George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Timothy Pickering, 6 March 1796

To Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia 6th March 1796


I have given your Letter of instructions to our Minister at the Court of London, attentive consideration, and approve them; unless the last clause but one, should give rise to the negotiation of an article which may not accord with the result of a motion which is pending in the House of Representatives (introduced, if my memory serves me, by Mr Smith, of Baltimore)—of which, however, I have but an imperfect recollection.1

I think too (even with the advantages proposed to be obtained by the reduction) our Negotiator should adhere, even to the hazard of the Treaty altogether, to vessels of one hundred tons burthen, for the West India trade.

These things, and a general view of the subject, as comprized in the instructions, added to matters which have been, & may yet be introduced into Congress, which may have relation to the proposed negotiation, incline me to think that it would be better to forbear sending the dispatches for Mr Pinckney by the ship Favourite (as other conveyances will no doubt soon offer)—& to take more time in consulting the most intelligent mercantile characters within your reach, on the principles and heads of the several articles which are the subject of them.2

The Instructions ought, in my opinion, to be accompanied with powers. They may be offered or not, as occasion shall require. They can, with this alternative, do no harm: whereas the want of them, if called for, may occasion a suspension of the measure.

Mr Adams’s letter, and Lord Grenville⟨’s⟩ propositions relative to captured vessels of a certain description—and with respect to the pay of the Commissioners, require immediat⟨e⟩ attention.3

Proclamation of the treaties with Spain & Algiers, should issue as soon as they can be prepared, & the ratification of the former dispatched as soon as possible.4 Measures also for carrying these, & the other treaties which have been ratified & proclaimed, into effect, ought to meet with no delay that can be avoided.

And I request you would concert measures with the Secretaries of War, & Treasury, if necessary, for proceeding vigorously, & securely with the Arsenal at the confluence of Potomac & Shenandoah.

Go: Washington

LS, MHi: Pickering Papers; ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. The LS is docketed, “recd s. d.”

1For the instructions, see Pickering to GW, 5 March, n.1. GW probably is referring to the resolution introduced by Samuel Smith on 26 Jan.: “That the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures do consider whether any, and what, alterations are necessary in the laws of the Union with respect to commerce and navigation.” In his speech supporting the resolution, Smith pointed to the “propriety of repealing that part of the laws which lays an extra duty of 44 cents on foreign tonnage, and of one-tenth additional duty on goods imported in foreign ships” (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 4th Cong., 1st sess., 268–69). The penultimate paragraph of instructions to Thomas Pinckney concerned the duties charged American and British vessels in each other’s ports.

2The proposed instructions were not sent to Pinckney (see Pickering to Rufus King, 8 June 1796, in MHi: Pickering Papers).

3GW is referring to John Quincy Adams’s letter to Pickering of 27 Nov. 1795, which had been received on 4 March. Adams reported his conversation with Lord Grenville on that day. In that conversation, Grenville stated that the British government would agree to £1,500 per year as compensation for the commissioners dealing with the debts owed to British citizens and the spoliation claims of American merchants. When Adams replied that the sum might be too high, Grenville suggested paying £1,500 to the commissioners who had to cross the ocean and £1,000 to those who remained in their home country. Grenville also observed that “many of the cases of irregular captures &c. were objects of so small a value that the expences and delays inevitable in carrying them through a course of Admiralty proceedings would absorb the whole or a great part of the indemnification” and said that his government would have no objection to taking those cases out of the courts for more speedy adjudication, as had been suggested by William Allen Deas. Grenville proposed that the king’s advocate general in conjunction with William Scott, as counsel for the United States, should determine compensation. Adams had delayed replying to this proposition, but to Pickering he noted, “my instructions hitherto received do not authorize me to comply with either of the proposals” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to the Netherlands).

4GW’s proclamations announcing the ratification of the treaties with Spain (Df, in Pickering’s writing, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters) and the treaty with Algiers (DS, NNGL) are dated 7 March. GW’s letter notifying Charles IV that the ratification of the Spanish treaty had been sent to Charles Rutledge, who was “instructed to do whatever shall be necessary for the exchange of the ratifications of the said Treaty” (copy, DNA: RG 59, Credences), bears the same date.

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