George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 10 November 1793

From Edmund Randolph


Sir.Spencer’s [Germantown, Pa.] Novr 10. 1793.

After I parted from you last night, I obtained a promise from Mr Dunlap, the printer, to bring out on monday his file of newspapers.1 This renders it unnecessary for me to continue my request as to yours. But while I am thus led to recollect, that you meditate a visit to the city to morrow, permit me to suggest one consideration. The mayor and the physicians dissuade people from returning yet, and especially in great numbers. You will hardly be at your door, before your arrival will be rumoured abroad; and multitudes, who will not distinguish between a momentary stay, and absolute residence, will be induced by your example to croud back, and carry fresh, and therefore more vulnerable subjects into the bosom of infection. The consequences may be the more serious, as we have not yet learned, that any radical precautions have commenced, for purging the houses and furniture. It is strengthened too in a degree, from the uncertainty of the malady, under which the soldiers from St Domingo labour, and of the effect, which the late warm days may have had upon the disorder. Nor can I conceal a fear, which I have often heard expressed, by the friends of yourself and the government, that your indifference about danger might push you perhaps too early into Philadelphia.

I have Examined the addresses, resolutions and answers, which are now returned. In many of them, the proclamation is called a declaration of neutrality; And therefore confirms the opinion, that the speech ought, (as it clearly may) put this paper upon its true, and a satisfactory footing.

What has been published concerning it, united with numberless misrepresentations in other instances, determined me some months ago to begin a history and review of your administration. I had made some progress in it; and should have advanced further, had I not found some difficulty in asking from the secretary of state access to the public archives, without communicating at the same time my object. However, had it not been for the interruption, which has been given for some time past to every business, connected with Philadelphia, I should have persevered, and endeavoured to procure the means of full and accurate information. The essay of Agricola convinces me of the importance of such a work, upon public as well as other interesting considerations; and let my future arrangements be, as they may, I shall not relinquish it.2 But I am extremely apprehensive, that the pestilence of Philadelphia will reduce the practice of the law within the city to such a modicum, as to force me to think of reestablishing my self in Virginia. For altho’ I do not doubt, that were I to go into as large field, as some others of the bar here, my share of profit would content me; yet as that cannot be done, consistently with my office; the share, which I had, must be considerably diminished. Whatever delay may proceed from this circumstance, the work itself shall proceed; and I have now taken the liberty of saying thus much to you, in confidence, only to prepare the way, if on some occasion I shall find it necessary, to beg the communication of any particular information.

I will thank you for the Virginia gazette, containing Agricola; as I wished to write to Colo. Carrington, and enclose to him some remarks, which may tend to disabuse the public mind. I have the honor, sir, to be, with a sincere and affectionate attachment yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph.


1John Dunlap (1747–1812), formerly editor of the Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia) and printer to Congress from 1778 to 1789, was at this time editor of Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia). The following Monday was 11 November.

2Five essays authored by James Monroe and signed “Agricola” appeared in the Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser (Richmond), 4 Sept., 9 Oct., 30 Oct., 13 Nov, and 4 December.

Of the three essays published by this date, the first indicted the exposure by John Jay and Rufus King of French minister Edmond Genet’s statement that he would appeal to the American people. Monroe called the exposure an effort by “the enemies of the French revolution, who are likewise notoriously the partizans for Monarchy. . . . to separate us from France, and to bring about a more intimate connection with Britain” using “the popularity of the President . . . as a precious means for its accomplishment.”

The second essay began with the question, “Should America and France be parted, what other friend or ally remains for either nation upon the face of the globe?” and went on to argue that the natural alliance of the two republics had been brought to crisis by “many acts of outrage” committed by the United States against France. Among the acts were the choice of a minister to France “wedded to monarchy, opposed to the great principles of the French Revolution, and odious to those who conducted it”; the Neutrality Proclamation, which “manifested towards France a disposition unfriendly, and towards Britain a spirit of conciliation,” and was “unconstitutional and . . . unwarranted”; the “Pacificus” essay, “published apparently from behind the curtain, and by a secretary of the government,” which denied France merit for her assistance in the American Revolution and “charged her with the crime of aggression upon all the powers now invading her territories”; the “withdrawal of the money from Holland, which was destined for payment of the French debt”; and the disclosures of Jay and King.

The third complained of American “complaisance and condescension” in the face of Great Britain’s fomenting of Indian hostilities and its refusal to return frontier forts, contrasting the “patience and humility” shown to her with the “unfriendly and irritating policy” applied toward France (Papers of James Monroe description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 5 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003–. description ends , 2:641–43, 646–50, 652–54, 659–63; 665–67).

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