George Washington Papers

Alexander Hamilton’s Proposed Presidential Message to Congress, 6–13 January 1794

Alexander Hamilton’s Proposed Presidential Message to Congress

[Philadelphia, 6–13 Jan. 1794]

Since the application, which was made to the Government of France, for the Recall of its present Minister,1 that Minister has furnished new and material causes of dissatisfaction with his Conduct. But these occasions of offence have hitherto passed without particular notice; in the hope that it would not be long before the arrival of an order of Recall would terminate the embarrassment—and in the desire, inspired by sentiments of friendship and respect for his Nation, to avoid as long as possible an Act of extremity towards its Agent. But a case has occurred, which is conceived to render further forbearance inconsistent with the dignity and perhaps the safety of the United States. It is proved, as will be seen by papers now transmitted for the information of Congress, that this foreign Agent has proceeded to the extraordinary length of issuing commissions in the name of the French Republic to several of our citizens, for the purpose of raising, within the two Carolinas and Georgia, a large military force with the declared design of employing them, in concert with such Indians as could be engaged on the Enterprize, in an expedition against the colonies, in our neighbourhood, of a Nation with whom the U. States are at peace.2

It would seem, likewise, from information contained in other papers, herewith also communicated, that a similar attempt has been going on in another quarter, namely the State of Kentucke; though the fact is not yet ascertained with the requisite authenticity.3

Proceedings so unwarrantable, so derogatory to the sovereignty of the U. States, so dangerous in precedent and tendency, appear to render it improper that the person chargeable with them should longer continue to exercise the functions and enjoy the privileges of a diplomatic character.

The supersedure of the exercise of those functions, nevertheless, being a measure of great delicacy and magnitude, I have concluded not to come to an ultimate determination, without first placing the subject under the eye of Congress.

But unless the one or the other House shall in the mean time signify to me an opinion that is it not adviseable so to do, I shall consider it as my duty to adopt that measure after the expiration of [ ] days from this communication.4

ADf, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers.

1On the administration’s request that the French government recall its minister plenipotentiary to the United States, see Cabinet Opinion on the Recall of Edmond Genet, 23 Aug. 1793. Despite this earlier request, GW and the cabinet discussed in early January whether Genet’s recent activities warranted an immediate revocation of his diplomatic privileges (GW to John Adams, 8 Jan. 1794; King, Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. 6 vols. New York, 1894–1900. description ends , 1:479–80).

2On Genet’s attempt to recruit Americans from the Carolinas and Georgia for service in an expedition against the Spanish colonies of East and West Florida, see William Moultrie to GW, 7 Dec. 1793, and enclosures.

3On an attempt to recruit residents of Kentucky to serve in an expedition against the Spanish in Louisiana, see Genet’s conversation with Thomas Jefferson, 5 July; José Ignacio de Viar and José de Jaudenes to Thomas Jefferson, 27 Aug., and enclosure; and Jefferson to Isaac Shelby, 29 Aug. 1793, 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 , 26:438–39, 771–74, 785–86.

4GW did not use Hamilton’s proposed message. According to Rufus King’s notes of February 1794, “Hamilton conferred with me, and I think with [Oliver] Ellsworth, and some others” upon submitting this message to Congress. King, however, opposed this idea “on the ground that it was throwing the Apple of Discord into Congress, and would inevitably produce a violent struggle and convulsion.” After Hamilton’s proposal was dropped from consideration, GW “announced to the heads of the Departments that he had well weighed the question and had come to a decision—that he possessed the Right to dismiss, that the occasion would justify dismission and that the Duties of his station required of him the exercise of this power in the immediate dismission of Mr. Genet. Orders were therefore given to make the requisite preparation to communicate this Resolution to Congress” (King, Life and Correspondence of Rufus King description begins Charles R. King, ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. 6 vols. New York, 1894–1900. description ends , 1:479–80). When reports indicating that the French government had issued Genet’s recall arrived from France in mid-January, GW abandoned this option and made no mention of revoking Genet’s diplomatic privileges in his message to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of 15 Jan. (Gouverneur Morris to GW, 19 Oct. 1793, and n.1 to that document; Washington’s Note Concerning the Recall of Edmond Genet, c.16 Jan. 1794). For the official notice of Genet’s recall, see Provisional Executive Council of France to GW, 15 Nov. 1793.

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