George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Adams, 15 November 1794

To John Adams

Saturday 15th Novr 1794.

Dear Sir,

I have not been able to give the papers herewith enclosed more than a hasty reading; returning them, without delay, that you may offer the perusal of them to whomsoever you shall think proper.1

The picture drawn in them, of the Genevese, is realy interesting & affecting. The proposition of transplanting the members, entire, of the University of that place, to America, with the requisition of means to establish the same, and to be accompanied by a considerable emigration, is important; requiring more consideration, than under the circumstances of the moment, I am able to bestow on it.

That a national University in this country is a thing to be desired, has always been my decided opinion; and the appropriation of ground, and funds for it, in the federal City, have long been contemplated, & talked of; but how far matured; or how far the transplanting of an entire Seminary of foreigners, who may not understand our language, can be assimilated therewith is more than I am prepared to give an opinion upon. or indeed, how far funds in either case, are attainable.

My opinion with respect to emigration is, that except of useful mechanic’s—and some particular descriptions of men—or professions—there is no need of extra encouragement: while the policy, or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing they retain the language, habits & principles (good or bad) which they bring with them; whereas, by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, manners and laws: in a word, soon become one people.

I shall, at any leisure hour, after the Session is fairly opened, have pleasure in a full and free conversation with you on this subject, being with much esteem & regard Dear Sir Your Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, MHi: Adams Papers; ALS (letterpress copy), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1François d’Ivernois wrote Adams (in French) on 22 Aug., enclosing two documents (in English) about conditions in Geneva and his ideas about moving the university there to the United States. On 30 Aug., d’Ivernois wrote again, enclosing duplicates of the three documents. One of those duplicates is marked as received on 12 Nov., and it seems certain that the two English-language documents are what Adams had sent to GW (MHi: Adams Papers).

One of those documents begins: “The narration which I adjoin to this letter will prove to you that Geneva is lost beyond resource; and that its convulsions will last as long as the great political drama which now agitates Europe, and on which it is too much to be dreaded that the present generation will not see the curtain fall. This narration, but too true indeed, will convince you that, for the Genevese, another country is indispensable.” D’Ivernois then proposed “to transport into one of your Provinces our Academy completely organised, and with it its means of public instruction.” After describing his proposal for the “entire transplantation” of the university, d’Ivernois asked that Adams “be pleased to confer upon this interesting project with your respectable President, solliciting for us his councils, his recommendation, and his protection, as well as that of your Secretary of State, and Mr Jefferson. … And deign to forward me an answer as soon as your great occupations will permit you.”

The adjoined narrative, which was published as a letter of 22 Aug. in Authentic History of the Origin and Progress of the Late Revolution in Geneva (Philadelphia, 1794), and in revised form in A Short Account of the Late Revolution in Geneva; and of the Conduct of France towards that Republic, from October 1792, to October 1794 (London, 1795), described in dire terms the alterations in Geneva stemming from the influence of France over that city’s government.

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