George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 7 October 1789]

Wednesday 7th. Exercised on horseback; & called on the Vice President. In the afternoon walked an hour.

Mr. Jay communicated the purpt. of the Instructions received by Sir John Temple British Consul from the Duke of Leeds Secretary for Foreign affairs—viz.

Trade. How many foreign Vessels—of what Nations—whether from Europe or their Colonies.

What Tonnage—whether any and what difference between British and others—what on American.

What Port charges on foreign Vessels—whether any and what difference &ca.

What duties on foreign Goods—whether any and what difference as to the Countries producing, and Vessels bringing them—Number of Vessels built where &ca.

Staple Commodities. Whether they encrease or diminish—which—in what degree—and why.

Manufactures—What—Where—Whether and how encouraged.

Emigrations—From Europe in what numbers—from where—whether and how encouraged &ca.

From United States—to British and Spanish Territories &ca.

Population—whether generally, or partially encreasing or diminishing and from what causes.

Justice—Whether there be any, and what obstructions, and where, to the recovery of British Debts according to Treaty.

Upon consulting Mr. Jay on the propriety of my intended tour into the Eastern States, he highly approved of it—but observed, a similar visit wd. be expected by those of the Southern.

With the same Gentlemen I had conversation on the propriety of takg. informal means of ascertaining the views of the British Court with respect to our Western Posts in their possession and to a Commercial treaty. He thought steps of this sort advisable, and mentioned as a fit person for this purpose, a Doctr. Bancroft as a man in whom entire confidence might be placed.

Colo. Hamilton on the same subject highly approved of the Measure but thought Mr. Gouvr. Morris well qualified.

Vice-President John Adams and his family were now living in a mansion on Richmond Hill, near Lispenard’s Meadows at the corner of Varick and Van Dam streets (BOWEN description begins Clarence Winthrop Bowen. The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States. New York, 1892. description ends , 18). “The House is situated upon a high Hill which commands a most extensive prospect. . . . You turn a little from the Road and enter a Gate. A winding Road with trees in clumps leads you to the House. . . . You enter under a piazza into a Hall & turning to the right Hand ascend a stair case which lands you in an other of equal dimensions of which I make a drawing Room. It has a Glass door which opens into a gallery the whole Front of the house which is exceeding pleasant. . . . The House is not in good repair, wants much done to it” (Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 12 July 1789, MITCHELL description begins Stewart Mitchell, ed. New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788–1801. Boston, 1947. description ends , 17–18).

John Jay, secretary of foreign affairs under the Confederation, had been named chief justice of the Supreme Court by GW on 24 Sept. 1789. GW had appointed Thomas Jefferson secretary of state 25 Sept. 1789, but Jefferson was on his way to America from his post as United States minister to France before he could be notified and did not learn of his appointment until his arrival in Norfolk, Va., 23 Nov. 1789. Jay continued in charge of the State Department until Jefferson arrived in New York 21 Mar. 1790 (MALONE [2] description begins Dumas Malone. Jefferson and His Time. 6 vols. Boston, 1948–81. description ends , 2:243, 254–55).

Dr. Edward Bancroft (1744–1821), a native of Westfield, Mass., studied medicine in England and was living in London in 1776 when he became an unofficial agent for the American commissioners in Paris and remained a confidant of Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane until the end of the war. At the same time, he was pursuing a highly successful career as a spy for the British ministry. Although considered ill-mannered and indiscreet by such contemporaries as John Adams (ADAMS [1] description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 4:71–74), only Arthur Lee seriously considered his activities treasonable. In 1789 Bancroft was living in London.

Hamilton’s suggestion was undoubtedly a welcome one to GW. In addition to his own frequent and pleasant contacts with Morris after the Revolution, Morris’s abilities had been prominently displayed at the Constitutional Convention where he had led the fight for a strong and independent presidency. He was already in Europe, having arrived in Paris in early 1789 to attend to the problems arising out of business associate Robert Morris’s tobacco contract with the Farmers General and to engage in a highly speculative attempt to purchase the American debt to France. Since the mission to Britain was unofficial, the appointment would not have to run the gamut of the Senate where there was considerable suspicion of Morris’s political principles and personal morality. GW wrote Morris two letters 13 Oct. 1789 [1] [2] requesting that he undertake the unofficial mission to London to discuss with the British ministry the possibility of a commercial treaty between Great Britain and the United States and attempt to reach an understanding on the major grievances between the two countries: the failure of American citizens to pay debts owed to British creditors and the retention by the British government of seven frontier posts in American territory (WRITINGS description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. 39 vols. Washington, D.C., 1931–44. description ends , 30:439–42). On the same day the president sent Morris a personal request that he procure for him “mirrors for a table, with neat & fashionable but not expensive ornaments for them; such as will do credit to your taste” and “handsome & useful Coolers for wine at & after dinner” (DLC:GW).

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