Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from George Washington, 22 January 1797

From George Washington

Philadelphia 22d. Jany. 1797.

My dear Sir

Your letter of the 19th. instant was received yesterday.

From the general impression on my mind, relative to Mr. De Neuvilles claim1 on the justice of this country, a delay, or a refusal to administer it, would be hard; but I must add, that I am too little acquainted with the particulars to form a correct opinion, and were it otherwise, I do not see how I could, with propriety, appear directly or indirectly in the business, as I do not recollect having had any agency therein. The numberless applications of this sort which are made to me (often in the dernier ⟨r⟩esort) without the means of relief, are very distressing to my feelings.

The conduct of France towards the United States, is, according to my ideas of it, outrageous beyond conception: not to be warranted by her treaties with us; by the Law of Nations; by any principle of justice; or even by a regard to decent appearances. From considerations such as these something might have been expected; but on her profession of friendship and loving kindness towards us I built no hope; but rather supposed they would last as long, and no longer, than it would accord with their interest to bestow them; or found it would not divert us from the observance of that strict neutrality which we had adopted, & was persevering in.

In a few days, there will be published a statement of facts, in a letter of references, to General Pickney; containing full answers to all the charges exhibited in Mr Adets notes, against the conduct of this government.2 After reading them with attention, I would thank you for your sentiments thereon, fully, and frankly communicated; and what you think ought further to be attempted, to preserve this country in Peace, consistently with the respect which is due to ourselves?

In some of the Gazettes, and in conversation also, it is suggested that an Envoy extraordinary ought to be sent to France; But is not General Pinckney gone there already for the express purpose of explaining matters, and removing inquietudes? With what more could another be charged? What would that Gentleman think of having a person treading on his heels, by ⟨the time⟩3 he had arrived in Paris, when ⟨the argu⟩ments used to induce him to go there ⟨are all⟩ that could be urged to influence ⟨that other⟩—and where is the character to be ⟨had, ad⟩mitting the necessity, in all respec⟨ts accep⟩table and qualified for such a tru⟨st? The⟩ sooner you can give me your sen⟨timents⟩ on these queries, the more plea⟨sing they⟩ will be to

Dear Sir   Your sincere f⟨rd. &⟩ affectionate ⟨Servant⟩

Go: W⟨ashington⟩

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; ADfS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

1On February 2, 1797, Anna de Neufville wrote to Washington: “When I had the honour to wait upon you Sir, you was pleased to ask me wether my husband had appleid to old Congress, which I answerd in the negative to you, owing not understand perfect by your meaning, he has So far appleid as to have Send a Copie of the list of debtors and Creditors, with a letter or petetion, to Request theire influence, in ordre to be Sooner remboursed: in particulars I do not Remember; but Should any Such papers be in Congress it might be of Some use in my favour Stating the validity of the Large advances my husband has made for this Country; your Philanthropi must plead my excuse Sir and fergive the Bolt intrution, of a unhappy widow for her orphan child, of troubling you …” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

2This is a reference to a letter which Timothy Pickering wrote to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney on January 16, 1797 (LC, RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions of the Department of State, 1791–1801, Vol. 3, June 5, 1795-January 21, 1797, National Archives). In this letter Pickering replied to charges by Pierre Auguste Adet that the United States had surrendered its rights as a neutral to Great Britain and had violated its treaty agreements with France. For Adet’s complaints concerning United States policy, see Adet to Pickering, October 27, November 15, 1796 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Foreign Relations, I, 576–77, 579–83). See also Washington to H, November 2, 3, 21, 1796; H to Washington, November 4, 5, 11, 19, 1796; H to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., November 1, 1796; Wolcott to H, November 17, 1796.

3The material within broken brackets in this letter has been taken from the draft in the George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

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