George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 5 April 1797

From Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia April 5. 1797.


Capt. OBrien arrived here last Saturday from Lisbon.1 The Dey of Algiers is entirely our friend. Tripoli has agreed to a perpetual peace, for 40,000 dollars & some peace presents, without an annual tribute. In January last Mr Barlow mentions his expectations that peace would soon be effected with Tunis. The Dey of Algiers is now so warmly attached & has such entire confidence in the Honesty of the United States (believing at the same time that they are no enemies to Musselmen) that he advanced to Mr Barlow the $40,000 to complete the peace with Tripoli: & has written to the Bey of Tunis that he will hold himself responsible for the $50,000 which Mr Barlow has offered him for a peace between Tunis & the U. States; and because this Bey is somewhat obstinate & delays the peace, the Dey of Algiers has sent an army of Moors to attack him.2

OBrien when in the gulph stream was in the utmost peril, his brig being thrown on her beam-ends, in a terrible gale. The water came into his cabin, and floated all his trunks & chests by which all his letters were soaked; none however destroyed. I have now the pleasure to inclose one for you from Colo. Humphreys.3 There is also a morocco leather case containing a pair of knee buckles & a pair of shoe buckles, the torn paper-cover of which is addressed to you. The buckles are unhurt. I will forward them by some private conveyance.4 I also inclose two letters which I have received under cover from Mr King.5 It is true that Mr Pinckney, about the 28th of January last, three days after the Directory had recd the news of Buonaparte’s last great successes, was ordered to leave France: he was to set out on the 31st of Jany for Amsterdam, where he proposed to stay. I am most respectfully sir your obt servt

Timothy Pickering

ALS, DLC:GW; retained copy, MHi: Pickering Papers.

1Richard O’Brien (c.1758–1824), who was a prisoner of the Algerines from 1785 to 1795, most recently had helped negotiate a treaty with Tripoli. In July 1797 he was appointed U.S. consul general to Algiers, a post he filled until relieved by Tobias Lear in November 1803.

2The poet Joel Barlow (1754–1812) went to Europe from Connecticut in 1788 and made a fortune in France. He was living in Paris in 1795 when his friend David Humphreys arrived and persuaded him to go to Algiers to negotiate a treaty. Barlow arrived in North Africa in January 1796 to find that the Dey of Algiers had already agreed to a treaty with the United States but was awaiting the money promised him for signing. Barlow had to deal with the fractious ruler until the money arrived in the fall, at which point the Dey became “warmly attached” to the United States (Todd, Life and Letters of Barlow, description begins Charles Burr Todd. Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, LL.D.: Poet, Statesman, Philosopher. New York and London, 1886. description ends chap. 6). GW appointed Barlow consul general for Algiers on 1 Mar. 1797.

3As GW indicates in his letter to David Humphreys of 26 June, he received Humphreys’ letter of 18 Feb. before he got his letter of 1 Jan., which Pickering forwarded on 11 April. Humphreys’ letter from Lisbon of 18 Feb. reads: “On the 1st of Janry I had pleasure of writing to you a long letter, which I hope you will have received before this shall reach you. But having now nothing to say, but to repeat the expressions of my veneration & affection for you, I shall not trouble you with many words on the occasion. The language of gratitude & friendship may be as concise, as energetic. I believe you are convinced few have a larger portion of either for you. The expression of these cannot but display itself on every new & interesting epocha of your life. Permit me then to offer you my sincere congratulations on your drawing so near to the period when your public life is to be terminated—or, to speak figuratively, when, after having passed the stormy military & political Seas on which you were embarked from necessity & duty, you are on the point of reaching the ports of private life and domestic felicity. May tranquility, health & happiness long attend you in your retirement. As you will have become a private Citizen before this shall be put into your hand, I may now venture to ask your acceptance of a pair of Shoe & Knee Buckles, made expressly for you of oriental Topases—which Captn O’Brien is charged to deliver or send to you. As, I think, they are neither mean or gaudy, or too vulgar or too expensive, I hope you will wear them very often for my sake: and that, in wearing them, you will some times have the goodness to recollect, they are only meant as a silent memorial of the sentiments of inexpressible attachment, affection & respect with which I shall never cease to be, Your sincerest friend & Most devoted Servant”(DLC:GW).

4GW wrote Pickering on 12 June that Nancy Harrison had delivered the buckles, and on 26 June he thanked Humphreys for them.

5These are probably the letters from Rufus King in London of 15 Dec. 1796 and 6 Feb. 1797, both of which deal, in whole or in part, with King’s arranging for GW the publication in the London press a chancery order relating to the Thomas Colvill estate. For references to GW’s long-term involvement in the settlement of the Colvill estate, see George Pearson to GW, 12 May, n.1.

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