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From George Washington to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., and Timothy Pickering, 12–18 August 1795

To Oliver Wolcott, Jr., and Timothy Pickering

[12–18 Aug. 1795]1

At what time should Mr F——ts letter be made known to Mr R——?2

What will be the best mode of doing it? In presence of the Secs & A: Genl.

If the explanations given by the latter, are not satisfactory, whether, besides removal, are any other measures proper to be taken? & what?

Would an application to Mr A—— to see the paragraphs in Nos. 3 & 6, alluded to in F——ts letter, be proper? These might condemn, or acquit, unequivocally and if innocent whether R. will not apply for them if I do not?3

If upon the Investigation of this subject, it should appear less dark than at present, but not so clear as to restore confidence, & a continuance in Office; In what light, and on what ground is the removal to appear to the public?

What immediate steps are necessary to be taken, so soon as the removal of R. is resolved on; if that should be the case, with respect to the Archives in that Office?

If the Letter of F——t is the only evidence, & that thought sufficient to the removal what would be the consequence of giving that letter to the public, without any comment, as the ground on which the measure of the Executive, respecting the removal, is founded? It wd speak for itself. A part, without the whole, might be charged with unfairness. The public would expect reasons for the sudden removal of so high an Officer, & it will be found not easy to avoid saying too little, or too much, upon such an occasion: as it is not to be expected that the removed Officer, will acquiesce without attempting a justification; or at least to do away by explanations the sting of the letter of accusation; unless he was let down easily. To do which, I see no way: for if he is guilty of what is charged, he merit⟨s⟩ no favor; and if he is not, he will accept of none. and it is not difficult to perceive what turn he and his friends will give ⟨this⟩ act—namely that his frien⟨d⟩ship for the French nation, & his opposition to a compleat ratification have been the causes.

AD, CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers.

Wolcott included a transcript of these questions in his letter to John Marshall of 9 June 1806. According to Wolcott: “The two first of these questions were decided by the President uninfluenced as far as my knowledge and beleif extends, by any suggestions from the Officers of Government: He was greatly dissatisfied that the Instructions and Memorial had not been prepared and submitted to the consideration of the Secretaries & Att. General, that their Reports might be formed & he peremptorily resolved, that whether Mr Randolph was innocent or culpable, he would require of him the performance of a service which was his official duty & which ought to have been long before compleated.

“It was my earnest wish to be excused from being present at the interview, when Fauchets Letter was delivered to Mr Randolph: The President however determined otherwise & inserted his decision on the notes I have transcribed. He observed that Fauchets Letter had necessarily excited suspicions: that it was proper that the officers of Government, equally with himself, should possess the same opportunities of having those suspicions removed—or istablished and that notwithstanding the long connexion which had subsisted between Mr Randolph & himself, he was persuaded, that any explanations which would satisfy his own mind, would also be satisfactory to the Officers of Government: After mature consideration, it was considered to be improper to make any application to Mr Adet, that it was improbable that Mr Adet would permit his records to be inspected: that neither Fauchets dispatch nor any Certificate of the French Minister could be regarded as conclusive evidence in favour of or against Mr Randolph—That Mr Randolphs conduct at the time an explanation was required, would probably furnish the best means of discovering his true situation and of duly estimating the defence he might make” (CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers).

1The date of this document is based on recollections recorded in 1806 by Wolcott and in 1826 by Pickering—the latter recalling that GW had returned to Philadelphia on 11 August. Upon receiving notice during dinner of GW’s arrival, Pickering left to attend the president and found Secretary of State Edmund Randolph there. In a private conversation with GW, Pickering gave the president a translation of Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet’s dispatch No. 10 (see “Miscellaneous Notes” in Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering, description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends 3:215–19). It is possible that GW read the dispatch that evening, but he received the letter after a long day of travel. GW also took detailed notes about the document (DLC:GW) and most likely initiated the process of writing the questions no earlier than 12 August. Wolcott’s letter to Marshall indicates that GW had prepared the list of questions before the confrontation with Randolph on 19 August.

2Fauchet’s dispatch No. 10 of 31 Oct. 1794 is printed in Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 444–55. The notes about this letter in GW’s handwriting are essentially a translation with some omissions of tangential material. Whether the omissions appeared in the original translation or only in GW’s copy has not been determined (AD, DLC:GW, filed at 31 Oct. 1794).

3Fauchet’s dispatches numbered 3 (of 4 June 1794) and 6 (of 5 Sept. 1794) are printed in Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 372–77, 411–18.

According to GW’s notes on Fauchet’s dispatch No. 10, that dispatch contained the following references to the French minister’s dispatch No. 3: “The Sessions of 1793, & 94, had given importance to the Republican party … The propositions of Mr Madison, or his project of an Act of navigation, of wch Mr Jefferson was originally the author, sapped the British interest, an integral part, at this time, of the system of Finance. Mr Tayler a republican member of the Senate, published 3 pamphlets in wch the system of finance is explored. … In the last he asserted, that the decrepit state of affairs, wch was the result of this system, could not but presage, under a rising government, either a revolution or a civil War. The first was preparing, Government foresaw it—produced, under different forms, the demand of a disposable force, to put it in a respectable state of defence—Defeated in this measure, who can aver that it has not hastened the local eruption, to make an advantageous diversion, & to lay the more genl storm wch it saw was gathering? Am I not authorised to form this conjecture upon the conversation which the Secretary of State had with me & Le Blanc alone, & of wch my dispatch No. 3 gives you an acct?”

With regard to dispatch number 6, the notes read: “Two or three days before the proclamation [about the Whiskey Insurrection] was published, & consequently before the cabinet had resolved on its measures, Mr Randolph came to see me with an air of great eagerness and made me the overtures of which I have given thee an acct in my No 6. Thus with some thousands of dollars the republic could have decided on civil war or on Peace! Thus the consciences of pretended Patriots in America already have their prices.”

Randolph later printed translated extracts of the two dispatches, which he obtained from French minister Pierre-Auguste Adet (see Randolph, Vindication, description begins Edmund Randolph. A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends 17–19).

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