George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 9 October 1799

From Timothy Pickering


Sir,Trenton [N.J.] Oct. 9. 1799.

I received yesterday the inclosed letter from Mr Murray.1

The President is on his way to this place. Govr Davie has been here a week; and Mr Ellsworth writes me, in a letter recd this morning, that he will arrive himself by Friday morning. The question about the mission to France will, I expect, be then settled. The state of the President’s mind, when on the 3d instant in the evening he called on Judge Ellsworth at Windsor (above Hartford) is thus intimated by the latter in an extract of a letter to the President written since that call, & which the Judge has communicated to me, in closing a sentence, in these words, referring to the President—“—should you continue inclined to such suspension of our mission, as under present aspects, universal opinion, I believe, and certainly my own, would justify.”2

I am informed by Mr McHenry that General Hamilton & Genl Wilkinson are expected here to-day: and Mr Liston informs me that he shall be on in the course of the week from New-York. Judge Ellsworth comes on without being invited by the President; tho’ on very satisfactory grounds, which he mentions in his letter. This concurrence of public characters will give rise to speculations: and if the mission to France be suspended, the Aurora will ascribe it to British influence—and the efforts of the British faction, as we shall in this case be called anew: altho’ the arrivals of Hamilton & Wilkinson, & the passing of Mr Liston, are purely fortuitous.3 With great respect, I am, sir, your obt servt

Timothy Pickering

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (letterpress copy), MHi: Pickering Papers.

1In his letter to William Vans Murray of 26 Oct., GW acknowledges the receipt of a number of letters from Murray, “Within the space of a few days.”

2In his letter to Pickering of 5 Oct. from Windsor, Conn., Oliver Ellsworth wrote: “I was the evening before last honoured with a call from the President of half an hour; but nothing passed respecting my going to Trenton. I have notwithstanding presumed to write him by this day’s mail, as follows—‘Since you passed on, I have concluded to meet Governor Davie at Trenton, which he probably will expect; and which, besides putting it in our power to pay you our joint respects, and to receive as fully any communication of your views as you may wish to make, may enable me to accompany him Eastward, should you continue inclined to such suspension of our Mission as, under present aspects, universal opinion I beleive, and certainly my own, would justify. It is a matter of some regret, Sir, that I did not consult you on the propriety of this visit; but if I err, experience has taught me that you can excuse.’ Governor Davie will doubtless arrive before me, and I hope will be made comfortable & easy. It will be Thursday Evening or Friday morning next befor I shall have the pleasure of seeing you & him” (MHi: Pickering Papers). On 16 Oct., to Pickering’s dismay, President Adams instructed him to deliver the prepared instructions to Ellsworth and William R. Davie and tell them to be ready to sail for France on the frigate United States by 1 November.

3As the major general charged with the direct management of the U.S. army in the North and Northwest, Alexander Hamilton had earlier ordered Gen. James Wilkinson, who commanded the forces in the Northwest, to come east so that the two could confer (Hamilton to Wilkinson, 12 Feb. 1799, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 22:477–79). On 6 Oct. 1799 Hamilton wrote Secretary of War James McHenry from New York: “General Wilkinson has just returned to this city, and will set out together with myself for Trenton on Monday in order to settle definitively with you the requisite arrangements for the Western Army” (ibid., 23:510). Robert Liston, the British minister to the United States, wrote Pickering from New York on 8 Oct. that he would “probably pass through Trenton in the course of this week on my way southward” (MHi: Pickering Papers).

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