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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 24 April 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia April 24. 1795.


I had the honor of receiving yesterday your favor of the 20th instant from Mount Vernon.1

A letter from Mr Jay, dated the 7th of January, and received yesterday from the Eastward, recommends the postponing of Mr Pinckney’s trip, until the treaty with G. Britain shall be ratified. I presume it is too late to give such an instruction, even it were adviseable; and Mr Jay probably calculated upon an earlier decision on the treaty, than will in fact take place. I own, that from Mr Short’s communications, Mr Jay’s ideas appear to be well founded.2 But to arrest Mr Pinckney’s progress for the reason, given by Mr Jay, would be interpreted into a stratagem for obtaining the votes of those, who are interested in the Mississippi, for the ratification of the treaty. Without doubt Mr Pinckney, whose intercourse with Mr Jay has been unreserved, is impressed with his sentiments; and will probably find an occasion of keeping off the business, until it be ripened by the ratification. Indeed the delays of the Spanish court and the communications with Mr Short will consume some time, before the negotiation commences seriously.

Mr Jay only forwards his instructions to Mr Bayard; the appointment of whom is highly pleasing to him and Lord Grenville.3 He says, that he shall return in the spring; and a New-York paper quotes one of his letters, advising his correspondent not to write to him after the first of march.4

I am informed, that Mr Van Berckel declared to a gentleman, that he wished to do some act, which should oblige the present powers of Holland to displace him; and that this was the reason of his removing Heineken the Dutch Consul. Mr Van Berckel has answered the letter, (a copy of which I had the honor of inclosing to you in my last) with no small share of disappointment, visibly marked. I shall repeat to him this morning, that my original purpose to wait for your instructions is unalterable.5

Mr Hammond in answer to my last letter states, as usual, that he will forward the correspondence between us to the British Ministry.6 I have the honor to be sir with the most respectful and affectionate attachment yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

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

1This letter has not been found.

2In a postscript to the 7 Jan. letter he wrote to Randolph, John Jay argued that Thomas Pinckney should postpone his journey to Spain as an envoy extraordinary, saying that “it will afford him strong ground for strong measures: I think this Government would rather promote than mar the Business alluded to; indeed I am convinced of it, from a Variety of Considerations” (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain).

William Short currently served as commissioner for negotiating a treaty with Spain concerning navigation of the Mississippi River. In his communication to Randolph on 29 Dec. 1794, Short observed that “if the treaty with England should prove satisfactory in America, so as really to remove all chances of difference with that power[.] the points we have to regulate with Spain may be then considered” under U.S. control. Americans “may then carve out their own system towards Spain.” He reiterated this comment in a letter to Randolph on 2 Feb. (all in DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Spain).

3Samuel Bayard of Philadelphia was named by GW in 1794 to act as agent for the United States to prosecute claims in the British admiralty courts. British minister Lord Grenville, Jay wrote Randolph on 7 Jan., considered Bayard’s appointment “a conciliatory measure and would with pleasure do whatever might depend upon him to facilitate the Business.” As he ended his letter to Randolph, Jay urged the secretary to arrange matters that related to Bayard’s office as quickly as possible and to send the agent detailed instructions (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain). Jay’s instructions to Bayard, dated 5 Jan., explained steps to initiate the claims process.

4The statement concerning Jay’s departure from England came from a letter he wrote on 5 Dec. 1794. An excerpt appeared in a 17 April appeal to the New York electors from three supporters of the effort to elect Jay governor of New York, who gave assurance that Jay would soon return to his home state (American Minerva and the New-York Advertiser, 22 April).

5Franco Petrus Van Berckel had written to Randolph on 18 April expressing his desire to remove Jan Hendrick Christiaan Heineken. For that letter and Randolph’s response of 21 April, see Randolph to GW, 22 April, and n.1 to that document. Van Berckel wrote to the secretary of state a second time, on 21 April, and warned that “every delay in a business of such importance, may have very serious consequences.” He considered it “essential that the Governors of the States who gave the Exequaturs on Mr Heineken’s Commission, agreeably to the resolution of Congress of the 18 April 1785 should be instructed that this commission has just been declared void, and as I am apprehensive of deviating from the line I ought to pursue towards the Executive of the United States … I cannot determine to pursue this measure unless you will assure me that you deem it proper” (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the Netherlands Legation).

At 1:00 P.M. on 21 April, Randolph penned a note to the Dutch minister to “accept my answer to yours of the 18th instant, as a temporary answer to that of this day also” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

6Randolph referred to his letter to George Hammond of 22 April (see Randolph to GW, 20 April, and n.6). Hammond sent a critical response the following day: “Your perseverance in refusing to favor me with the explanations, which I have repeatedly requested, of the resolution adopted by this government with regard to foreign ships of war’s, ‘using the rivers or other waters of the united States, as a station, for the purpose of carrying on hostile expeditions from thence,’ and your present assurance of the determination, to refer to varying circumstances and particular cases, the operation of the general principle, impress my mind with considerations, in many respects, so serious and important, that I esteem it inexpedient for me to enter into any farther discussion with you upon the subject of this resolution.” Hammond then stated his intention to “submit it, in its present indefinite and unexplained form, to his Majesty’s Ministers in England, for their information” (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

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