, nothing shall interrupt a Correspondence, that I so highly esteem, but my Dissolution, or your deeming me unworthy of it.1

The situation we are, & have been, in, for these three last years, in this Kingdom has partly altered my Line of public Conduct, particularily as the People had obtained those Laws for which I Struggled many years—the Place—the Pension—& Responsibility Bills; I found a Faction here (without the walls of Parliament) ready to reduce us to a Colony of France, & hoping to devide both the Landed & Commercial Property among themselves; Adoring true Liberty, I voted for Every Measure tending to that blessing for 42 years in & out of Parliament, but the System adopted by that Faction of an Agrarian Law, I could not accede to; they had proceeded nearly to a Crisis—of the Sword being Drawn & the Scabbard thrown away—but the Existing Laws, at length exerting themselves, Stop’d their Career2—& to shew the Hypocrisy of Some of these Men, it need only be mention’d, that they were the bitterest Enemies to American Freedom; their Late audacious (though impotent) attempts in their public papers to traduce your Spirit & Memorable Proclamation,3 & to Villify the Characters of Mr: Jay & Mr: Jefferson, prove the badness of their heart, & their fixd Enmity to those Virtues that adorn you & your Friends; was it possible, I should have deemed them Pensioners of Duplain & Genet—as well might a Regiment of the Roman Pontiffs Soldiers attempt to take Giberalter by Storm, as That, Such Reptiles Should Succeed in attacking the Character of George Washington.4

According to present appearances the French are Every where Victorious—Toulon Evacuated—Alsace releived—Fort Louis blown up—The Toulon & Lyannois Armies gone to the Eastern Pyreneans must Subdue the Small force of the Spanish Dons—in the western Pyreneans they seem Victorious, & the Convention announce that Joudains Army is 3 Times as Strong as York’s & Cobaugh—the Invasion of England is announced in all the Jacobin Speeches—the Plunder of Proud London’s Bank is beheld, as a matter of Course by the San’s Coulottes—they announce 170 sail of Transports ready to Bring over their Troopes; they declare that their fleet at Brest is 34 & our Channel Fleet, but 26 sail of the Line; that their fleet will, at least, prevent ours from disturbing the Invasion.5

All is Suspence in this Country 5 English mails due—my hopes rest on the Re-inforcements that may arrive to the Allied Armies before they risk a General Action—I think Cobaugh, like Sir Wm Howe, has made a Chain of Posts of greater Extent than from the Delaware to Statin Island—but I hope they have not a Washington to take another Trenton—if they had, Cobaugh would be Burgoynd, & the Duke of York’s army forced to Embark or fly to Holland.6

our Parliament has been almost (5 members excepted) in Support of the present war—the best Freinds of Constitutional Liberty are of that Sentiment, but the Lower order of the People (in this as in every other Nation) wish for a Change, yet they being Papists abhor the Idea of the Destructions of Saints & Crosses—they wish for a Change, in order to get the Landed Property, & for this month past they have openly wished for the Landing of the French.

My Agent, for 20 years, Mr Napper Tandy, has been accused of Sedition & Conspiracy—he is fled this Country & reported to be now in Philadelphia or Boston, but I do not beleve it, as I do not see his Name announced in your Papers—his Co-partner Mr Hamilton Rowan was convicted of sedition, & instead of Transportation is sentenced to £500 fine & 2 years Imprisonment—had our Laws been exerted to their Extent—he would have been transported—he is a Gentleman that I have the highest respect for, but I do not Entirely agree with him in politics—It is said that Mr Napper Tandy against whom Some Charges have been made on oath, is gone to America; he is an Intimate Freind of mine & my Estate Agent for many years; I have a great regard for him, but differ from him in the Line of Politics he now pursues.7

Every Question in our Parliament has hitherto gone unanimously, & it is probable there will be but one division of any Consequence during this Session & that on the Bill for the Reform of the Representation of the People; there are Errors in the present Representation, but at this Crisis, it would be imprudent to agitate a Question about which the best and most Virtuous & most Intelligent Men are devided.

our winter has been uncommonly fine, only 3 Days frost & Snow; the Sun in Great Splendor almost half the Last 2 months; Vegitation very forward; Scarse any of the Winter fodder has been used; a Great Stock of Hay remaining, so that, if we have a tolerable Spring, it will fall to a Lower Price than it has been these ten years; the wheat is very high above Grownd, & the fruit Trees pushing forward at least 20 or 25 Days Earlier than usual—Were we to have ten years Peace, we should rival many Nations in Wealth & prosperity, for the Land was improving to an amazing Degree, & our Manufactures getting forward & Trade encreasing.

I have this moment read the Fœderal News Paper; Mr Genets audacious publications, demands punishment, & the Conclusion of his Letter to the Attorney General, Evinces a Resolution to Stir up Troubles in the united States, but the good Sence of the Americans will never be warped from their own happiness & Interest by French Finesse8—After making Enquiries for near 3 Months, I find our worthy Freind, the Marquiss La Fayette is alive & well, but Still (most improperly) a Prisoner—My Letters, though sent open, are not allowed to be forwarded to him.9

It is reported, that the Duke of york is to return to England; in my mind, he was too young & too unexperinced to command Such an Army, & in such a situation, where Battles were weekly fought, & where long Experience only could secure Success; it is a matter of the last Importance to England, that the French should be Checqud in that Quarter, for if they defeat York & Cobough, they will overun Holland & Lower Germany; Jourdains Army is represented (as Double) to that of the Allies, besides the Reinforcements he Expects of 15000 Men from the Mozelle; Jourdain has been a most Succesfull General, but he may Experience the fate of his Predecessors—The Jacobin Club may grow Jealous of him—denounce—Arrest—and Guilaitine him10—As to the Spaniards, they have fought very poorly this war, & though they have made some Progress into Rousillon,11 I should imagine the Toulon Conquerers will Burgoyne them; with Every Sentiment of respect & Esteem, & most Sincere wishes for your health & Happiness I have to Remain My Dear Sir your most Faithfull & obliged Humble Sert

Edward Newenham

Lady Newenham, who is just recoved from a Severe Cold, joins me in best respects to Mrs Washington & your family.


1The previous extant letter from GW to Newenham is that of 20 Oct. 1792. GW apparently did not write Newenham again until 6 Aug. 1797, when he wrote: “I am so much your debtor in the epistolary way, that it would upbraid me too severely was I to go into a particular acknowledgment of the receipt of all the letters with which you have honoured me in the course of the last two or three years” (Papers, Retirement Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series. 4 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1998–99. description ends , 1:290–91).

2The Place Act of 1793 excluded pensioners and certain officeholders from the House of Commons. The Pensions Act of 1793 created a consolidated fund and a civil list, and it limited the pension list to £80,000 per year. The Responsibility Law refers to a unanimous adoption of a resolution to provide supplies for the British war effort against France. On these laws, agrarian discontent, and radicalism in Ireland, beginning in 1789 and encouraged by events in France, see T. W. Moody and W. E. Vaughan, eds., A New History of Ireland (9 vols., Oxford, England, 1976–2005), 4:200–201, 289–373.

4The references are to John Jay, the chief justice of the Supreme Court; Thomas Jefferson, the former secretary of state; Antoine Charbonnet Duplaine, the former French vice-consul at Boston; Edmond Genet, the former French minister to the United States; and the Papal States under Pope Pius VI (1717–1799).

5A revolt in the French city of Lyons was defeated on 10 Oct. 1793; the French port of Toulon was retaken from the Royalists, who were assisted by British and Spanish forces, on 19 Dec. 1793; and in December 1793 the French drove the Austrians out of the province of Alsace. The Austrian army, which in November had captured Fort Louis, located on an island in the Rhine River and near the village of Rheinmünster in southwest Germany, evacuated that post and blew up its works on 17 Jan. 1794.

French general Jean-Baptiste Jourdan (1762–1833) led his army to victory over Austrian and Dutch troops commanded by Friedrich Josias, prince of Saxe-Coburg (1737–1815), at the battle of Fleurus, in Belgium, on 26 June 1794. As a British field commander, Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, had a series of victories over the French in early 1793, but he was defeated in the Battle of Hondschoote, near Dunkirk in northern France, 6–8 Sept. 1793. On 22 May 1794, he led British forces in cooperation with the Duke of Coburg to defeat the French at the Battle of Tournai, on the Belgium border.

The French fleet was defeated in a naval battle of 29 May–1 June 1794 (Ushant; First of June), thus eliminating the possibility of a French invasion of England at this time.

6William Howe (1729–1814) served as commander in chief of the British army in North America from 10 Oct. 1775 to late May 1778. GW successfully led an American attack on 26 Dec. 1776 against the Hessian troops stationed at Trenton, New Jersey. British general John Burgoyne (1722–1792) surrendered his army to American forces at Saratoga on 17 Oct. 1777.

7Dublin native James Napper Tandy (1737–1803) fled to England in March 1793 when faced with charges of treason for his radical political activities in Ireland. He remained in hiding for two years before joining other Irish exiles in Philadelphia in 1795. After two years, he left the United States for France, but in November 1798 he fell into British hands and was returned to England, where he was tried for treason. Escaping the death penalty, he was banished to France in 1802, where he remained until his death.

Archibald Hamilton Rowan (1751–1834), an Irish landowner, became increasingly involved in Irish radicalism during the 1790s. He was arrested on 21 Dec. 1792 for distributing an address entitled “Citizen Soldiers to Arms!” His subsequent prison sentence of two years commenced in January 1794, but he escaped in May and fled to France. Like Tandy, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1795, but in 1800 he left for Hamburg, Germany. He was allowed to settle in England in 1803 and to return to Ireland in 1806.

8The letters printed in the 27 Nov. 1793 issue of the Federal Gazette, and Philadelphia Evening Post were Genet’s letter of 14 Aug. to Edmund Randolph, then the attorney general, and Randolph’s reply of 19 November. Genet wrote to complain about a declaration of 12 Aug. 1793 that John Jay and Rufus King published in the Diary; or Loudon’s Register (New York) on that same date. He asked Randolph to “take such steps, at the ensuing Federal Court, as the honour of your own country as well as of mine, exact upon such an occasion.” For the text of the declaration by Jay and King, which Genet considered harmful to his own reputation and to the “cause of my country,” see n.4 of Genet to GW, 13 Aug. 1793. In his reply, Randolph offered to meet with Genet to discuss the matter. No legal action against Jay and Rufus, however, was pursued by Randolph.

9On the series of prisons in which the Marquis de Lafayette was held between August 1792 and May 1797, see n.7 of Marquise de Lafayette to GW, 12 March 1793.

10The Jacobin Club was founded in 1789 and was the most radical of the French revolutionary clubs. It was responsible for the so-called Reign of Terror from September 1793 until late July 1794. The club itself was suppressed in November 1794. Despite his great victory at the Battle of Hondschoote in early September 1793, French general Jean-Nicholas Houchard (b. 1740) was sentenced to death on the guillotine in November 1793, having been charged with cowardice for failing to take advantage of his great victory and subsequently suffering defeat at the Battle of Menin on 13 Sept. 1793.

11The province of Roussillon was situated on France’s border with Spain.

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