George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 14 October 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia October 14. 1794 10 o’clock a.m.


Yesterday Mr Freire presented to me his credentials from the Queen of Portugal, as her minister resident. He is styled the Chevalier Cyprian Ribeiro Freire. They are in substance correct; tho’ from an ignorance of our constitution, he is said to be sent to reside near the Congress.1 Being satisfied, that he would be received, I interchanged the usual civility of language. He expressed a desire to visit Mrs Washington. I remarked, that he must be sensible, that I could not absolutely recognize him, as minister, until he was accepted by the President. He answered, that he was aware of it. I then told him, that, as gentlemen not in public character, waited on Mrs Washington on a friday night, I would accompany him then, and introduce him as Mr Freire; but must reserve my annunciation of him to her, in the quality of minister, until you had received him. So this etiquette stands, and, I believe, on grounds of propriety.

At eight o’clock last night I was honored by Colo. Hamilton’s public letter of the 11th instant from Carlisle.2 I shall communicate without reserve the substance of it; as it is important, that the attempts to prove the nonexistence of the necessity for the further march of military force should be counteracted. The statement in that letter leaves no doubt on my mind that the execution of the laws would be at least problematical, ⟨were⟩ military apprehension to be wholly withdrawn.

The late Swedish minister in London has turned over to his successor the complaint; which was made as to the selling of prizes in our ports. Mr Pinckney in a letter of the 19th of July acknowledges the receipt of mine upon this subject, and promises to enter into an explanatory conference.3

The papers for the Speech shall be in readiness—The heads, directed to be prepared, were left on the table by the clerk, who inclosed the other papers; and the first express started without them. He was however overtaken at the distance of eleven miles, and they were delivered to him inclosed. I have the honor sir to be with the greatest respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

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

1The letter of credence for Cipriano Ribeiro Freire, dated 15 Jan. 1793, is in DNA: RG 59, Communications from Heads of Foreign States; copy in DNA:PCC, item 129.

2Whether signed by Alexander Hamilton or by GW, this public letter has not been identified.

3Thomas Pinckney reported in his letter to the secretary of state of 17 Dec. 1793, “The Swedish Chargé des affaires here [Erik Bergstedt] has represented ⟨to⟩ me that the French ships of war have carried into our Ports several Vessels of his nation which he understands have ⟨be⟩en condemned & sold there, which he conceives to be inconsistant with the 1st & 2d separate articles of our treaty ⟨w⟩ith Sweden. In case the information he has received ⟨s⟩hall appear to be well grounded he requests the friendly ⟨in⟩terposition of our Government” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain).

That letter was received on 1 May 1794, and Randolph wrote Pinckney on 29 May, “You mention in a late letter, that the Swedish minister in London is uneasy, that prizes, made by the French, are suffered to be sold in our ports. The Senate have passed a bill, prohibiting it; but it is uncertain, whether it will survive opposition in the House of Representatives. However, it may be well to understand, upon what principle the minister objects. As the Agent of a neutral nation he cannot be interested, because no Swedish vessel, bonâfide proved to be such, will meet with any difficulty in obtaining liberation in our Courts. … Does the minister then interest himself for the belligerent powers, who may be affected by the sale? I presume not—Is he anxious for our honor? On this ground, we are desirous that you should affirm to him … that no nation was ever so much distinguished, as the United States have been, by a scrupulous observance of neutrality” (DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801).

Pinckney’s letter to Randolph of 19 July is in DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain.

The new Swedish minister to Great Britain was Lars von Engeström (1751–1826), who replaced Gustaf Adam von Nolcken (1733–1813) in December 1793 (shortly after Pinckney’s letter) and served until 1795.

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