Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Gouverneur Morris, [23] August 1793

To Gouverneur Morris

Philadelphia, August 22d. [23] 1793.

Dear sir

The letter of the 16th. instant, with it’s documents accompanying this, will sufficiently inform you of the transactions which have taken place between Mr. Genet, the Minister of France, and the government here, and of the painful necessity they have brought on, of desiring his recall. The letter has been prepared in the view of being itself, with it’s documents, laid before the Executive of the French Government.1 You will, therefore, be pleased to lay it before them, doing everything which can be done on your part, to procure it a friendly and dispassionate reception and consideration. The President would, indeed, think it greatly unfortunate, were they to take it in any other light; and therefore charges you very particularly with the care of presenting2 this proceeding in the most soothing view, and as the result of an unavoidable necessity on his part.3

Mr. Genet, soon after his arrival communicated the decree of the National Convention of Feb. 15. 1793. authorizing their Executive to propose a Treaty with us on liberal principles, such as might strengthen the bonds of good will, which unite the two Nations; and informed us in a letter of May 23rd.4 that he was authorized to treat accordingly. The Senate being then in recess, and not to meet again till the fall, I apprised Mr. Genet that the participation in matters of Treaty given by the Constitution to that Branch of our Government, would of course delay any definitive answer to his friendly proposition. As he was sensible of this circumstance,5 the matter has been understood to lie over till the meeting of Senate. You will be pleased, therefore, to explain to the Executive of France this delay, which has prevented as yet our formal accession to their proposition to treat, to assure them that the President will meet them, with the most friendly dispositions, on the grounds of treaty proposed by the National Convention, as soon as he can do it in the forms of the Constitution, and you will of course suggest for this purpose, that the powers of Mr. Genet be renewed to his Successor.

Since my last, which was of the 13th. of June, your Nos. 25. 26. 27. of March 26. April 4. and 5. have been received. The public papers, sent herewith, will give you the current news of the Country. I have the honor to be, with great respect and Esteem, Dear Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNC: Gouverneur Morris Papers); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of first page: “M. Morris”; endorsed by Morris. PrC (DLC);with date altered by Taylor to “23d.” in accordance with a decision by the Cabinet (see notes below), a change he neglected to make on the RC. Dft (DLC); dated 22 Aug. 1793; unsigned; lacks second paragraph (see note 3 below). Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 91: 15769); undated; consists of second paragraph in TJ’s hand; with marginal notes: (by Alexander Hamilton) “approved A Hamilton” and (by Henry Knox) “Approved H Knox”; at head of text: “[clause proposed for the letter of Aug. 2<2>3 to Mr Morris. the principal letter is proposed to be dated Aug. 16. the date of the latest documt.].” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 3d Cong., 1st sess.). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DCI). Recorded in SJL under 23 Aug. 1793 as sent “by express vessel”; one or both drafts recorded in SJPL under 22 Aug. 1793. Printed in Message, description begins A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great-Britain. Delivered December 5, 1793. With the Papers therein Referred to. To Which Are Added the French Originals. Published by Order of the House of Representatives, Philadelphia, 1793 description ends 68–9. Dft of second paragraph enclosed in TJ to George Washington, 24 Aug. 1793; missing Dupl enclosed in TJ to Morris, 11 Sep. 1793.

This letter represents TJ’s last effort as Secretary of State to achieve the new commercial treaty with France that he had long sought in order to reduce American economic dependence on Great Britain (see Edmond Charles Genet to TJ, 23 May 1793, and note). For the steps by which TJ secured presidential and Cabinet approval of the present letter, which the Cabinet decided to date 23 Aug. 1793, see TJ to George Washington, 22 and 24 Aug. 1793; Cabinet Opinions on Edmond Charles Genet, 23 Aug. 1793; and Notes of Cabinet Meeting on a Commercial Treaty with France, 23 Aug. 1793. In November 1793 the French government authorized the commissioners appointed to succeed Genet to negotiate a new trade treaty with the United States, but TJ had retired from office and returned to Monticello by the time they arrived in Philadelphia in February 1794, and there is no evidence that they took up this subject with the American government (Turner, CFM, description begins Frederick Jackson Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers, 1791–1797,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1903, II description ends 293; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, i, 568).

The National Convention’s decree was actually dated 19 Feb. 1793 (Joseph Fenwick to TJ, 25 Feb. 1793, and note).

1In first Dft TJ first wrote “Executive of France” and then altered it to read as above.

2Word interlined in first Dft.

3Below this line in first Dft TJ wrote “[here is to come in another paragraph.].”

4Preceding five words and digits interlined in second Dft.

5Word replaced by “delay” in second Dft.

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