George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from William Bradford, January 1794

From William Bradford

[Philadelphia, January 1794]

The Attorney General has the honour to report, That having considered the Resolve of the Senate of the 24th instant whereby the President of the United States is requested to lay before that body the correspondence which has been had between the minister of the United States at the French Republic and the said Republic and between said Minister and the office of Secretary of State1

He is of opinion, that it is the duty of the Executive to withhold such parts of the said correspondence as in the judgment of the Executive shall be deemed unsafe and improper to be disclosed. He also conceives that the general terms of the resolve do not exclude, in the construction of it, those just exceptions which the rights of the executive and the nature of foreign correspondences require. Every call of this nature, where the correspondence is secret and no specific object pointed at, must be presumed to proceed upon the idea, that the papers requested are proper to be communicated; & it could scarcely be supposed, even if the words were stronger, that the Senate intended to include any Letters, the disclosure of which might endanger national honour or individual safety.

The Attorney General is therefore of opinion, That it will be advisable for the President to communicate to the Senate such parts of the said Correspondence as upon examination he shall deem safe & proper to disclose: withholding all such, as any circumstances, may render improper to be communicated.2

Wm Bradford

ALS, DLC:GW. GW’s docket reads: “Bradford’s Opinion respecting the Resolve of the Senate requesting the President to lay before them the Correspondence betwn the Governmt of the U.S. and our Minister in France[.] no date.”

1For the resolution concerning the diplomatic correspondence of Gouverneur Morris, see U.S. Senate to GW, 24 January.

2For GW’s response to the Senate’s request of 24 Jan., see GW to U.S. Senate, 26 February.

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