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To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 3 July 1795

From Gouverneur Morris


London 3 July 1795

My dear Sir

This Letter will be confin’d to a single Object. I had Yesterday the Honor to see Lord Grenville. After some general Conversation we fell naturally on the State of Things between this Country and America. On the Capture of our provision Vessels (premising that I had no Right to interfere) I exprest a Wish that the Redress intended might be speedy, as Delay was hurtful to the Merchant.1 His Lordship told me that he beleivd every Thing possible was done to facilitate the Settlement, and was inclin’d to think the Price allowed would render the Capture rather useful than injurious to the Owners. He then told me he was glad of the Opportunity to mention some Things which had led him to apprehend he had been mistaken as to the Dispositions of our Government. He had acted in the Perswasion that these were friendly & could make Allowances for those Acts which in free Governments must be attributed to the popular Will of the Moment, but those Things which he had in Contemplation seemd to proceed from the Government itself. His Lordship instanced as one of them a Report of Mr Innes to the Governor of Kentucky in which he states that the Withholding an Acknowlegement of our Right to a free Navigation of the River Mississippi by the Court of Spain must be attributed in part to british Influence.2 His Lordship repeated to me his Sentiments on that Subject already confided to Mr Jay who will doubtless have communicated them to you. It results that the Declaration of Mr Innes is both unjust & injurious. I took upon me to say that such Expressions must not be considered as coming from the Government of America but meerly as the Opinion of the Person by whom they were uttered, and I know you so well that I am sure I run no Risque in giving this Assurance. Permit me however my dear Sir to observe that it seems most consistent not only with the Prudence but the Dignity of Government to prevent as much as possible these hot Speeches lest we should fall into the State describ’d by Butler “when hard Words Jealousies and Fears set Folks together by the Ears”.3 His Lordship was particular in mentioning that these Things do not excite Irritation but Apprehension. This Distinction consists with his Majesty’s Dignity but the ultimate Object is the same since either must lead to disagreable Consequences. Now there is every Reason to beleive that the Governments mean well and fairly to each other, it would therefore be peculiarly unfortunate that Misunderstandings should arise especially in the present Moment on Ground the most foreign to your Temper and Disposition. Adieu my dear Sir I am always and truly yours

Gouv. Morris

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, in Morris’s hand, DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers.

1In his diary, Morris noted that he waited upon Lord Grenville at the appointed time of 11:00 A.M. and conversed with him until 12:30 P.M. In addition to the topics highlighted by Morris in this letter, the two men discussed current affairs in Europe as they related to France. Grenville particularly desired Morris to elaborate upon conditions in that country (Miller, Diaries of Gouverneur Morris, description begins Melanie Randolph Miller et al., eds. The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris: European Travels, 1794-1798. Charlottesville, Va., 2011. description ends 112).

2In 1794, GW sent James Innes to Kentucky to inform the government officials there about the state of negotiations for navigation of the Mississippi River (see Randolph to GW, 7 Aug. 1794, and n.2). Grenville was referring to Innes’s letter to Gov. Isaac Shelby of 15 Feb. 1795, which had been published in a number of American newspapers. Innes wrote: “The political connexion existing at present between Spain and England, will not, it may be apprehended, be an advantageous event to our negociation at the court of the former: for, I believe it has rarely happened, that the interests of the United States have been remarkably patronized in countries where British influence has preponderated” (Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser, 22 April).

According to Morris, Grenville stressed the potential injury such a sentiment could make, since the British “are really desirous” that the United States should have free navigation of that river. Grenville feared “the American Government are not so well dispos’d towards G. Britain as he had been led to imagine.” During the course of their conversation, Morris suggested “a confidential Application by the British Minister,” but Grenville countered with “the Danger of Publicity from the Nature of” the American government. Morris then suggested “a verbal Communication to the President.” Grenville again declined but desired Morris to write GW a private letter (Miller, Diaries of Gouverneur Morris, description begins Melanie Randolph Miller et al., eds. The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris: European Travels, 1794-1798. Charlottesville, Va., 2011. description ends 113).

3This quote is found in Hudibras, Part I, canto 1, lines 3–4, by Samuel Butler.

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