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From George Washington to John Jay, 31 August 1795

To John Jay


Philadelphia 31st Augt 1795.

My dear Sir,

You will have learnt from the public Gazettes, and through other more authentic channels, that all that rested with me to do to give ratification to the treaty between this country and Great Britain is already accomplished. Mr Pinckney’s absence from the Court of London; the information, and aids it was expected he would derive from Mr Shorts presence, and acquaintance with matters at that of Madrid; the pecuniary situation of our affairs in Holland, requiring the attentions of Mr Adams in that country; and the little knowledge we had of the character and qualifications of Mr Deas have occosanied no little embarrassment in this business.1 However, a mode is adopted, which I hope will be effectual.

It has not been among the smallest of these embarrassments that the domineering spirit of Great Britain should revive, just at this crisis—and the outrageous & insulting conduct of some of her Officers should combine therewith to play into the hands of the discontented—& sour the minds of those who are friends to peace, order, & friendship with all the world.

But this by the bye.

The object of this letter is, to pray you to aid me with hints relative to those points which you conceive to be fit subjects for the further friendly negociations on the W.I.2 trade with G. Britain, agreeably to the recommendation of the Senate; and which appears to have been in contemplation by the concluding part of the Treaty signed by yourself and Lord Grenville.3

I intended to have asked this favor of you at an earlier day, but a coincidence of unexpected circumstances has involved me in so much business, & perplexity, that it has been delayed from time to time (since my arrival in this city) until the present moment4—But as nothing is now asked that you have not, I am sure, revolved over & over again during your negociation—and since the decision of the Senate thereupon I persuade myself it will require but little time for the digest I ask; and which I beg to receive as soon as you can make it convenient to give it to me: circumstances rendering it necessary for me to leave this place—if possible—on Monday next for Virginia, in order to bring back my family;5 but instructions for the new Negociator must be prepared before I go. With very great esteem & regard I remain—My dear Sir Your Affecte & Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Be so good as to send the letter herewith enclosed, to Colo. Hamilton.6


1Thomas Pinckney, who had been directed to act as an envoy to negotiate with Spain, left London in mid-May, leaving his secretary William Allen Deas as the senior U.S. diplomat at the British court. For the pecuniary situation in Holland, see Edmund Randolph to GW, 12 July, n.27.

2Both the draft and the letter-book copy lack the reference to the West Indies at this point.

3GW most likely was referring to Article XXVIII of the Jay Treaty. For the Senate resolution to renegotiate part of Article XII, concerning the West Indies trade, see Notes from Edmund Randolph, c.24 June, n.2.

4GW referred to the circumstances that led to the resignation of Edmund Randolph as secretary of state (see Timothy Pickering to GW, 31 July, and n.3 to that document; and Randolph to GW, 19 Aug.). GW arrived in Philadelphia on 11 Aug. (see Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends 6:209).

5GW left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon on 8 Sept. (see Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends 6:211).

6Neither the draft nor the letter-book copy has the postscript. GW wrote Alexander Hamilton on 31 Aug.: “We know officially, as well as from the effects, that an order for siezing all provision vessels going to France has been issued by the British government: but so secretly, that as late as the 27th of June it had not been published in London: It was communicated to the cruisers only, and not known until the captures brought it to light. By these high handed measures of that government, and the outrageous, & insulting conduct of its officers, it would seem next to impossible to keep peace between the United States & G. Britain.

“To this moment we have received no explanation of Homes’ conduct from their charge des affaires here, altho’ application was made for it before the departure of Mr Hammond; on the statement of Govr Fenner, and complaint of the French Minister. Conduct like this, disarm the friends of Peace and order, while they are the very things which those of a contrary description are wishing to see practiced.

“I meant no more than ba⟨r⟩ely to touch upon these subjects, in this letter; the object of it being, to request the favor of you to give me the points on which, in your opinion, Our new Negociator is to dwell; when we come into the field of Negociation again; agreeably to the recommendation of the Senate; agreeably to what appears to have been contemplated by Mr Jay & Lord Grenville, at the close of the treaty subscribed by them; and agreeably also to what you conceive ought to be brought forward, and insisted upon on this occasion.

“I am sorry I have been so late in applying for this opinion; but a coincidence of unexpected events have involved me in more than usual business; and some of it not of a very pleasant nature. This has occasioned the delay: but the pro’s & con’s relative to the Treaty that is and the treaty that ought to be, in the judgment of the opponents; are so much in your view, that if you wanted a remembrancer, you would be at no loss from these discussions to advert to them; and you will require but little time to furnish me with what I have here asked. This I press with more earnestness, inasmuch as circumstances will render it very inconvenient for me to remain here longer than the present week (before I return to Mount Vernon for my family) but which I must do until the Instructions for the new Negociator is compleated.

“Altho’ you are not in the Administration—a thing I sincerely regret—I must, nevertheless, (knowing how intimately acquainted you are with all the concerns of this country) request the favor of you to note down such occurrences as, in your opinion are proper subjects for communication to Congress at their next Session; and particularly as to the manner in which this treaty should be brought forward to that body: as it will, in any aspect it is susceptible of receiving, be the source of much declamation; & will, I have no doubt, produce a hot Session” (ALS, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers).

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