George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Rufus King, 26 April 1797

From Rufus King

London Apl 26, 1797

Dear Sir

As I forward several copies of the news Paper that contained the advertisement concerning your suit in the Chancery of Virginia, though a Ship in which one of them was sent, has been carried into France I hope some others arrived safe and in Season 1—Every one is anxious to hear from Vienna, the latest accounts from which, leaving it uncertain whether we are to expect the news of a Great Battle, or of a sudden & separate peace between France and austria—England wants Peace, and seeks it with Sincerity—The Country is weary with the war, and appears to despair of any advantage to be expected from its continuance—It is understood that Mr Hammond, who has been sent to Vienna to join in a negotiation for a General Peace, is authorised to give up points on which Lord Malmesbury firmly insisted: thence it is hoped, should not the Necessity of the Empero[r]s situation compel him to make a separat Peace, that the joint negotiation may produce a general one 2—General Pinckney is still at amsterdam and our intercourse and affairs with France remain in the embarrassed situation in which they have been for some months past—The late Arret of March will prove vexatious to our Commerce, if it is executed in all its provisions: there is some reason to hope that the most unreasonable of these Regulations may be reconsidered and rendered more just:3 Sir John Sinclair sent me a few Copies of the inclosed printed Paper, with a request that I would transmet one of them to you.4 With perfect Consideration I have the Honor to be Dear sir Yr ob. & faithful Servt

Rufus King


Rufus King (1755–1827) was named by GW in 1796 to replace Thomas Pinckney as U.S. minister to Great Britain.

1On 25 Aug. 1796 GW wrote Rufus King in London to request him to place “in some public Paper, agreeably to the Decree of the High Court of Chancery in Virginia” a notification for those having claims under Thomas Colvill’s will to make their claims known. Among the King Papers at NHi, an undated document signed by Bushrod Washington reads: “George Washington Surviving Exectr of Thos Colville decd vs Thos West Exectr, Devisee & heir at Law of Jno. West Junr decd who was one of the Executors of Thos Colville & the nearest relation of Catharine Colville mother of the said Thos Colville of the names of Stot, Will, Richardson & Smith or their decendants.

“The Publisher of the London Gazette or some other person who can do it with propriety must make an affidavit before the Mayor or some magistrate that the order of the High Court of Chancery in this cause was inserted in the above Gazette for two months successively—the best way will be to Cut out from one of those papers the notice signed ‘Geo. Washington’ & the order of the Court & annex it to the affidavit—the affidavit will be authenticated in the manner such papers usually are in England. if the order should not have been published 2 months successively it should be immediately done.” This document must have been written on or before 31 July 1797, as GW enclosed it in his letter to Rufus King of 31 July. For GW’s role as administrator of Thomas Colvill’s estate, see George Pearson to GW, 12 May 1797, n.1. Further correspondence regarding the notification published in the London Gazette includes King to GW, 12 Nov. 1796, 15 Dec. 1796, 27 Oct. 1797, GW to King, 25 June, 31 July, and GW to Bushrod Washington, 28 July 1797.

2George Hammond (1763–1853) was sent to America in August 1791 to be the first British minister to the United States. Since 1795 he had been undersecretary at the foreign office in London. James Harris (1746–1820), first earl of Malmesbury, in October 1796 was sent to Paris to negotiate terms of peace with instructions to insist on the return of the Low Countries to Austria, which doomed his mission.

3The decree, dated 2 Mar. 1797, formally abrogated the “free ships, free goods” provision of the Franco-American treaty of 1778 and provided, among other things, that any English goods found on American ships would be confiscated and any American serving aboard a ship of France’s enemy would be deemed a pirate. See James McHenry to GW, 24 Mar., n.1., and Oliver Wolcott, Jr., to GW, 19 April, n.2.

4The enclosure has not been identified, but see GW to Sir John Sinclair, 15 July.

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