George Washington Papers

Cabinet Opinion on the Payment of the U.S. Debt to France, 11 March 1794

Cabinet Opinion on the Payment of the U.S. Debt to France

[Philadelphia, 11 March 1794]

At a meeting of the heads of departments and the attorney general, on the 11th of march 1794.

It is advised unanimously, that Mr Fauchet be informed, that He shall be supplied with the instalments, due in September and November next, according to the manner, expressed in the report of the Secretary of the treasury to the President on this subject.1

It is proposed by the Secretary of the treasury and of war, and by the attorney general, that it be verbally stated to Mr Fauchet by the secretary of state, that notwithstanding the desire of the President to accommodate his request, the situation of the United States will not permit him to go farther, than as abovementioned.2

The Secretary of state proposes, that an attempt be made to satisfy Mr Fauchet verbally with the foregoing engagement; but if he does not relinquish his application, that it be forwarded to congress.3

Edm: Randolph


reserving the lastmentioned proposition of the Secretary of State for further consideration.4

A. Hamilton

H. Knox

Wm Bradford

DS (in Edmund Randolph’s handwriting), DLC:GW.

1For Hamilton’s report on these installments, see his letter to GW of 18 March. Fauchet, the French minister to the United States, wrote Edmund Randolph on 1 March requesting “an advancement of the sum requisite to defray the expenses and preparations” for the return to France of those refugees from the French colony of Saint Domingue who were currently in the United States. On 2 March, in response to a request from Randolph, Fauchet wrote him that “I shall want at least a million of dollars, payable in six months, to satisfy the wants of Frenchmen at present in the United States” and to pay off other debts (both translations, DNA: RG 26, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Records of Senate Proceedings, Reports and Communications from the Secretary of State).

2On 12 March, Randolph wrote Fauchet: “Your letters of the 1st and 2d instant, requiring the advance of a million of dollars, have been laid before the President of the United States.

“He instructs me to inform you, that the sum of one million, five hundred thousand livres, shall be paid to your order, as minister plenipotentiary of the French Republic, on the 3d of september next; and an additional sum of one million of livres, on the 5th of November next (1794): that for the present, all claim for the anticipations, which are understood to have been made by the United States, will be suspended; and that in the mean time any of your draughts within the above limits and epochs shall be registered at the treasury, in the order of their presentation.

“The President, in the determination now announced, has consulted a disposition to comply with your desire, as far as the situation and prospects of the United States have appeared to him at this juncture to permit.

“I shall be happy to have a personal interview with you upon this occasion. As two o’clock this afternoon and my office seemed, from what passed between us yesterday, to be an agreeable hour and place, I beg leave to expect you” (FrPMAE: Correspondance Politique, Etats-Unis, Supplement Volume 20; DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, Report and Communications from the Secretary of State).

Fauchet replied that same date: “I have received your letter dated to day, and I observe with chagrin the dispositions it contains.

“When I asked for the advance of a million of dollars I hoped that a part of that sum would be paid down to me, and the rest at different periods, the last of which should not exceed six months; but contrary to my hope, the first term of payment is indicated at that epoch only, and the advance to be made to me confined to half the sum which I had requested.

“I pray you, Sir, to observe to the President of the United States, that this determination will obviate none of the embarrassments in which I find myself: that I must pay cash to the captains of the vessels which may take the colonists to France, and for the subsistence, which those unfortunate people require; that I must advance to the latter for such stores, at least as are of the first necessity. I request you, Sir, to add also, that numerous drafts are drawn on me at sight, or within short periods of each other, by the different agents of the french Republic; either for articles of provision for the crews of vessels ready to sail; or for expenses incurred antecedent to my administration, and which it is impossible for me to postpone satisfying immediately.

“These various observations will without doubt operate a change in the resolution of the President which you have communicated to me; and the sincere picture, which I have traced to you, of my situation, will engage him to make an effort in favor of the allies of America” (translation, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, Reports and Communications from the Secretary of State).

3GW forwarded Hamilton’s report, and the translations and copies of the correspondence between Fauchet and Randolph, to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on 18 March. For printed versions of the English translations and the copies of the French originals that were submitted to Congress, see, respectively, 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 , 1:427–28, and Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:143, n.1. For the U.S. Senate’s refusal to alter the payment schedules, see Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., 129.

4This modification is in Hamilton’s handwriting.

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