George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 25 July 1797

From Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia, July 25 1797.


I have been honoured with your letter of the 21st covering several letters to be forwarded to Great Britain, which I shall do with great pleasure, and beg you to believe that I shall at all times cheerfully execute Similar commands.

The plan for establishing the board of agriculture in England, I will lay before the Committee of Congress on that subject, as you request.

Mr Monroe has made a formal demand of the facts and reasons of his recall. I have denied the right, on constitutional grounds, & the nature of such employments. At the same time that I have denied an official communication of facts and reasons and names of informers, and disclaimed all attempts to disclose the motives of your determination to recall him, Mr McHenry, Mr Lee and myself (Mr Wolcott is in N. England) have concluded, as individual citizens, to state to him the reasons which on your requisition for our opinions, induced us to advise you to recall him.

The letters from me to the above effect (one official the other as an individual) I have sent him to-day. He is determined, I see, to enter on a news-paper vindication. If your time will permit, and your inclination disposes you to read the correspondence, I will transmit you copies of it.1

The arbitrary and unjust measures of the Directory I hope will be controuled by the weight of moderate men thrown into the Legislature by the new elections; and we are pretty well assured that the national sentiment is taking a current correspondent with our wishes for peace and the enjoyment of our rights. I am very truly, Sir, your respectful & obt servt

Timothy Pickering

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

1In June 1794 GW named James Monroe U.S. minister to France. Two years later, on 8 July 1796, GW instructed Secretary of State Pickering to notify Monroe of his recall. Pickering wrote Monroe of this on 22 Aug. 1796 and gave no reason for his recall. When Monroe’s successor, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, arrived in Paris in early December, the Directory refused to receive him. On 30 Dec. 1796 Monroe took his formal leave of the French government and traveled to Holland where he remained until late spring before sailing for home. He arrived in Philadelphia on 27 June 1797 and on 6 July demanded from Pickering the reasons for his recall. Pickering refused the request in a letter to Monroe of 17 July, which met with Monroe’s insistence on 19 July of his “right” to an explanation. Pickering responded with two letters on 24 July to which Monroe responded with two letters on 31 July, ending the correspondence (Ammon, Monroe, description begins Harry Ammon. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. New York, 1971. description ends 152–53, 155, 160–62). Monroe, with the aid of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, almost immediately began preparing his defense and attack on the administration. This he delivered to Benjamin Franklin Bache in November 1797 to be published under the title of A View of the Conduct of the Executive in the Foreign Affairs of the United States Connected with the Mission to the French Republic during the Years 1794, 5 & 6, a book of over five hundred pages. GW’s detailed comments on Monroe’s book are included, under the date of March 1798. For earlier reference to the recommendations of cabinet members with regard to Monroe’s recall in 1796, see Charles Lee to GW, 24 July 1797, and note 1 of that document.

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