George Washington Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Washington, George" AND Recipient="Senate" AND Period="Washington Presidency"
sorted by: recipient

From George Washington to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 4 January 1796

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States January 4th 1796.

Gentlemen of the Senate, & House of Representatives,

A letter from the minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic received on the 22d of the last month, covered an address, dated the 21st of October 1794, from the Committee of Public Safety to the Representatives of the United States in Congress; and also informed me that he was instructed by the Committee to present to the United States the Colours of France.1 I thereupon proposed to receive them, last Friday, the first day of the New Year, a day of general Joy and Congratulation. On that day the minister of the French Republic delivered the Colours, with an address, to which I returned an answer.2 By the latter the Senate will see that I have informed the minister, that the Colours will be deposited with the Archives of the United States. But it seemed to me proper previously to exhibit to the two Houses of Congress these evidences of the continued Friendship of the French Republic, together with the sentiments expressed by me on the occasion in behalf of the United States. They are herewith communicated.3

Go. Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, entry 47; copy, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress. The draft is in the writing of Timothy Pickering.

1Fierre-Auguste Adet’s letter of 21 Dec. is addressed to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering. For Adet’s account of his actions designed to prevent GW from concealing the presentation from the American public, see his report to the Committee of Public Safety, 16 Jan., Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 811–14.

A copy and translation of the committee’s address is filed with this letter in DNA: RG 46. The translation reads: “The Connections which nature, reciprocal wants, and a happy concurrence of Circumstances, have formed between two free nations, cannot but be indissoluble. You have strengthened those sacred ties by the Declarations, which the minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, has made in your name, to the national Convention, and to the French people. They have been received with rapture by a nation, who know how to appreciate every testimony which the United States have given to them of their affection. The Colours of both nations, united in the Center of the National Convention, will be an everlasting Evidence of the part which the United States have taken in the Success of the French Republic.

“You were the first Defenders of the Rights of man, in another Hemisphere. Strengthened by your example, and endowed with an invincible energy, the french people have vanquished that Tyranny, which, during so many Centuries of Ignorance, Superstition and Baseness, had enchained a generous Nation.

“Soon did the people of the United States perceive that every victory of ours, strengthened their Independence and Happiness. They were deeply affected at our momentary misfortunes, occasioned by Treasons purchased by English Gold. They have celebrated with rapture the successes of our brave armies.

“None of these sympathetic emotions have escaped the sensibility of the french Nation. They have all served to cement the most intimate and solid Union that has ever existed between two Nations.

“The Citizen Adet who will reside near your Government in quality of minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic, is specially instructed to tighten these bonds of fraternity and mutual benevolence. We hope that he may fulfil this principal Object of his mission, by a conduct worthy of the Confidence of both nations, and of the reputation, which his patriotism and virtues have acquired him.

“An analogy of political principles; the natural relations of commerce and industry; the efforts and immense sacrifices of both Nations in the defence of Liberty & Equality; the blood which they have spilled together; their avowed hatred for despots; the moderation of their political views; the disinterestedness of their Councils; and especially the success of the vows which they have made in presence of the Supreme Being, to be free or die; all combine to render indestructable the connections which they have formed.

“Doubt it not, Citizens, we shall finally destroy the combination of Tyrants; you, by the picture of prosperity, which in your vast Countries, has succeeded to a bloody struggle of 8 years; We, by that enthusiasm which glows in the heart of every frenchman. Astonished Nations, too long the dupes of perfidious Kings, Nobles, & Priests, will eventually recover their rights, and the human race will owe to the american and french Nations, their regeneration and a lasting peace.”

2See Adet to GW, 1 Jan., and GW to Adet, same date.

3GW’s secretary Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., brought this message to each house of Congress, accompanied by army captain Cornelius Ryer Sedam, who carried the French flag. The House of Representatives immediately “Resolved unanimously, That the President of the United States be requested to make known to the Representatives of the French People, that this House hath received, with the most sincere and lively sensibility, the communication of the Committee of public safety, dated the twenty first of October, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, accompanied with the Colors of the French Republic; And to assure them, that the presentation of the Colors of the French Republic, to the Congress of the United States, is deemed the most honorable testimonial of the existing sympathies and affections of the two Republics, founded upon their solid and reciprocal interests: and that this House rejoices in the opportunity thereby afforded, to congratulate the French Nation, upon the brilliant and glorious atchievements which have been accomplished under their influences during the present afflicting war; and confidently hopes, that these atchievements will be attended with the perfect attainment of their object; the permanent establishment of the Liberties, and happiness of a great and magnanimous people.” William B. Giles and Samuel Smith were appointed to carry the resolution to GW (copy, DLC:GW; Journal of the House, description begins The Journal of the House of Representatives: George Washington Administration 1789–1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. 9 vols. Wilmington, Del., 1977. description ends 8:71–72).

The Senate postponed consideration until the next day, when a resolution was offered and laid on the table. On 6 Jan., after deleting from the second paragraph of that resolution the words “That he be requested to assure that magnaminous nation thro’ the proper organ” and making a cosmetic change to the first paragraph, the Senate “Resolved, that the President be informed, the Senate have received with the purest pleasure, the evidences of the continued friendship of the French Republic, which accompanied his message of the 4th instant.

“That the Senate unite with him in all the feelings expressed to the Minister of France on the presentations of the Colours of his nation and devoutly wish that this Symbol of the triumphs, and enfranchisement of that great people, given as a pledge of faithful friendship, and placed among the evidences and memorials of the freedom and independence of the United States, may contribute to cherish and perpetuate the sincere affection by which the two Republics are so happily united” (copy, DLC:GW; Journal of the Senate, description begins The Journal of the Senate including The Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate: George Washington Administration 1789–1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. 9 vols. Wilmington, Del., 1977. description ends 8:41–45).

Index Entries