Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Timothy Pickering, 9 April 1798

From Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia April 9. 1798.

Dear Sir,

This morning the dispatches from our envoys are published, and I inclose a copy.1

In your letter of March 27th in answer to mine of the 25th just then received, you say, “I shall write again to-morrow.” I have received no letter from you since that of the 27th. which I mention on the presumption that you may have written, and because if you have, it is important on every account that it should be known.

You will readily imagine what apologies our internal enemies make for the French Government. Jefferson says that the Directory are not implicated in the villainy and corruption displayed in these dispatches—or at least that these offer no proof against them.2 Bache’s paper of last saturday says “That M. Talleyrand is notoriously anti republican; that he was the intimate friend of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. King and other great federalists,3 and that it is probably owing to the determined hostility which he discovered in them towards France, that the Government of that country consider us only as objects of plunder.”4

I am very truly yours

T Pickering

Alexander Hamilton Esqr.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ALS, letterpress copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

1This is a reference to the first dispatches concerning the XYZ affair from the United States Envoys to France, Elbridge Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, II, 153–68). For the decision of Congress to have these dispatches printed, see Annals of Congress description begins 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 (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , VII, 536–37; VIII, 1377–80.

The pamphlet in which the dispatches were published on April 9, 1798, is entitled Message of the President of the United States, to both Houses of Congress, April 3, ’98, With the Despatches from the Envoys of the United States at Paris, which accompanied the Same (Philadelphia: John Fenno, 1798).

2It has not been possible to discover how Pickering knew that Thomas Jefferson was attempting to make a distinction between Talleyrand and the Directory in the XYZ affair, for no record has been found that Jefferson stated these views publicly. Malone states: “Jefferson entered into no public discussion of the XYZ dispatches …” (Dumas Malone, Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty [Boston, 1962], 373). On the other hand, on April 12, 1798, Jefferson wrote to Peter Carr: “As the instructions to our envoys & their communications have excited a great deal of curiosity, I enclose you a copy. You will perceive that they have been assailed by swindlers whether with or without the participation of Taleyrand is not very apparent. The known corruption of his character renders it very possible he may have intended to share largely in the 50.000 £ demanded. But that the Directory knew anything of it is neither proved nor probable. On the contrary, when the Portuguese ambassador yielded to like attempts of swindlers, the conduct of the Directory in imprisoning him for an attempt at corruption, as well as their general conduct, really magnanimous places them above suspicion. It is pretty evident that mr A’s speech [to Congress on May 16, 1797] is in truth the only obstacle to negociation. That humiliating disavowals of that are demanded as a preliminary, or, as a commutation for that a heavy sum of money, about a million sterling. This obstacle removed, they seem not to object to an arrangement of all differences and even to settle & acknolege themselves debtors for spoliations” (ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). See also Jefferson to James Madison, April 6, 1798 (ALS, letterpress copy, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress); Jefferson to Madison, April 15, 1798 (ALS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).

3After the overthrow of the French monarchy in 1792, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord left France for England. Expelled from that country early in 1794, he sailed for the United States, where he remained until June, 1796. He returned to Paris in September of the same year.

4This quotation is from an editorial entitled “The Dispatches of the Envoys” in Benjamin Franklin Bache’s [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, April 7, 1798.

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