Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on a Request for Payment
of Installments on the French Debt1
[Philadelphia, March 11, 1794]
At a meeting of the heads of departments and the attorney general, on the 11th. of March 1794.
It is advised unanimously, that Mr. Fauchet be informed, that He shall be supplied with the instalments, due in September and November next, according to the manner, expressed in the report of the Secretary of the treasury to the President on this subject.2
It is proposed by the Secretary of the treasury and of war, and by the attorney general, that it be verbally stated to Mr. Fauchet by the secretary of state, that notwithstanding the desire of the President to accommodate his request, the situation of the United States will not permit him to go farther, than as abovementioned.
The Secretary of State proposes, that an attempt be made to satisfy Mr. Fauchet verbally with the foregoing engagement; but if he does not relinquish his application, that it be forwarded to congress.3
Approved reserving lastmentioned proposition of the Secretary of State for further consideration.4
D, in the handwriting of Edmund Randolph, signed by William Bradford, H, Henry Knox, and Randolph, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet arrived in the United States on February 21, 1794, to succeed Edmond Charles Genet as French Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. On March 1, 1794, Fauchet wrote to Edmund Randolph: “Les besoins des habitants de St. Domingue réfugiés dans les États Unis depuis l’incendie du cap, ont été connus de la mère patrie; elle s’empresse de rappeller dans son sein ses enfans malheureux pour les consoler et les secourir. Le Conseil éxecutif m’a chargé de leur fournir les moyens de repasser en france. je dois m’adresser aux etats unis pour qu’ils en’avancent la somme nécessaire pour satisfaire aux frais et aux préparatifs de leurs voyages, cette qui a été votée par le congrés seroit insustisante pour remplir l’intention du conseil exécutif; j’ai tout lieu de croire que les etats unis s’empresseront de la completter, il s’agit de secourir l’humanité souffrante! et ceux qui souffrent sont des françois” (copy, RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Messages Transmitting Reports of the Secretary of State, National Archives).
On the following day Fauchet wrote to Randolph: “J’ai réfléchi sur la demande que vous m’avez faite de vous indiquer par approximation la somme qui me seroit nécessaire pour remplir les engagemens que les différens agens de la République ont contractés; J’ai vu qu’il me faudroit au moins un million de dollars, payable en six mois, pour satisfaire soit aux besoins des françois qui se trouvent dans les Etats Unis, soit pour éteindre de dettes qui, de quelques manieres qu’elles ayent été contractées, sont sacrées pour la république parcequ’elles ont été contractées en son nom” (copy, RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Messages Transmitting Reports of the Secretary of State, National Archives).
On March 4, 1794, Randolph assured Fauchet that his requests had been “referred to the Secretary of the Treasury to whose department it belongs” and that Randolph would “embrace the earliest opportunity of returning an answer” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 6, January 2–June 26, 1794, National Archives).
3. On March 12, 1794, Randolph wrote to Fauchet: “Your Letters of the 1st and 2d instant requiring the advance of a million of Dollars, have been laid before the President of the United States. He instructs me to inform you, that the sum of 1,500,000 Livres shall be paid to your order as Minister plenipotentiary of the French Republic, on the 3d of September next, and an additional sum of 1,000,000 of livres, on the fifth of November next (1794) that for the present all claim for the anticipations, which are understood to have been made by the United States, will be suspended; and that in the mean time any of your draughts within the above limits and epochs shall be registered at the Treasury, in the order of their presentation. The President, in the determination now announced has consulted a disposition to comply with your desire, as far as the situation and prospects of the United States, have appeared to him at this juncture to permit.
“I shall be happy to have a personal interview with you upon this occasion. As two O’Clock this afternoon and my office seemed, from what passed between us yesterday, to be an agreeable hour and place, I beg leave to expect you.” (Copy, RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Messages Transmitting Reports of the Secretary of State, National Archives.)
4. This sentence is in H’s handwriting.