George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 7 January 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia January 7. 1794.

The Secretary of State, after reviewing the letters from our Ministers, unanswered, has the honor to report to the President as follows:

Three of those letters are from Messrs Carmichael and Short jointly of June 6th Aug. 15th and Sep. 29th in the last year. The first, which is the only important one, pressed for new instructions, adapted to the new relations, which had sprung up between the different powers of Europe, as well as to the unpromising appearance of the negotiation. But as Mr Blake, the messenger to Madrid was to sail by direction in October, so as to be here about the middle of the last month, and the intelligence by him must essentially govern the conduct of our government, it is submitted to the President, whether it may not be better to postpone further, any decisive measures.1

The same observations, apply to the postponement of an answer to Mr Short’s separate letters of June 7. July 1. and Augt 20. 1793. They relate entirely to his associated mission, except where they convey information, to which no answer was expected.2

No other letter from Mr Morris is now to be acted upon, but that of June 25. 1793; and no part even of it requires a reply, except the Decree of France, which has been so often made and revoked, and at length comprehends the Ship Laurens of South Carolina. But the dispatches, hourly expected from france, cannot but give the tone to our animadversions.3

Mr Pinckney’s letters are dated July 8. Augt 1. 15. 27. & 28. and Sept. 25. & 27. 1793. That of aug. 15. being in cypher, appears to have been decyphered; but the solution is either mislaid or in the hands of Congress. Nothing can yet be answered, except the receipt of the copper. For the piracy on an American vessel by a french frigate—Philip Wilson’s case—and that of the Marquis la Fayette, will become distinct subjects for the consideration of the President. Congress are occupied with the Severities of the British Government, which constitute the weightier parts of Mr Pinckney’s correspondence; and the infraction of neutral rights, and the contest for the security of our Seamen will doubtless come into view.4

Altho’ Mr Humphreys’ letters are more numerous being of Aug. 4. 15. & 25. Sep. 1. 3. 13. 16. 17. & 26 Oct. 3. 6. 7 & 8. 1793. none of them are pressing; being letters of intelligence principally.5

As to Mr Dumas, even if he can be called a diplomatic character, his letters of may 1. June 22. July 13, and August 14. are only effusions of the pen. But it appears from a memorandum of Mr Jefferson, that Mr Dumas a considerable time ago suggested the propriety of selling the Hôtel at the Hague, which perhaps cannot be too soon attended to.6

It is designed, therefore, at present, to prepare for Mr Pinckney, Mr Morris, Messrs Carmichael and Short, and Mr Short, letters to be laid before the President;7 acknowledging the receipt of theirs, notifying the change of the officer in the department of State,8 and containing such other matters as may relate to them particularly, and any intelligence founded upon public documents in the United States.

Edm: Randolph.

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB, DNA: RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress.

1William Carmichael and William Short served as commissioners plenipotentiary to Spain. They were charged with obtaining the right to free navigation on the Mississippi River, a settlement of the disputed boundary between Georgia and Florida, and a commercial treaty with Spain. Additional instructions stressed the need to end Spanish encouragement of Indian hostilities in the Southwest Territory and to arrange the mutual exchange of fugitives and escaped slaves, (Jefferson to Carmichael and Short, 18 March, 24 April, and 14 Oct. 1792, 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 , 23:292–93, 453–54; 24:479–80). The letters from Carmichael and Short to Thomas Jefferson of 6 June, 15 Aug., and 29 Sept. 1793 are in 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 , 26:206–12, 668–671; 27:161–63. On the departure of James Blake for Spain and the dispatches he carried for Carmichael and Short, see Jefferson’s first memorandum to GW of c.11 July 1793, and n.1.

2For Short’s letters to Jefferson of 7 June, 1 July, and 20 Aug. 1793, see 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 , 26:222–28, 428–30, 732. His associated mission was to gather intelligence for the United States.

3The French decree of 9 May 1793 authorized the seizure of neutral vessels carrying provisions “destined for an enemy’s port, or with merchandises belonging to an enemy,” while that of 23 May exempted U.S. ships. According to Gouverneur Morris’s letter to Jefferson of 25 June 1793, the National Convention had provisionally repealed the U.S. exemption on 28 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 , 26:363–69; ASP, Foreign Relations description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:365, 377–78). On the capture of the ship Laurens (Lawrence), commanded by Capt. Thomas White, see Delamotte to Jefferson, 2 June, and Thomas Pinckney to Jefferson, 27 Sept. 1793, 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 , 26:166–67; 27:158; and Jefferson to GW, 30 Nov. 1793, and n.2 to that document. The dispatches from France had been entrusted to William Culver, who commanded the sloop Hannah (Morris to GW, 19 Oct. 1793). This ship arrived at Philadelphia in mid-January 1794 (Gazette of the United States and Evening Advertiser [Philadelphia], 14 Jan. 1794).

4For the letters from Thomas Pinckney, U.S. minister to Great Britain, to Jefferson of 8 July, 1, 15, 27 and 28 Aug., and 25 (two letters) and 27 Sept. 1793, see 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 , 26:454–55, 598–99, 673–65, 770–71, 776–82; 27:149–52, 158. Pinckney had been charged with purchasing copper for the U.S. Mint (Jefferson to GW, 28 Nov. 1792). In his first letter of 25 Sept., Pinckney wrote that a portion of the copper was on board the Pigou, which had already set sail for the United States, and that the remainder would accompany this letter. In his letter of 8 July, Pinckney asked for instructions on handling the case of the American brig Maria, which had been seized and plundered on 19 May 1793 by the French frigate Medie and then captured by the English privateer Ned.

Jefferson had recommended the case of Philip Wilson to Pinckney’s attention in a letter of 11 June 1792 (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 , 24:59–64). Wilson’s ship, the Mentor, had been driven ashore and destroyed by H.M.S. Centurion and H.M.S. Vulture on 1 April 1783. Wilson then sought restitution from the British government and, as Pinckney reported in his letter of 27 Aug. 1793, was still waiting for a favorable outcome to his claim. On GW’s interest in obtaining the release of the Marquis de Lafayette from his imprisonment by Prussia, see GW to Frederick William II, 15 Jan. 1794. For other initiatives concerning the plight of Lafayette and his family, see Pinckney’s second letter of 25 Sept. and Jefferson to GW, 30 Dec. 1793. Jefferson noted in his Memorandum on State Department Business of 31 Dec. 1793 that both Wilson’s claim and Lafayette’s situation probably should be referred to Congress (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 , 27:649–52).

GW mentioned continuing difficulties in settling unresolved issues pertaining to the 1783 peace treaty with Great Britain, the problems of maintaining American neutrality and neutral rights for U.S. shipping during the current European wars, and other foreign policy issues for consideration by Congress in his previous messages to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of 3, 5, 16 (first & second messages), 23, and 30 (first message) Dec. 1793.

5For the letters from David Humphreys, minister plenipotentiary to Algiers, to Jefferson of 4, 15, 25 Aug., 1, 3, 13, 16, 17, 26 Sept., and 3, 6, 7, 8 Oct. 1793, see 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 , 26:613–14, 673, 755–56; 27:4–5, 24–25, 106–7, 125–26, 152–53, 187, 196–200, 222–23.

6For two letters from Charles William Frederick Dumas to Jefferson of 1 May 1793, see 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 , 25:631–32. The letters of 22 June, 13 July, and 14 Aug. 1793 have not been identified. Dumas, an unofficial agent for the United States at The Hague, had suggested in a letter to Jefferson of 21 Feb. 1792 that the U.S. embassy at The Hague be sold, given the high cost of maintaining it. Jefferson mentioned the proposed sale in his Memorandum on State Department Business of 31 Dec. 1793 (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 , 23:128; 27:649–52).

7Letter-book copies of Randolph’s letters of 10 Jan. to Pinckney, Morris, Carmichael and Short, Short, and Humphreys are in DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801. Randolph submitted these replies to GW for approval on 10 Jan. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 277).

8Randolph assumed the duties of secretary of state on 2 Jan. (GW to U.S. Senate, 1 Jan. 1794, Affidavit from James Wilson, 2 Jan. 1794, enclosed in Randolph to GW, 2 Jan. 1794).

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