George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Vans Murray, 17 September 1797

From William Vans Murray

The Hague 17 Sep. 1797

Dear Sir

In the haste of Captain Izard’s departure the copy of a letter of which I spoke was omitted in mine of the date of yesterday—but as he waits at Rotterdam for a wind, the copy which was not quite ready when he left this place, goes under cover in this.

The letter as you will see is without place of Date, except the Initial & concluding letters of the word Paris, from whence it came ⟨mutilated⟩ An American of much coolness & reflexion, & though I by no means place implicit confidence in his speculations upon the future, I yet trust his facts, & give much weight to his conjectures.1 From every thing which I have collected from public men here for two months past & particularly from such as are in strict confidence with the French I have had reason to expect that little was to be hoped from the Justice of France. They all speak of the disposition of that Government not to go to war with the United States—a point which the government of this country ⟨mutilated⟩ing took great pains to ascertain: but they also consider that temper in France as a grace shown us, with which we ought to be satisfy’d—When ever I have suggested the prospect of indemnification for injuries, they have always manifested a surprise that show’d they considered the idea as unjust & extravagant. The baneful error which lies at the bottom of all their opinions respecting us, that America, Government & People are divided into two parties only, British & French, is the point of the hypothesis to which all their other opinions of america relate. My exertions have not been witheld, as ea⟨illegible⟩ as the combat of an idea so disgraceful in ⟨illegible⟩ its admission as a topic, could be fairly ⟨mutilated⟩ an error which has been too little attended to & which the French & some americans have so long laboured to render an established truth. I hear nothing more Sir of M. La Fayette since my letter to you about a fortnight since.2 I am with the most faithful attachment & highest respect Dear Sir your most obedient servant

W. V. Murray


1The first page of the letter ends here, and Murray wrote his name at the bottom. The enclosed letter of 11 Sept. from Paris reads: “A friend of mine (This was a Hamburg banker—who had lived some years in Paris—a man friendly to the U.S.) who had the honor of dining with you at the H— in company with myself & Genl P[inckne]y, yesterday dined at a party wholly of Government Bankers, ministers &c. where, as he was connected with them, the conversation turned ⟨mutilated⟩ on the general affairs of the Nation. Among ⟨mutilated⟩ topics the situation of our poor Country occupied them a few moments—they were quite unreserved &: spoke freely. They had no objection to make peace with A—— but then the A—— must wholly abandon their claims; they must just make such acknowledgments, and sign just such papers as should be offered to them—we were not even spoken of as having the right to ask for any thing. They look on our political situation as desperate at home, assuring themselves of a strong party amongst us at least equal to counteract the operations of our Government, if not sufficient wholly to overturn it and destroy the Union: This was not the opinion of one but of all of them—& they had in company the late Secretary of the Mission to our Country, who thought that if we went to war with F. our union would not last us six months, and that leaving us unattacked would be a great favor. I confess, Sir, that such sentiments as these affect me much, & give me but little hope of success for our ⟨mutilated⟩—yet I rejoice in the belief that these opinions of our Country are not well founded—& that should we be put to the test, our countrymen will evince that love of liberty—of country—order & government—which shall confound & defeat all our enemies, by whatever names they may call themselves & wherever they may exist. Certain of this result, if unfortunately pressed to hostilities, for myself, I shall be ready to meet it with little anxiety, & to join the defenders of my Country in what I shall call a glorious opposition to Tyrants—with the sweet consolation that our cause will be approved of by all the wise and good—and that successful ⟨in⟩ the defense of our Rights & liberties, we shall forever banish from our Land all foreign nations, and foreign influence, perhaps I am communicating nothing new to you—but as this was the conversation of a particular party, who have just now succeeded to the complete controul of the Government, and as what I am telling was spoken with ⟨mutilated⟩th & violence not for me to describe, I feel as if I ought to tell you of it—that you may think of it, and prepare your mind for that disappointment, which to my apprehension, will certainly attend our negotiations—I say I think we shall be disappointed, for I don’t believe that we can submit to the disgraces intended for us. You may judge of my zeal on this occasion, by having the boldness to write to you—for all is distrust & suspicion here, and I risk the chance of this hasty note being open’d at the post office—and the sad consequences which might attend the displeasure of the gentlemen in office. I beg therefore that you will have the kindness to keep this to yourself, and to prevent the possibility of conversation about me, that you destroy it.”

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