George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 22 April 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia April 22. 1795.


Notwithstanding Mr Van Berckel has no right to expect, that I should transmit his letter for your consideration, after what I have written to him;1 yet I forward it with the view, that if you should not approve a postponement of the subject; I may receive your instructions. If you do, I shall presume your approbation from silence. In truth, it is adviseable to gain as much time as possible. The probability is, that his government is dissolved: that he has dismissed the Dutch consul for being a democrat: that he is desirous of inlisting the executive on his side: that knowing the jeopardy of his situation, he would be restrained, in what he now does, by no consideration of diplomatic propriety: that he is personally irritated against Heineken; and that he has been set on by some other foreign minister to try the pulse of the President. A compliance with Mr Van Berckel’s request, tho’ seemingly a matter of form, involves numberless delicate and perhaps critical questions. In short upon examining the consul’s commission yesterday, I am not satisfied, that the minister has any authority to remove him.2

Nothing of consequence having occurred since Monday last,3 I have only to offer to you the affectionate and respectful attachment, with which I have the honor to be Sir 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. Randolph listed GW’s internal address as “Mount Vernon.”

1Randolph sent GW a translation of a letter from Franco Petrus Van Berckel, Dutch minister to the United States, dated 18 April and signed by George Taylor, Jr., as “Faithfully translated from the original.” Van Berckel claimed that he deemed “it necessary to withdraw the Commission” of Jan Hendrick Christiaan Heineken, Dutch consul in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Van Berckel considered it his “duty to notify” Randolph so that Heineken’s exequatur “should be annulled, and the cessation of his functions, privileges and immunities which he has enjoyed in his consular quality, rendered public in such manner as you shall judge proper” (copy [translation], DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Randolph also sent GW a copy of his reply to Van Berckel, dated 21 April, which promised the minister that he would submit his letter to GW as quickly as possible. Since Van Berckel had requested the federal government to take action, “I hold myself bound to ask his special instruction.” Randolph informed Van Berckel that GW had left Philadelphia for a journey to Virginia on 14 April and intended to remain absent from the capital for approximately “twenty days, unless some particular reason should occur for longer delay.” Randolph assured the Dutch minister he would transmit his letter to the president “by the mail of tomorrow; (which will be the first since its receipt) were it not probable, that the interval between its arrival at Mount Vernon and his preparation to return, would be rather unseasonable for a business upon which perhaps he may wish time to reflect. If … any act is to proceed directly from him, it could not be ordered by him, prepared here, transmitted for signature to Virginia, and brought back hither for completion, sooner than he will himself be on the spot” (copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2The States General of the United Netherlands had authorized the commission of Jan Hendrick Christiaan Heineken as consul in Pennsylvania and Delaware on 17 Sept. 1784. A copy (in Dutch) with an English translation is in DNA:PCC, item 128.

3The previous Monday was 20 April.

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