George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 5 June 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia, 5 June 1793]

Dear Sir,

The Secretary of the Treasury left the enclosed to day1 (without my seeing him) and is to call to morrow morning to know how it is approved, or what alterations to make.

Whether to assign, or not to assign reasons for non-complying with the French Ministers proposals in one question—and the footing on which to decline doing it another—I wish you to consider these & if it is not convenient for you to take Breakfast with me at half past Seven tomorrow—to send in the Report, with your sentiments thereon by that time.2 I sent to your Office for this purpose to day but you had just left the City. Yours always

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers. Jefferson’s docket reads “recd June 5. 93.”

1GW’s executive journal for 6 June records that Alexander Hamilton had sent “a sketch of his report in answer to Mr. Genet’s communication relative to the French debt. This not according altogether with my ideas, as being rather too dry & abrupt an answer. I sent it to the Secretary of State for his remarks thereon” (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 163).

Hamilton’s draft report of c.5 June reads: “The Secy of the Treasury, to whom were referred by the President of the U.S. sundry documents communicated by the Min. Plenipy of the Republic of France, respectfully makes the following report thereupon.

“The object of the communication appears to be to engage the U.S. to enter into arrangements for discharging the residue of the debt which they owe to France by an anticipated payment of the instalments not yet due, either in specie, bank bills of equal currency with specie, or Government bonds, bearing interest & payable at certain specified periods, upon condition that the sum advanced shall be invested in productions of the U.S. for the supply of the French dominions.

“This object is the same which came under consideration on certain propositions lately made by Colo. W. S. Smith who appeared to have been charged by the Provisional Executive Council of France with negociation concerning it; in reference to which it was determined by the President with the concurring opinions of the heads of department & the Attorney general that the measure was ineligible, & that the proposer should be informed that it did not consist with the arrangements of the government to adopt it.

“The grounds of the determination were purely political. nothing has hitherto happened to weaken them. the decision on the application of the min. pleny of France will therefore naturally correspond with that on the propositions of Col. Smith. this indeed is signified to be the intention of the President.

“It consequently only remains to make known the determination to the minister, in answer to his application with or without reasons.

“The following considerations seem to recommend a simple communication of the determination without reasons, viz.

“I. The U.S. not being bound by the terms of their contract to make the anticipated payments desired, there is no necessity for a specification of the motives for not doing it.

“II. No adequate reasons but the true ones can be assigned for the noncompliance; & the assignment of these would not be wholly without inconvenience. the mention of them might create difficulties in some future stage of affairs, when they may have lost a considerable portion of their force.

“The following answer in substance, is presumed then to be the most proper which can be given.

“‘That a proposition to the same effect was not long since brought forward by Col. Smith, as having been charged with a negociation on the subject, by the Provisional Executive Council of France. that it was then, upon full consideration, concluded not to accede to the measure, for reasons which continue to operate, & consequently lead at this time to the same conclusion. that an explanation of these reasons would with pleasure be entered into, were it not for the considerations that it could have no object of present utility, & might rather serve to occasion embarrasment in future’” (copy, in Thomas Jefferson’s writing, DLC: Jefferson Papers). For background to Hamilton’s writing of this draft report, see Hamilton to GW, 3 June, and notes.

2At the end of his copy of Hamilton’s draft report, Jefferson added, “The above having been communicated by the President to me, I wrote the following letter,” that is, his letter to GW of 6 June.

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