Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Washington to the Provisional Executive Council of France, [24 May 1793]

George Washington to the Provisional Executive Council of France

[24 May 1793]

Very great and good friends & allies

The citizen Ternant has delivered to me the letter wherein you inform me that yielding to his desire to serve his country in the military line, you had determined to recall him from his mission as your1 Minister plenipotentiary to2 the US. His conduct during the time of his residence in this country has been such as to meet my entire approbation and esteem; and it is with great pleasure I render him the justice of this testimony. In whatever line of service you may hereafter think proper to employ him, I have no doubt he will so conduct himself as to merit well of his country and to obtain it’s favor and protection.

I assure you, with a sincere participation, of the great3 and constant friendship which these US. bear to the French nation,4 of the interest they feel in whatever concerns their happiness and prosperity,5 and of their wishes for a perpetual fraternity with them, and I pray god to have them and you, very great and good friends and allies, in his holy keeping.

Written at Philadelphia this6  day of May in the year of our lord 1793 and of the independence of the US. the 17th.7

Dft (DLC); unsigned and partially dated text written by TJ ca. 22 May 1793 and then revised by him on 23 or 24 May 1793; with three markings in pencil by Washington—two of them described in the “Anas” entry of 23 May 1793—three revisions by TJ made at the President’s behest, and two additions by George Taylor, Jr. (see notes below); at foot of text by TJ and encircled in pencil, presumably by the President: “To the Provisory Executive council of the republic of France.” PrC (DLC); lacks all but two of the revisions in Dft; written at head of text in ink by TJ, probably on one of the occasions later in life when he reviewed or reorganized his papers: “See among my official reports &c. the original of which this is a press-copy, scored by the President, and altered to his views.” Recorded in SJPL under 24 May 1793: “draught of lre from the Presidt. to the Exve of France. Ter[nant].” Enclosed in TJ to Washington, 22 May 1793; final text enclosed in TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 13 June 1793.

The drafting of this letter reflects the difference between TJ’s enthusiasm for the cause of the French Republic and the President’s more restrained attitude toward it. On 17 May 1793, the day after Jean Baptiste Ternant wrote to TJ about his recall by the Provisional Executive Council of France, the French minister wrote privately to Washington requesting an expression of his “personal and private assurance” that he had faithfully discharged his official duties in the United States “notwithstanding the violent agitations, and great vicissitudes experienced by the government of my country” (Ternant to Washington, 17 May 1793, DLC: Washington Papers; note to TJ to Washington, 18 May 1793). Washington drafted a personal letter to Ternant expressing approval of his conduct in the United States, but then decided that it would be impolitic to send it because the Provisional Executive Council had not explained its motives for recalling the last French minister to the United States appointed by Louis XVI (Washington to Ternant, [ca. 17] May 1793, and his note thereto, DLC: Washington Papers). In the meantime, having been asked by Washington to draft for him a letter to the Provisional Executive Council expressing his sentiments on the occasion of the end of Ternant’s diplomatic mission, TJ submitted a draft of the above letter to the President on 22 May 1793. During a conversation with the Secretary of State on the following day, Washington criticized TJ’s use in the draft of the phrase “our republic” with respect to the United States because it seemed to reflect Republican complaints about the alleged monarchism of Federalists, and also objected to TJ’s use of the term “republic” with respect to France, possibly because of the rapidly changing political situation in that country (see Notes of a Conversation with George Washington, 23 May 1793). Washington apparently also challenged the form of address TJ had inscribed at the foot of the draft. TJ altered the draft in accordance with the President’s wishes (notes 2, 4–5 below), and the next day Washington signed the final text containing these revisions (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 147, 148). The text sent to the Provisional Executive Council has not been found, but retained copies, dated 24 May 1793, indicate that it included one minor change in wording not recorded in TJ’s Dft and that it was signed by Washington alone (FC in Lb in DLC: Washington Papers, addressed: “The Provisionary Executive Council of France”; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences). For the phrase “our republic” as it was later considered by the President, see Notes of a Cabinet Meeting on the President’s Messages to Congress, 28 Nov. 1793.

1Word interlined.

2Remainder of sentence interlined in Dft in place of “our republic,” which Washington had underscored in pencil.

3TJ here canceled “friendship.”

4Word interlined in Dft in place of “republic,” which Washington had flagged with a penciled check mark.

5In Dft TJ first wrote “the happiness and prosperity of the nation” and then altered it to read as above.

6In Dft George Taylor, Jr., later inserted “24” in the blank space left by TJ.

7Below the body of the letter in Dft Taylor later added: “signed Go. Washington

By the President

Th: Jefferson.”

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