George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 1 February 1798

From James McHenry

Philad[elphia] 1 Febry 1798

Dear Sir.

I have received this moment your letter of the 28th ulto. The land business being with Mr Wolcott I shall give him the letters and see that they are forwarded by to-morrows mail and the inquiry aluded to made of the Deputy Surveyor if found.

Munroe’s memoir has been little read and has made no converts to his party. He has I think sunk in the public opinion. Fauchets publication has done no harm, and has been as little successful as Munroes.

The letter from the late commissioner of the revenue to the house of representatives has produced as yet no effect. It seems to be pretty well understood that they can have nothing to do with its object.1

The calm in the house of Representatives has been lately interrupted by an attempt to trench upon the power of the President relative to foreign intercourse and more recently by one member spitting in the face of another; Whether this affair has more meaning than appears I cannot say but the spitter Lion is a great beast.2

Not one word direct from our commissioners. To keep alive opposition here and give it more energies, France may neither come to an open war, nor yet require impossibilities. Yours most affectionately

James McHenry


1Tench Coxe (1755–1824), U.S. commissioner of revenue since 1792, was removed from office by President John Adams in December 1797. On 26 Dec. 1797 Coxe wrote to the House of Representatives to ask that “my official conduct may undergo a thorough scrutiny” (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., 775).

2On 30 Jan. Matthew Lyon (1750–1822), a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont, taking offense at the allusion by Roger Griswold, member from Connecticut, to Lyon’s having been cashiered from the army, spat in Griswold’s face on the floor of the House (ibid., 955–62). Two weeks after this, on 15 Feb., Griswold walked up to Lyon sitting at his desk and began beating him over the head. Before Lyon could retaliate with a pair of tongs, House members pulled the two apart (ibid., 1034–35, 1047–58). The subsequent investigation did not lead to Lyon’s expulsion, but later in the year he was prosecuted under the Sedition Act and on 9 Oct. 1798 was the first person to be sentenced and sent to jail under its terms.

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