George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 10 January 1795

From Edmund Randolph

January 10 1795

E. Randolph has the honor of sending to the President all the letters of consequence, written to Colo. Humphries concerning the Algerine Mission, since the last money was voted by congress. They are of the following dates. July 19. August 25, Novr 21 on the same sheet with a rough letter to Short—and Decr 31, 1794.1

It is observable too, that these letters were written, as soon as it was possible from the nature of the transaction.

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

1Randolph was referring to the money made available by “An Act making further provision for the expenses attending the intercourse of the United States with foreign nations; and further to continue in force the act intituled ‘An act providing the means of intercourse between the United States and foreign nations,’” 20 March 1794 (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 345). For GW’s decision to apply the bulk of these funds to negotiations with Algiers, see his letters to Alexander Hamilton of 29 May (first letter), 7 June, and 9 July 1794.

Letter-book copies of these four letters from Randolph to David Humphreys can be found in DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801. Randolph’s letter to William Short of 21 Nov. 1794 also can be found there. The letter of 19 July charged Humphreys to continue to negotiate with Algiers “according to the former instructions” and informed him that France seemed willing to assist and that $800,000 would be made available to “be expended in the purchase of a peace.”

The letter of 25 Aug. sent further instructions to guide Humphreys’s negotiations: “Ransom and peace are to go hand and hand if practicable, but if peace cannot be obtained, a ransom is to be effected without delay.” He was to seek “the lowest possible rate” of ransom, but could go as high as $3,000 per man. He was referred to previous instructions about the sum to be paid for peace, but informed “we would not break for fifty thousand dollars per annum, and two hundred thousand dollars by way of douceur, to secure a peace for a convenient term of years. … If however, by any other modification of the sum of eight hundred thousand dollars, a peace, and ransom can be obtained, you may modify accordingly,” as long as the limit on ransom was not exceeded. Humphreys also was informed of plans to send a consul for the Barbary Coast.

The letter of 21 Nov. acknowledged Humphreys’s letter to Randolph of 18 Sept., referred him to the letter of 25 Aug. for general instructions, and answered some of Humphreys’s specific questions, stating, among other things, “that wood for construction, military Stores and ammunition are not to be promised, unless it be indispensable, after every effort for procuring a peace and ransom.”

The letter of 31 Dec. informed Humphreys that “the President and myself have applied to the Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the money for Algiers” and that the results of their conference “shall be immediately communicated to you.” Randolph also expressed hope that Humphreys had reimbursed Mathias Skjöldebrand for his aid to American captives at Algiers.

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