George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 20 January 1798

From Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia Jany 20 1798


I had the honor to receive your letter of the 12th covering one for Mr Williams, late American Consul at Hamburg. He is appointed to succeed Mr Johnson in the Consulate in London, and in connection therewith, on the pressing application of Mr King, and indirectly of Mr Gore, to whom Mr Williams is personally and intimately known, to the agency of Mr Bayard, who has resigned. I shall therefore send your letter to meet him in London.1

I send in the mail, with this letter, Monroe’s book and Fauchet’s pamphlet.2 The latter consists of those bold assertions which he and other French ministers have allowed themselves to make concerning the conduct of the American Government, with little regard to truth or reason or decency. It communicates no new light on the subjects in dispute: but with all his abuse he appears fully sensible of the impolicy on the part of France of forcing the U. States into a war. It was written before the revolution of Septr 4th. It is a work of so little merit as to have been below animadversion.

Monroe’s publication, like Randolph’s vindication,3 is considered by every one whom I have heard speak of it, as his own condemnation, or as some have expressed themselves, his death warrant. A writer in Fenno’s paper, under the signature of Scipio, has undertaken the examination of it, and clearly convicted Monroe from his own written documents. I believe the writer of Scipio is Mr Tracy. The pieces are written with uncommon perspicuity. If you do not get Fenno’s paper, and will permit me, I will send you the whole series. Eleven numbers have already appeared, and I suppose the writer is near the conclusion.4

The two dollars you enclosed being more than the cost of Monroe’s & Fauchet’s publications, I have taken the liberty to purchase and send with them Gifford’s answer to Erskine on the origin and causes of the present war, between France & Britain especially.5 It is a very able work.

A week ago I received a letter from Mr Smith, our minister in Lisbon, dated the 20th of October, from which I transcribe the following paragraph.6

“A summary of your correspondence with Mr Monroe was lately published in the Gazette Nationale of Paris, with a very judicious note by the editor, which oversets Mr Monroe’s reasoning very completely. The paper was brought to me by the Swedish Chargé, a very sensible man, who says Monroe must certainly be an ideot. This affair having been read here by the Corps Diplomatique has been a good deal the subject of conversation, and Monroe’s conduct has of course excited universal contempt.”

The correspondence referred to is that between M. & me, in which he demanded the reasons of his recall.7 The note of the Paris editor is this.

“We cannot be of the opinion of James Monroe. We even think it contrary to all principles. The government which is responsable, must necessarily have the right of recalling, dismissing or employing those who possess or who have lost its confidence. Take away this right, and it has only the burden of responsability, without the power of acting; it is at the mercy of its agents. Besides a recall and even a dismission, do not dishonour, whatever Mr Monroe may say of it; & there is scarcely any but an ambitious & headstrong blunderer who would complain of not being employed at all, or of being employed no longer.”

I had made the extract from Mr Smith’s letter (substituting Mr Pickering’s for the word your) and the translation from the Paris Gazette, to send to Mr Fenno when Mr Harper happening to call in, desired me to let him have both, and he would make Bache publish them first.8 To this I agreed, on his copying them with his own hand. Bache remarked that the extract from the paris paper came to him in manuscript: but its genuiness you will now depend on. I have the honor to be very respectfully, sir, your obt servant,

Timothy Pickering

(The pamphlet goes in a seperate package.)

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

1Joshua Johnson (1742–1802), brother of Gov. Thomas Johnson (1732–1819) of Maryland and father-in-law of John Quincy Adams, was made consul in London in August 1790. Christopher Gore (1758–1827) of Waltham, Mass., was a U.S. commissioner in London from 1796 to 1803, under Article VII of Jay’s Treaty with Great Britain in London. Samuel Bayard (1767–1840) of Philadelphia was named by GW in 1794 to act as agent for the United States to prosecute claims before British admiralty courts.

3After Edmund Randolph resigned in 1795 as secretary of state under suspicion of having communicated improperly with Fauchet, the French minister to the United States, Randolph wrote and published A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation.

4Uriah Tracy (1755–1807), who succeeded Jonathan Trumbull as U.S. senator for Connecticut in 1796, was the author of the series of articles published in John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) under the name Scipio, attacking Monroe’s A View of the Conduct of the Executive. James Monroe suspected that Pickering himself was the author, or Attorney General Charles Lee (Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 19 Feb. 1798, in Hamilton, Writings of Monroe, description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed. The Writings of James Monroe. 7 vols. New York and London, 1898–1903. description ends 3:102–4).

5For Thomas Erskine’s publication, see Erskine to GW, 15 Mar. 1797, source note. In November 1797 William Cobbett printed in Philadelphia A Letter to the Hon. Thomas Erskine; Containing Some Strictures on His View of the Causes and Consequences of the Present War with France, By John Gifford Esq. Gifford was the assumed name of John Richards Greene (1758 –1818). See 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 85.

6William Loughton Smith (1758–1812) of South Carolina resigned from Congress on 10 July 1797 to become U.S. minister to Portugal, where he served until Sept. 1801.

7For reference to the correspondence between Pickering and Monroe in July 1797 regarding Monroe’s recall as U.S. ambassador to France, see Pickering to GW, 25 July 1797, n.1.

8Robert Goodloe Harper (1765–1825), congressman from South Carolina, was at this time eager for war with France.

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