George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 24 March 1797

From James McHenry

Philad[elphia] 24 March 1797.

Dear sir

Once more at home, and I flatter myself recovered from the fatigues of your journey. You have witnessed on your route the great affection and attachment of the people and the sound part of the community, which is still visible in every company I go into, and which I am persuaded will not diminish, though the external marks of it may gradually be less strongly expressessed. This is the least reward you could have received, or the country could have given. It is nevertheless a precious one.

Letters have arrived yesterday from Mr Pinckney dated 5 Jany Paris. He has been refused, as stated in the enclosed paper. De la Croix in a letter to Mr Munroe acknowleging his recall, informs him that no minister Plenipotentiary will be received by the Republic till such time as the grievances complained of shall be redressed. Mr Pinckney wrote after this to De la Croix: had a verbal answer by his secretary, repeating his refusal, and the propriety to avoid inconveniences of his departure. In short on the part of the ⟨Directorial⟩ minister every step is insulting, and the form of the rejection passing thro’ Mr Munroe not the least so. Mr P. notwithstanding thought his duty required that he should not leave the territory of France, without a written order or orders from the Govern, of the U.S.1 Thus things were situated on the 5th of last January.

I presume Congress must be called and that immediately; and that it may also be expedient in the mean while, to direct Mr Pinckney, to make another effort, such as may not commit the dignity of the U.S. and if unsuccessful retire to Hamburg or some other place to wait events or a better disposition on the part of France. I send my sincere respects and affection to Mrs Washington & Miss Custis. Adieu

James McHenry


James McHenry (1753–1816) succeeded Timothy Pickering as secretary of war in January 1796 when Pickering became secretary of state. He remained secretary until John Adams forced him and Pickering from office in May 1800.

1Charles Cotesworth Pinckney arrived in Paris on 5 Dec. 1796 to replace James Monroe as the minister to France from the United States. On 6 Dec. Monroe informed the French foreign secretary, Charles Delacroix, of his own recall and of the arrival of Pinckney to replace him. Delacroix received the two Americans on 9 Dec. and accepted Pinckney’s letter of credence; but two days later the foreign minister wrote Monroe that the French Directory “will no longer recognize nor receive a minister plenipotentiary from the United States, until after a reparation of the grievances demanded of the American government, and which the French republic has a right to expect.” An official in the Foreign Office subsequently informed Pinckney that it was the wish of the Directory that he leave Paris, which Pinckney refused to do without a written directive to that effect from Delacroix (Zahniser, Pinckney, description begins Marvin R. Zahniser. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1967. description ends 142–43). It was not until the end of January that Pinckney was formally ordered to leave Paris, and he then went to Amsterdam.

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