George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Macdonald, 19 August 1797

From Thomas Macdonald

Philadelphia 19 Augt 1797


It gave me pleasure to be made the bearer of a volume of Reports from the British Board of Agriculture, to be presented to you on the part of the Board, and which was delivered to me for that purpose by Sir John Sinclair, with the enclosed letter—As it was only just finished at the Press when I left London, it was sent me in loose sheets which have been bound up here—Coll Innes who left town on Thursday will have the honor of delivering it.1

My Colleague Mr Rich & myself, on arriving here in quality of his Majesties Commissioners under the sixth Article of the Treaty between Great Britain and the United States, had the satisfaction of finding (what indeed we had Anticipated) that we should have to Act with two Gentlemen of the first respectability under your appointment—With the Consciousness of intending well, we therefore encourage the hope that the Board, now Constituted by the Appointment of a man of just and honourable principles as fifth Commissioner, will not only do justice, but do it in a manner which may give satisfaction to both Countries—And if this shall be the result, an obstacle in the way of perfect harmony between them, more pernicious I beleive in its operation than many may have conceived, will be removed for ever.2

Our amiable and able Colleague and friend Coll Innes will give you an account of our proceedings—but I am sorry to say that we have not as yet been enabled to make much use of our time—Those who will probably be very impatient after they Come before us, have hitherto delayed to present their claims; and therefore Coll Innes’s absence for some weeks which seems absolutely necessary for his health will not be attended with any inconvenience to our business—we shall however certainly refrain from doing any thing material till his return.

If Mr Rich & I make any excursion in the interval, it will be to have the honor of paying our respects at Mount Vernon—we shall do so, whenever it may happen, with other feelings than those of mere Compliment. With highest Consideration & respect I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obedient humble Servant

Thos Macdonald


Thomas Macdonald and Henry Pye Rich came to Philadelphia to meet with the two American commissioners appointed by GW, James Innes and Thomas FitzSimons, under the term of Jay’s Treaty to appoint a fifth commissioner and then set the compensation due to British merchants and others for damages or losses. The commission was unable to reach an agreement about who should be appointed. The two British commissioners visited GW at Mount Vernon in October (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:262).

1This may be Communications to the Board of Agriculture; or Subjects Relative to the Husbandry and Internal Improvement of the Country, volume 1, parts 1 and 2, printed in London in 1797. GW’s copy, in the Boston Athenæum, has inscribed on the flyleaf: “For General Washington From the British Board of Agriculture” (Griffin, Boston Athenæum Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 91). Sir John Sinclair’s letter introducing Macdonald is dated 13 Feb. 1797. See also GW to Sinclair, 6 Nov. 1797.

2James Innes (1754–1798) in 1786 succeeded Edmund Randolph as Virginia’s attorney general, and in 1795 he was under consideration for the office of U.S. attorney general. The other U.S. commissioner was Thomas FitzSimons (1741–1811) of Pennsylvania.

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