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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 8 October 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia October 8. 1795


Until monday last I did not obtain from the office those of my own letters, which I deem proper to be introduced into my vindication.1 But I still want the inspection of a letter from you, dated July 22. 1795, and received by me. I applied personally at the office on Saturday last for the sight of your letters to me. The Chief Clerk went into the room, in which Mr Pickering sits, to consult him, at my desire, upon my application. He afterwards carried to Mr Pickering a brown paper; and on his return placed it before me. It contained many of your letters; and was indorsed to this purport “The President’s letters.” I presumed that they were all there; as no mention was made to me of any, that were missing. But not finding that of July 22. 1795, I asked for it; and the chief clerk replied, that Mr Pickering had just taken it out; and that upon his saying, that I might wish to see it, Mr Pickering had observed, that, if I did, I would ask for it. I accordingly asked for it again; but was answered, that it was necessary to consult Mr Wolcott. Not hearing any thing late on Monday from the Chief Clerk, I reminded by a note, and on tuesday received thro’ him the rancorous and insolent answer of Mr Pickering, which amounts to a positive refusal, and of which due notice will be taken in its proper place.2 I affirm to you, that I hold that letter to be important to one of the views, which the question will bear. As I aim at accuracy in my statements; I am anxious to prevent a mistake in my recollection of that letter; and therefore request the inspection of it.3

Mr Fauchet’s letter, and the circumstances, which preceded, and attended, the delivery of it to me, embrace a variety of political matter, connected with many documents.4 The papers and reasonings in my general letter will comprehend, among others, the following: my letter to the governor of Vermont on the 28th of July 1794;5 Mr Bradford’s letter from Fort Pitt on the 17th of August 1794, mine to the Secretary of the treasury on the 28th of August 1794;6 a private letter, which in the latter end of July 1794 you directed me to write to a certain person;7 two late letters to Colo. Monroe;8 my letter to Mr Jay on the 18th of August 1794;9 my last circular letter to our ministers;10 your letters to me on the 22d and 31st of July 1795, with the memorial therein referred to;11 my letter to you on the 12th of July 1795;12 the affidavit, which was laid before you of the British, being supposed to be concerned in the insurrection;13 the advice of another gentleman and myself to you on the 25th of August 1794⟨;⟩14 extracts from Mr Jay’s and Mr Monroe’s instructions;15 and my letter to you on the 5th of August 1794.16

You must be sensible, sir, that I am inevitably driven into the discussion of many confidential and delicate points. I could with safety immediately appeal to the people of the United States, who can be of no party. But I shall wait for your answer to this letter, so far as it respects the paper desired, before I forward to you my general letter; which is delayed for no other cause. I shall also rely that any supposed error in the general letter, in regard to facts will be made known to me, that I may correct it, if necessary; and that you will consent to the whole of the affair, howsoever confidential and delicate, being exhibited to the world. At the same time I prescribe to myself this condition, not to mingle any thing, which I do not sincerely conceive to belong to the subject.17 I have the honor to be sir with due respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, DLC: Edmund Randolph Papers; ADf, DLC: Edmund Randolph Papers. This letter was printed in Randolph’s Vindication, 23–24. The undated ADf evidently was composed on 6 Oct., as it refers to the events in the first paragraph as of “yesterday.” A later note by Randolph on the ADf states, “This letter I showed to G. Taylor in the street on the 6th Octr 95, who admitted the facts as to him to be truly stated.”

1The previous Monday was 5 October.

2Timothy Pickering’s reply, as quoted in a letter from George Taylor, Jr., to Randolph of 6 Oct., was printed in Randolph’s Vindication, 25. Pickering stated that the letter “does not appear to have any connection with the intercepted letter of Mr. Fauchet; and, cannot possibly have referred to it; because the President was at that time ignorant even of its existence: and Mr. Randolph perfectly well knows that his resignation was occasioned solely by the evidence of his criminal conduct exhibited in Mr. Fauchet’s letter. The inspection of the President’s letter then cannot be necessary for Mr. Randolph’s exculpation.”

In the ADf, Randolph had written: “I received the following note which is a ⟨illegible⟩ &c. saying, not relevant &c. I will not enter into a competition with that person on the ground of vanity, farther than to believe, that I should never have consulted him, even as a friend upon my vindication. I deem that paper to be important. Whether it be necessary or not will hereafter appear.”

3At this point both drafts begin the next paragraph with text that does not appear in the ALS. The ADf reads: “It has been suggested, sir, that one of the officers around you, who will be found deep in this business, has declared, that if I do not publish soon, government will. I shall be ready to meet any publication, which may be meditated as soon as I see your letter of July 22. 1795. In the mean time I send to you Mr F.’s & A.’s certificate and my own affidavit. The letter of detail with its references, and with the nos. 3. & 6. will be presented by another opportunity, in order that if I am inaccurate in any statement, I may be corrected.” On the ADfS, Randolph wrote and then struck out: “If, as has been suggested, a publication be meditated on the part of government, I shall be ready to meet it, as soon as I see that letter.” And later in the paragraph he struck out text about sending “now” Fauchet’s and Adet’s certificates and dispatches 3 and 6.

4Randolph is referring to Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet’s dispatch to the French government number 10, of 31 Oct. 1794, which was the main evidence against him. For summaries of the letter and its delivery to Randolph, see Pickering to GW, 31 July, n.3; GW to Wolcott and Pickering, 12–18 Aug., and notes; and Randolph to GW, 19 Aug., and n.1 to that document.

5In his letter to Thomas Chittenden of 28 July 1794, Randolph conveyed GW’s instructions “to communicate to your Excellency confidentially, and confidentially only, a wish … to procure the means of being informed with regularity, accuracy and secrecy of the measures of Government in lower Canada, as well those committed to print, as others which are known to the public only by their execution,” perhaps by means of “a person posted at Montreal who may be trusted for his prudence” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

6In response to concerns expressed in William Bradford’s letter to GW of 17 Aug. that some of the Pennsylvania militia could not be relied upon to suppress the western insurrection, Randolph’s letter to Alexander Hamilton of 28 Aug. 1794 relayed GW’s “wish … that General [Henry] Miller should be sent into the counties of Pennsylvania, west of the Susquehannah, to ascertain their real temper, in case they should be called upon to quell the insurrection in the West” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

7This letter has not been identified. In Vindication, Randolph described it as a “very confidential letter … urging a particular person to explore the situation of the insurgents in all points” (p. 88).

8Randolph evidently is referring to his letters to James Monroe of 2 and 14 July 1795. In the former he told Monroe that GW had “not yet decided upon the final measure to be adopted by himself.” In the latter he expressed his belief that GW would not ratify the Jay Treaty “until it returns from England; if then.” Randolph explained, “The late British order for seizing provisions is a weighty obstacle to a ratification. I do not suppose, that such an attempt to starve France will be countenanced” (Randolph, Vindication, description begins Edmund Randolph. A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends 30, 39).

9In Vindication, Randolph quoted the part of this letter to John Jay that alluded to the suspicions “that British influence has been tampering with the people of Kentucky, and of the neighbourhood of Pittsburg, to seduce them from the United States, or to encourage them in a revolt against the general government” (p. 83).

10Randolph’s letter of 21 July to the foreign ministers informed them that GW had not ratified the treaty and expressed Randolph’s opinion that he would not sign it until it was returned from England, “and probably not even then, if a late British order for the capture of provisions, going to France should have been issued as we suppose, and increase the objections which have been lavished upon it” (Randolph, Vindication, description begins Edmund Randolph. A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends 39).

11Randolph quoted these documents in Vindication, 33–38.

12Randolph quoted from this document in Vindication, 30–31.

13The affidavit has not been identified. At this point on the ADfS, Randolph struck out text that reads: “a circumstance, which passed in your conference wit⟨h⟩ Governor Mifflin, at the time of the insurr⟨ection,⟩ the letter of Governor Mifflin to you, dated the 5th of August 1794.”

14Randolph wrote in Vindication: “I united in the advice of the 25th of August, 1794, for marching the militia” (p. 84).

15On page 73 of Vindication is the following extract from Randolph’s instructions to Monroe of 10 June 1794: “If we may judge from what has been at different times uttered by Mr. Fauchet, he will represent the existence of two parties here, irreconcileable to each other;—one republican, and friendly to the French revolution; the other monarchical, aristocratic, Britannic, and anti-Gallican: that a majority of the House of Representatives, the people, and the President are in the first class; and a majority of the Senate in the second. If this intelligence should be used, in order to inspire a distrust of our good-will to France; you will industriously obviate such an effect.” Vindication did not quote from Randolph’s instructions to Jay of 6 May 1794. Randolph did, however, refer to Jay’s instructions about a possible alliance with Russia, Denmark, and Sweden against Great Britain, and he quoted briefly from the instructions to Monroe that he should “let it be seen, that in case of war with any nation upon earth” the United States “shall consider France as our first and natural ally” (pp. 74–75).

16This letter appears in the appendix of Randolph’s Vindication, 100–103. On the ADfS, Randolph wrote and struck out additional text: “and a statement of some transactions, preceding the 19th of August 1795; on that day; and at Rhode Island on August 31. and September 1. 1795.”

17The preceding paragraph was published as an extract in The Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser, 10 October. In the ADf this paragraph reads: “The general tenor of my letter will necessarily lead into much confidential matter. For in examining, how far my subject has been prejudged: whether there were not circumstances; which should have arrested that prejudication; and upon what ground any charge can be supported; I can not avoid this consequence. Nothing can be more painful to me, than an appeal to my fellow-citizens, the people of the U.S., who can be of no party. But being driven into it, I shall wait until your answer, before I make it.”

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