George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 11 September 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Sepr 11. 1794.


I do myself the honor of inclosing to you the opinion of the secretary of the treasury, upon the request of Mr Jaudenes for a military guard.1 I wait your pleasure; and take the liberty of mentioning, that it will be convenient to know your decision, in time for the mail of this morning.2

The executive magistrates of Europe would in all probability, (since it would cost so little,) feel no great difficulty in ordering their troops forth for any purpose, which should be agreeable to them at the moment. But the President of the U.S. would encounter these animadversions. 1. The suspension of the movement of the troops to their ultimate destination for the present object would not appear to be founded upon satisfactory grounds; since we have no evidence of the cause of apprehension, except the declaration of the commissioner, who proceeds upon the alarms instilled into him by others, without letting the government into the nature and authenticity of the proof. 2. It will establish a precedent for employing regular troops for other purposes, than those for which they were raised. 3. It will be interpreted, as if an attempt was countenanced by the President, to throw the odium of assassination upon the French nation, by a step of such eclat, and notoriety. I have the honor sir to be with the highest 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.

1According to translations, José de Jaudenes wrote Randolph from New York on 2 Sept. that he had information from Philadelphia that some Frenchmen recently arrived from Fort Dauphin intended to assassinate him and asked that GW "give the most efficacious orders & without delay, that all the Military & Civil protection may be afforded me, which is requisite" and that a "Safeguard" be provided for his return to Philadelphia (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the Spanish Legation).

Randolph replied on 4 Sept. that "The laws of the United States do not suffer the military force to be employed as you wish. But the civil authority is the proper resort." He enclosed letters introducing Jaudenes to any civil officer to whom he wished to apply (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). Jaudenes then wrote Randolph again on 6 Sept., protesting GW’s refusal to provide a military guard and explaining why he did "not consider the Civil power as sufficient in the Country" (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the Spanish Legation).

Alexander Hamilton’s undated letter to Randolph argued that Jaudenes’s request "ought to be complied with. The protection due to a foreign Minister is absolute and the courtesy of nations dictates that military means shall be used in cases where there may be doubt of the adequateness of the civil—as here where the menace of assassination may require an armed guard. . . . We have here an Officer and twelve Dragoons who may be used. But I take it for granted an escort of Volunteers from New York or New Jersey may without difficulty be had" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; see also Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 17:223-24).

2GW replied to Randolph on this date: "The government is thrown into an unpleasant situation by the request of the Spanish Commissioner; more from the precedent of granting it, than from any inconvenience that would flow from it at present—as the party of horse now in this city (consisting I am informed, of twelve Dragoons) may be employed on this service; or, part of those coming on from Elizabeth town (new Jersey)—The first perhaps, under all circumstances is most eligible" (LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

Randolph wrote Jaudenes on this date that GW "this morning informs me, that he will instruct the War department according to your request" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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