George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 7 August 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia August 7. 1794.


You will be pleased to recollect, that the two houses of congress requested you, at the last session, to communicate to the people of Kentucky certain information, relative to the negotiation concerning the Mississippi.1 The reason, which we have had for some time past, for expecting hourly decisive intelligence from Madrid, has been the cause of witholding the communication to this day. But it seems expedient to enter into the business some way or other. It is impossible in point of propriety, (as I conceive) to lay before the world copies of all the papers. But a substitute for this may be found in the following course: to depute some sensible and firm man to go to Kentucky; carrying with him the most accurate knowledge of the whole transaction, and such minutes and copies of those things, which upon examination it shall be thought adviseable to attend to: this person shall immediately proceed to Kentucky, where he shall explain to the legislature and executive of the state the circumstances of the affair: the governor is to be requested that if the legislature shall not assemble upon its own adjournment or by the constitution before a given day, they may be convened to receive the proposed communication: the deputy shall urge every consideration, proper to allay the prevailing ferment.2

This step becomes, in my opinion, more and more urgent, from the danger, which may arise to the U.S. on the Pittsburg quarter, from the attempts of the British to seduce the inhabitants of the western waters. I have the honor, sir, to be, with great respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

1For the Senate resolution of 15 May and the House resolution of 5 June on the navigation of the Mississippi, see Randolph to GW, 15 July, n.3.

2On 8 Aug., Randolph wrote to Virginia attorney general James Innes that "The President has determined to send a Commissioner immediately to Kentucky, to lay before that Government the state of the negotiation respecting the Mississippi" and asked if Innes would undertake the mission (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). Innes accepted the appointment in a letter to Randolph of 28 Aug. (not identified, but see Randolph to Innes, 5 Sept., DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). For Randolph’s instructions to Innes of 11 Nov., see DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

Randolph informed Kentucky governor Isaac Shelby of this plan in letters of 15 and 25 August. In the former letter, Randolph wrote that the step was "further proof of the anxiety of the President to remove all grounds of dissatisfaction" and stated that the evidence would show that in regard to the Mississippi "nothing has been left unattempted by him, which his powers, his exertions, and the situation of our country would permit." In the latter he wrote, "We are not unapprized that attempts have been made not only to insinuate prejudices thro’ Kentucky against the general government, but also to seduce the affections of our fellow citizens there," and asked Shelby "to check, as far as in you lies, suspicions tending to this end, and to be assured that there is every possible anxiety in the President of the United States to obtain for you the perfect enjoyment of the Missisippi" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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