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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 19 May 1795

From Edmund Randolph

May 19. 1795.

E. Randolph has the honor of inclosing to the President the last part of the letter to Mr Fauchet.1 It was intended to have been much more diffuse; but the intelligence about the memorial makes it clear, that the subject will be there poured forth in folio; and, as he has as yet only fired some scattering shot, it is perhaps better to see the points, to which his battery is directed. There are many little observations arising from Mr F.’s letter, not yet made, which will be inserted on the transcription.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1The enclosure has not been found but evidently was a draft for the last part of Randolph’s letter to Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet of 29 May, which responded to Fauchet’s letter to Randolph of 2 May.

2Randolph most likely referred to a letter written to him on 2 May by Fauchet. On 23 May, a frustrated Fauchet wrote the secretary: “It is now twentyone days since I had the honor of writing to you, and eight since you promised an answer to my letter” (ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Foreign Relations, 1:609).

In his letter of 2 May, Fauchet informed Randolph that on 24 Feb. he had received a copy of a dispatch transmitted to the secretary by Virginia governor Robert Brooke. Fauchet assumed that both Randolph and Brooke desired “to prove the exertions made use of to satisfy the reclamations which I have raised against the violation of our treaties, three times repeated in the Chesapeake.” Fauchet then complained: “Since my arrival here, a single allegation” from the English “whether founded or not, has been sufficient for causing the prizes of our privateers to be arrested.” But the United States failed to employ “the same coercive means towards the English” when they sent French prizes into American ports, and “even the severity which your treaties with us impose, has not been exercised towards them.” It took only “a single suspicion” and “the requisitions of the English have been obeyed, and we, with positive facts, have not been able to obtain justice.” Two months had gone by and Fauchet still had not received satisfaction, and he had recently learned that a French privateer with its two prizes were carried into Hampton, Virginia.

Fauchet reluctantly testified to Randolph his “indignation against this new audacity on the part of the English, at the very moment when their Government is boasting of having become the friend of your country, and that hesitation arose from the little success produced” by his repeated complaints. Fauchet then reviewed the poor success his past protests about British actions had received: the English had captured vessels sailing for France under the Concorde’s convoy and taken them to Norfolk, Virginia. An English ship sailing out of Hampton, Va., had captured and then rearmed the French corvette L’Esperance. Americans had demonstrated leniency toward British vessels Argonaut and Thetis and provided “asylum” to Adm. George Murray and his fleet.

“After so many useless efforts,” Fauchet exclaimed, Randolph “must be sensible of the pain I experience in tracing to you a picture, so different from that offered by the French republic, whenever justice towards you is in question, even though her interests are compromitted.” At a time when France faced “a terrible war” that threatened to devour her, the government honored its treaties with the United States. In contrast, the British received an intimate relationship with the United States at the same time in which that nation continued to insult the commerce and sovereignty of America. “Examine, I pray you, sir” if U.S. neutrality existed “when on one hand, you can no longer maintain your treaties; and, on the other, you are obliged to abandon your relations exclusively to the discretion of England.” Fauchet closed with the hope “that the President, who has so often promised me through you that he would support the treaties at all events, will give orders that his intentions … be finally fulfilled” (ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Foreign Relations, 1:608–9).

Randolph responded with a long letter to Fauchet on 29 May. His reference to the “last part” of his letter may have included the following statements: “Throughout your letter, you have dispersed allusions to the late treaty of the United States with Great Britain. To this … we are taught from one passage at least, to view it as a prelude to representations, which you meditate to the French Republic.

“That treaty has been communicated from the Department of State, only to the Chief magistrate of the Union. But it will not be conceived, that reasons peculiar to the case caused this reserve. We were acquainted with no duty towards foreign nations, which should lead us to infringe the usage of suspending the publication of treaties, until the ratifications have been exchanged; or to impart to them more than has been already imparted to the Committee of public safety in France by our Envoy in London through our minister in Paris.”

Fauchet had demanded “Justice only.” Randolph repeated “in the name of the President” the many promises made to Fauchet “that our treaties with France shall be sacred.” The secretary firmly informed the French minister: “The President and Senate are the final arbiters, whether the treaty shall exist. It is with them to pronounce, with whom treaties shall be made, and upon what terms.” Randolph added, “The President is willing to superadd any orders, which can with propriety be expected from him, for the execution of our treaties with France.” He confided to Fauchet his hope, “that the wisdom and magnanimity of the French Republic which resisted past machinations to disturb our harmony, will receive with caution suspicions, which may be hereafter thrown on our fidelity” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; see also ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Foreign Relations, 1:609–14).

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