Thomas Jefferson Papers

Memorandum to George Washington, 22 September 1793

Memorandum to George Washington

Heads of answer to the Caroline resolutions.

Taking them up in their order, they appear susceptible of answer in the following way.

The 1st. and 2d. by a concurrence of sentiment for the maintenance of the constitution, and preservation of peace, and the pleasure with which the President recieves their assurances of support in these objects.

3. Notice of the expressions of their personal respect.

4. Approbation of their expressions of gratitude to the French nation for aids extended in a time of need, and the honorable trait evidenced in the National character by a strong remembrance of it, even in the moment when the justice due to others imposes laws on the manifestation of it. That being firmly persuaded that the interest and happiness of all the parties engaged in the present contests of Europe will be most promoted by their obtaining every one what is right, and no more, we may innocently and justly pray to heaven that such may be the result of these afflicting contests.

5.6.7. to express a firm attachment to the free principles of our government, and a confidence that the virtue and good sense of our citizens will counteract and defeat all measures which might tend to weaken their affection to these principles, to alienate them from the republican government they have established for themselves, or to innovate on it’s character.

8. it would seem more delicate and dignified to pass over this altogether.

Sep. 22. 1793.

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand. Entry in SJPL: “draught of answr. from G.W. to Caroline resolns.”

The Caroline resolutions on French-American relations had been approved by a 10 Sep. 1793 meeting of citizens of Caroline County, Virginia, chaired by Edmund Pendleton, who transmitted them to the President in a letter dated a day later. The first seven followed the order, substance, and in large measure the wording of sample resolves drafted by James Madison and James Monroe to guide Republicans seeking to respond to Federalist resolutions approved in Richmond on 17 Aug. 1793. The eighth resolution, the connection of which to Madison and Monroe is unclear, condemned any attempt by foreign diplomats to bypass the executive and appeal to the people directly, but suggested that if French minister Edmond Charles Genet was indeed guilty of this offense his conduct should not be attributed to France unless that nation defended his conduct. TJ had received a copy of the draft by Madison and Monroe that inspired the Caroline resolutions eight days before Washington asked him for help in composing a response when he stopped at Mount Vernon on the way to Monticello (Madison to TJ, 2 Sep. 1793, and enclosure; George Wythe to TJ and Edmund Randolph, 17 Aug. 1793, and note; Caroline Resolutions, 10 Sep. 1793, enclosed in Pendleton to Washington, 11 Sep. 1793, DLC: Washington Papers, the former printed in Mays, Pendleton description begins David J. Mays, ed., The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734–1803, Charlottesville, 1967, 2 vols. description ends , ii, 608–10, from a newspaper text containing one important error).

The President’s 23 Sep. 1793 answer to Pendleton departed in several ways from TJ’s suggestions. Washington moved his thanks for the expressions of their personal respect to the end of the letter and dropped any mention of the present contests of Europe, although he retained a sentence approving the grateful remembrance of past French aid. He followed closely TJ’s formula for responding to the fifth, sixth, and seventh resolutions until the end, when he replaced the hostile allusion to those who might innovate on the government’s character with a reference to the “unequalled prosperity and happiness” hitherto enjoyed by Americans under their republican government. As TJ suggested, Washington chose to pass over the final resolution (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxiii, 91–2).

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