George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 5 May 1793

To Alexander Hamilton

(Private)

Dear Sir,[Philadelphia] Sunday Noon—5th May 1793.

Before you dispatch the circular letter (of wch you enclosed me a Copy) to the several Collectors, I would speak to you respecting a particular clause in it.1

In the conversation you may have with2 a certain Gentleman to day I pray you to intimate to him gently, & delicately, that if the letters, or papers wch he has to present, are (knowingly to him) of a nature which relates to public matters, and not particularly addressed to me—or if he has any verbal communications to make of a Similar kind, I had rather they should come through the proper channel—add thereto, generally that the peculiar Situation of European Affairs at this moment—my good wishes for his nation aggregat⟨ely⟩—my regard for those of it in particular with whom I have had the honor of an acquaintance—My anxious desire to keep this Country in Peace—and the delicacy of my situation Renders a circumspect conduct indispensably necessary on my part. I do not, however, mean by this that I am to with-hold from him such civilities as are common to others. Those more marked, notwithstanding our former acquaintance, would excite speculations which had better be avoided.3 And if the characters (similarly circumstanced with his own) could be introduced by any other than himself; especially on tuesday next in the public Room when, it is presumed, the Officers of the French Frigate will be presented it would, unquestionably be better. But how this can be brot about as they are strangers, without embarrassment as the F—— M—— is shy on the occasion I do not at this moment see, for it may not escape observation (as every movement is watched) if the head of any department should appear prompt in this business in the existing state of things.4 I am always Yours—&ca

G. W——n

ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1On the drafting of Hamilton’s circular letter to the collectors of customs of 4 Aug. 1793, see Hamilton to GW, 4 May (first letter), n.1. For GW’s continued reservations about Hamilton’s circular, see GW to Hamilton, 7 May.

2At this place in the draft, GW first wrote “the Viscount De Noailles”; he then struck these words and wrote “a certain Gentleman to day” above the line. After doing so, GW inserted an asterisk referring to a note at the bottom of the page reading “Viscount de Noailles.”

3Louis-Marie, vicomte de Noailles, the brother-in-law of Lafayette, had served with GW in the Revolutionary War. Noailles arrived in Philadelphia with several other French aristocrats on 3 May and sought a meeting with GW (Noailles to GW, 4 May). One of Noailles’s purposes in visiting GW was to obtain American help in securing the freedom of Lafayette (Thomas Pinckney to GW, 13 Mar. 1793; Angelica Church to Hamilton, 17 Feb., in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 14:89). For the imprisonment of Lafayette by Austrian and Prussian forces, see Marquise de Lafayette to GW, 12 Mar., and notes 3, 7. For GW’s efforts to assist Lafayette’s family, see GW to Nicholas Van Staphorst, 30 Jan., 31 Jan., and enclosure, and 15 Mar. 1793. GW declined to receive Noailles officially, because of the impending arrival at Philadelphia of Edmond Genet, who had been appointed minister to the United States by the newly established French republic (see note 4).

Hamilton presumably contacted Thomas Jefferson about the matter, because the latter wrote to GW on this date “to inclose a letter delivered him this day by Mr de Noailles” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The enclosed letter has not been identified. In a letter to GW of 5 May, Jefferson enclosed a copy of his circular letter of 15 Mar. to various U.S. foreign ministers about assistance to Lafayette (see also JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 129).

4Ternant, who remained the French minister until 18 May, refused to present Noailles and the other French aristocrats to the president (Jefferson to James Monroe, 5 May, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:662; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 143). The French frigate Embuscade, with Genet aboard, had arrived at Charleston, S.C., on 8 April (GW to Alice Delancey Izard, 20 April 1793, and note 1). While Genet traveled overland to Philadelphia, the frigate had sailed north to operate along the northeastern coast of the United States (Jefferson to Monroe, 5 May, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:661). For the activities of Embuscade, see Hamilton’s Memorandum, 15 May, n.1.

Index Entries