George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George III, 2 September 1791

From George III

[London, 2 September 1791]

George the Third by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh, Arch-Treasurer, and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire &ca To the United States of America sendeth Greeting. Our Good Friends. Having nothing more at Heart than to cultivate and improve the Friendship and good Understanding which happily subsist between Us; and having the fullest Confidence in the Fidelity, Prudence and other good Qualities of our Trusty and Welbeloved George Hammond Esqr. We have thought proper to appoint him Our Minister Plenipotentiary to reside with You, not doubting from the Experience We have had of His good Conduct on other Occasions, but that he will continue to merit Our Approbation, and at the same Time conciliate Your Friendship and good Will, by a strict Observance of the Instructions he has received from Us, to evince to You Our constant Friendship, and sincere Desire to cement and improve the Union and good Correspondence between Us.1 We therefore desire that You will give a favourable Reception to our said Minister Plenipotentiary, and that You will give entire Credence to whatever he may represent to You, in Our Name, especially when, in Obedience to Our Orders, he assures You of Our Esteem and Regard, and of Our hearty Wishes for Your Prosperity: And so We recommend You to the Protection of the Almighty. Given at Our Court of St James’s the Second Day of September 1791 in the 31st Year of Our Reign. Your very good Friend

George R.


Copy, DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation.

One of the matters that Gouverneur Morris, GW’s special envoy to Britain, was instructed to discuss with the British administration was its failure to dispatch a minister to the United States (see GW to Morris, 13 Oct. 1789 [second letter]). British ministers attributed the lapse to the difficulty of finding a diplomat of suitable stature who would be willing to accept such a minor and distant assignment; several candidates had declined the appointment. The duke of Leeds, then British foreign secretary, told Morris in September 1790 that he “hoped soon to fix upon a Minister to America” (Morris to GW, 18 Sept. 1790). Only after the United States seemed intent on precipitating a crisis the following spring by passing legislation that would discriminate against British trade was George Hammond recalled from his diplomatic post at Madrid and named first minister plenipotentiary to the United States.

1George Hammond (1763–1853) was secretary to British minister plenipotentiary David Hartley at Paris in 1783 during the peace negotiations with France and the United States and served as chargé d’affaires at Vienna from 1788 until September 1790, when he was sent to Copenhagen in the same capacity and then to Madrid. For news and rumors about the appointment of a minister to the United States, see Hamilton to GW, 11 April, Jefferson to GW, 17 April, William Stephens Smith to GW, 6 June, and Lear to GW, 19–20 June 1791, n. 10. Hammond’s instructions were debated and drafted that summer and finalized by new foreign secretary Lord Grenville on 2 September. Hammond’s first priority was to secure American execution of the provisions of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 respecting the claims of British creditors and American Loyalists. He was also to counteract the discrimination movement in Congress, offer British mediation in the conflict between the United States and the western Indians, and discuss the basic principles of a commercial treaty, although he was not authorized to conclude a final settlement on the Northwest posts or commercial issues. His private instructions are printed in Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers, description begins Bernard Mayo, ed. Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States, 1791–1812. Washington, D.C., 1941. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1936, vol. 3. description ends 2–5. Hammond arrived at the American capital on 20 Oct., two days before Thomas Jefferson returned from Virginia, and met with the secretary of state, with whom he had formed an acquaintance in Paris in 1783, on 26 Oct. (Jefferson to Hammond, Hammond to Jefferson, 26 Oct., Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 22:234–35). However, he did not present this letter until later. William Lough ton Smith reported to Edward Rutledge on 10 Nov.: “Mr. Hammond appears at present only in the character of Consul General having instructions not to assume the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary until the U. S. appoint a similar officer to reside in G. B.” (Rogers, “Letters of William Loughton Smith,” description begins George C. Rogers, Jr., ed. “The Letters of William Loughton Smith to Edward Rutledge, June 6, 1789 to April 28, 1794.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 69 (1968): 1–25, 101–38, 225–42; 70 (1969): 38-58. description ends 228–31; see also Ternant to Montmorin, 13 Nov., in Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 68–72). In 1793 Hammond married Margaret Allen, daughter of Loyalist Andrew Allen of Philadelphia, and the couple returned to London in 1795.

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