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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 27 July 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia July 27. 1795.
½ past five A.M.

Private
Sir

Saturday evening was appointed for the last meeting on the treaty in the state-house yard; and five o’clock was the hour. I waited in town until After six, in hopes of hearing the result.1 But nothing having transpired, I went into the country, where the rumors of the proceeding were very various and extraordinary. I returned last evening, when I found a letter from Mr Hammond, complaining generally of an insult, and desiring a conference, that he might ascertain, what measures the government will take respecting it. As soon as I read the letter, I gave him his choice of last evening or this morning for an interview. He has preferred 10 o’clock this morning.2

The best accounts, which I have been able to collect, are nearly to this purport. The greater part of the committee, appointed to draw the address, (Mr Ingersoll being the only one named of any conspicuousness, who did not appear) mounted the stage, which was erected. The address was read and approved clause by clause; and at the close of the reading was huzzaed. There was very little speaking, tho’ Mr Mclenachan is said to have made an harangue of great splendor and pith, to this effect. “Friends and fellow-citizens. Here is the treaty. It is a damnable treaty. Take it; and kick it to the devil. And give three Cheers for Hamilton Rowan, a friend to the rights of man.” He threw the treaty among the people. They replied with the cheers, which he requested; and about 250 of them marched with the treaty upon a pole up Chesnut Street, and down Market Street, until they came opposite to Mr Hammond’s, where they burnt it. He and his whole family were standing at the windows during the transaction. No violence was offered, as far as I yet learn. Probably some intemperate language was uttered. Something of the like nature occurred before Mr Bond’s door.3

I am told, that the meeting consisted of but a few, (comparatively speaking). It is supposed, that the whole number in the yard did not exceed one thousand; of whom two thirds were spectators standing aloof, and attending from pure curiosity.

I believe, sir, but do not vouch for, this statement.

Since I wrote the foregoing, Bache’s paper of this morning has been delivered. Having heard, that Mr W. and Colo. P. were in the state house-yard on saturday, I suspected, that they would be struck at. I was informed by Mr Harrison, that those gentlemen, himself and Mr Habersham were there.4 I do not know, that the thing is of importance in any way; but it can do no public service.

Mr Desaussure brought me on saturday several half eagles.5 They are most beautiful; far more so than the guinea. I have desired him to send down to you three or four; which he has promised to do—He goes on with spirit and effect. I have the honor to be sir with the most respectful and affectionate attachment yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph.

ALS, DLC:GW.

1For the meeting, see Philadelphia Citizens to GW, 25 July, and n.1.

2Randolph meant the letter of George Hammond to him of 26 July, which arrived at Randolph’s residence at 7:00 P.M. that same evening. The British minister complained of “the daring and premeditated insult, which was offered last night by a tumultuous collection of the people to his house, and to that of his Britannic Majesty’s Consul General.” Randolph’s reply has not been found, but a second note from Hammond reached Randolph at 9:00 P.M. stating the minister’s preference for a 10:00 A.M. meeting the next day. Randolph noted on the docket that “In answer I fixed 12 o’clock to morrow at the office” (all in DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

3Hammond described the incident to Lord Grenville in a letter of the same day. “The meeting in this city, (of which there have been two) have been peculiarly distinguished by their violence. Towards the conclusion of the second of them, on Saturday last, about three or four hundred persons proceeded from the place of assembly to the house of Mr Bond, his Majesty’s Consul General before which after much tumult and clamour they burnt a copy of the treaty. Thence they came to my house and after ranging themselves in the front of it in the street, and expressing their indignation by various noises, burnt another copy of the treaty. Although no personal injury was offered to any part of my family or of Mr Bond’s, I esteemed it nevertheless becoming my public station to take some notice of this transaction.” During his conversation with Randolph that morning, Hammond said “that as from the circumstance of Mr Bond’s house and mine having been selected as the objects of this outrage no doubt could be entertained that it was the intention of the individuals concerned in it to insult the British nation, through its representatives in this country.” Hammond considered it “an act of respect due as well to this government as to my own, not to pass this insult over in silence … and to leave it to this government to decide on the steps which it might deem it expedient to take on the occasion.” Randolph agreed “in sentiment with me as to the nature and extent of the indignity offered, but doubted much whether it was cognizable by the laws of” the United States (transcription, DLC, from original in P.R.O., F.O.5/9).

4The Aurora General Advertiser of this date reported that five thousand to six thousand citizens attended the meeting, that two department heads and other federal officers were in attendance, and that “the greatest unanimity prevailed.” It also reported that the treaty later was “burnt in several public places.” Randolph’s informant probably was Richard Harrison.

5Production of the 1795 half eagle had been ordered by Henry W. DeSaussure’s predecessor, David Rittenhouse. The design by Robert Scot featured a Liberty head on one side and an eagle on the other. On 31 July, DeSaussure issued the warrant for delivery of the first batch to the treasurer (Walter Breen, Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins [New York, 1988], 512–13).

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