George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 28 May 1796

May 28th6 June 1796

Gl C. informed me that he had recd from his friend Adet the agreable news, that if a new Minister was to come over, it would be a Mr Vincent formerly a distinguished Officer in the Corps of Engineers a gentleman of great Merit and well known in this country. he knew well that this new Minister, would adopt every plan and follow every step begun or suggested by Adet, consequently things would go on smooth & easy. he added that his mind was now fully satisfied & he would continue his travels with alacrity & spirit. he also informed me, that having considered the uncertainty of my staying here or going down the River he had finally wrote to his friend Adet not to direct his dispatches to me, but forward him the same, by Express to Kentucky or fort Washington, as soon as the new Minister was arrived and matters arranged between them, so as to establish the chain of correspondence upon a fixed plan.

From the different conversations I have had with him I have reason to suspect that he has powerful recommendations to Genl Wilkinson and expects a great deal of information from that quarter. he calls him the popular General & seems to entertain a very indifferent opinion of the Commander in Chief, whom he considers as a Slave to the Executive and of course a dangerous man.

May 29th—I paid a morning visit to Gl C. & upon a pressing invitation I dined with him—the conversation turned upon his voyage, and a map being produced, we examined the ground he had to go through from Limestone to Lexington from thence to Fort Washington &c. &c., upon a reasonable calculation it appeared that it will require from two to three months & perhaps more, to accomplish the viewing of Kentucky, North west territory, the new State of Tennassee & Post Vincennes, before he could reach the banks of the Mississipi at Kaskakias. in the course of the conversation I intimated that in all probability I would go down the Ohio, in the course of the next month and likely would see him at Fort Washington, on his return from Lexington, he seemed highly pleased & assured me he would be very glad, if I could make it convenient to accompany him for the remainder of his voyage; I told him that it would depend in a great measure upon the turn my business would take in that Country.

June 1st. Genl C. came and spent with me two hours this morning, in this long conversation I discovered that his departure which had been postponed first by a bad state of health, and afterwards by an accident which has happened to his baggage on the road is now deferred by an intimacy which has taken place between him & Judge Turner. the latter is this moment giving copies of notes, on the North western territory, Kentucky & he is also communicating drafts of the different Forts which he says he has taken himself on the Spot. &c. Genl C. seems to be in rapture with his new acquaintance & promises himself wonders from the information he expects; he went as far as to say, that he would not begrudge the expences of a stay of two weeks more here, if it was necessary. he is to spend this day with the Judge and will take with him his Adjutant whose name is Warin; this gentleman as I formerly observed, is an Engineer of great abilities & has a peculiar talent in taking drafts of any place or object. Genl C. asked me, if he might depend upon my going down the Ohio as I had hinted in our last conversation; I said I would go for certain; now said he I will write to Adet and inform him of your determination by the next post, he shall direct his dispatches under your Cover, by the return of the mail & that will save the expence of an Express, this will answer a good purpose for we are not rich enough for the grand object we have in view. I promised to wait for the dispatches a week or two longer, if it was necessary, & carry them to him at Fort Washington.

June 2nd. Gl C. informed me that he was well satisfied with the Notes of Judge T. as also with his verbal information that his adjutant was hard at work in taking copies and that in all probability he could not leave Pittsburgh before wednesday next, in the course of this conversation he was a little more opened than before; he told me plainly that he was travelling at the expence of the French Republic that money had been advanced to him by Mr Adet for hims[elf] and his Suite; he professed a great desire to serve me, & w[ent] so far as to say, that if I would quit this country (to which no true Frenchman ought to be attached) a proper situation would be procured for me; & in order to force conviction upon my mind, he told me in confidence, that part of his instructions were to prepare the way to an Exchange of the province of Louisiana for San Domingo lately ceeded to France by the Treaty of Peace with Spain; at all events he had in charge to establish or at least to ascertain the possibility of establishing in the province of Louisiana a Company to furnish the French Republic with timber & Spars for the Navy, & that I might be made the Agent of Government in that undertaking. But said he, you must shake your American prejudices, which I have often discovered in our different conversations, & of which I am well informed from other quarters; even Judge T. who has travelled with you once down the Ohio, says you are the least of a Frenchman he ever saw; I have taken pains continued he, to undeceive him, because he will see Adet in Philadelphia, for whom I have given him a Letter of introduction, & he might give him an unfavourable opinion of you.

June 4th. Genl C. came to see me this morning, informed me that he had recd no letter from Philadelphia yesterday, & that in all probability he would leave Pittsburgh to morrow or monday morning as he thought that by that time, his adjutant would have finished his work with the Judge—he asked me again if I positively woud go the Ohio, as I had promised him & upon my answering in the Affirmative he said he would depend upon my word, as he had wrote by post yesterday to his friend Adet, who would accordingly forward me his dispatches, now said I am satisfied & shall expect you at Fort Washington by the latter end of this month, on my return from the upper settlements of Kentucky. I will then inform you of my success & prospects, & may perhaps let you more into my secret views & operations, especially if you can make it convenient to accompany me for the remainder of my voyage.

June 6th. Genl C. came this morning to bid farewell—he informed me that he heard yesterday of Genl Wilkinson, having began his march towards the British Posts; that this intelligence, would alter his plan of voyage; that instead of taking horses at Limestone for Lexington he would proceed directly with his boat to Fort Washington & follow the Tract of the Army as expeditiously as possible to overtake Genl Wilkinson whom he must necessarily see. on his return to Fort Washington he would order his boat to Louisville & himself with his adjutant travel by Land through Kentucky &c. Fort Washington is still our rendezvous, & the first arrived thither is to wait for the other. In the course of this conversation he informed me, that he was perfectly pleased with the communications & information he had from Judge T.; that in all probability he would be of considerable service & that he had written accordingly to Mr Adet; he blamed me for my want of attention to the Judge, strongly recommended my seeing him every day till his departure from Pittsburgh—amongst many other instructions he gave me, he particularly insisted, that I should be upon my guards in any conversation I might have with Mr James Ross Senator in Congress, who was to his certain knowledge the Champion of government & the Colleague of the infamous Bingham &c. &c. &c. the Genl left Pittsburgh at 11 oClock.

Oliv. Wolcott jr


Copied from the original paper. July 3d 1796.


DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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