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From George Washington to Edmund Randolph, 21 October 1795

To Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia 21st of October 1795


In several of the public Gazettes I had read your note to the Editor of the Philadelphia Gazette, with1 an extract of a letter addressed to me of the 8th instant; but it was not until yesterday, that the letter itself was received.

It is not difficult, from the tenor of that letter, to perceive what your objects are; but that you may have no cause to complain of the withholding any paper (however private & confidential) which you shall think necessary in a case of so serious a nature, I have directed that you should have the inspection of my letter of the 22d of July agreeably to your request2—and you are at full liberty to publish, without reserve, any, and every private & confidential letter I ever wrote you; nay more—every word I ever uttered to, or in your presence, from whence you can derive any advantage in your vindication.

I grant this permission, inasmuch as the extract alluded to, manifestly tends to impress on the public mind an opinion that something has passed between us which you should disclose with reluctance; from motives of delicacy which respect me.3

You know, Sir, even before the Treaty was laid before the Senate, that I had difficulties with respect to the commercial part of it; with which I professed to be the least acquainted; and that I had no means of acquiring information thereon without disclosing its contents: not to do which until it was submitted to the Senate, had been resolved on. You know too, that it was my determination previous to this submission, to ratify the Treaty if it should be so advised, and consented to by that body; and that the doubts which afterwards arose, & were communicated4 to Mr Hammond, proceeded from more authentic information of the existence of what is commonly called the Provision order of the British government.5 And finally, you know the grounds on which my ultimate decision was taken; as the same were expressed to you, the other Secretaries of departments and the late Attorney general, after a thorough investigation & consideration of the subject, in all the aspects in which it could be placed.

As you are no longer an Officer of the government, and propose to submit your vindication6 to the Public, it is not my desire, nor is it my intention to receive it otherwise than through the medium of the Press. Facts you cannot mistake. and if they are fairly and candidly stated, they will invite no comments.7

The extract of your letter to me, dated the 8th instant, being published in8 all the gazettes, I request that this letter may be inserted in the compilation you are now making; as well to shew my disposition to furnish you with every means I possess towards your vindication, as that I have no wish to conceal any part of my conduct from the public. That public will judge, when it comes to see your vindication,9 how far, and how proper it has been for you, to publish private & confidential communications—which, oftentimes have been written in a hurry, and sometimes without even copies being taken. And it will, I hope, appreciate my motives, even if it should condemn my prudence, in allowing you the unlimited license herein contained.

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Edmund Randolph Papers; ADf, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1The preceding word was written on the draft by Timothy Pickering. GW had written the following words, which were struck out: “& Universal daily Advertiser, enclosing.” Randolph’s letter to Andrew Brown of 10 Oct. was first printed in The Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser of that date.

2As originally drafted by GW, the preceding clause read: “I have directed a copy of the one you apply for—namely—my letter of the 22d of July to be delivered to you”; the revisions to that text on the draft are in Pickering’s writing.

3The preceding paragraph was written on the draft by Pickering to replace the following text written by GW but struck out: “I am induced to make this request inasmuch as the extract above alluded to appears to me to have a manifest tendency to impress on the public mind an opinion that something misterious has passed between us which you reluctantly bring forward, whilst others are kept back.”

4On the draft, GW inserted the word “verbally” at this point. The letterbook copy follows the draft.

5On the draft, Pickering wrote the preceding word to replace “Cabinet,” which GW wrote. Pickering then bracketed the following text written by GW and suggested that he replace “the passage inclosed with hooks” with the language that completes this paragraph in the ALS: “And finally, as it has been expressed to you, and to the Secretaries of the other departments in your presence you also know after a thorough investigation & consideration of the subject in all the aspects it could be placed the grounds upon which my ultimate decision was taken.”

The provision order was the British order in council of 25 April, which directed British naval commanders to detain and take to Britain ships carrying provisions to ports under French control (see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 7 July, n.3).

6At this point on the draft, GW wrote the following words, which were struck out: “(against the suggestions contained in the intercepted & confidential letter of the late French Minister).”

7On the draft, GW added, “if they are not, explanations and perhaps referrences must follow,” but that text was truck out.

8Pickering wrote the two preceding words on the draft to replace GW’s words: “on its passage through.”

9Pickering supplied the preceding word on the draft; GW had written “general letter.”

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