George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 15 February 1794

To Henry Knox


Dear Sir,Phila. Feby 15th 1794.

You mentioned in the conversations, which I have lately had with you on the subject of Mr Jay and Mr King’s letter to me, of the 27th of last month, and particularly in what passed between us on thursday, that they had repeatedly declared, that they never considered that letter, as an official one; that on the contrary they had intended it, as a mere private one; and that they did not in the most distant manner contemplate or design to give offence to me, or to wound my feelings, by the language or matter which it contains.1 Thursday, after repeating the foregoing, you added that those gentlemen were desirous of having a personal interview with me concerning the letter. I should therefore be glad to know, in a line by the bearer, whether I am at liberty to act on the abovementioned communications, as being made by you to me with their knowledge & approbation?2 Yours always & sincerely

Go. Washington


1The letter that Knox and GW discussed on Thursday, 13 Feb., was one John Jay and Rufus King wrote to GW on 27 Jan., which has not been found. A draft of this letter was enclosed in Jay’s letter to King of 25 Feb., on which King wrote a description of the enclosed draft that reads: “The paper inclosed was the draft of a Letter from Mr Jay & me, to the Pr. of the U.S.—dated 27. Jan. 1794, complaining of his conduct & that of the Secy of State and Atty Genl in respect to Genets requisition that we shd be prosecuted—and requesting from him an attested Copy of the Report of the Secy of State (with permission to publish it) stating that Dallas told him that Genet had said he wd appeal from the Pr. to the People—this Draft on Saturday 1 Mar. I delivered to the President—who told me that I should have the copy of the Report of the Secy of State on monday following [3 March]” (NHi: Jay Papers).

Jay and King had infuriated Edmond Genet, the French minister to the United States, by their public letter of 12 Aug. 1793, in which they asserted that Genet “had said he would Appeal to the People from certain decisions of the President” (Diary; or Loudon’s Register [New York], 12 Aug. 1793; see also Genet to GW, 13 Aug. 1793, and n.4). On Genet’s attempt to have Jay and King prosecuted for libel, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 18 Dec. 1793, and n.1. For the report that Jay and King requested, which included a statement from Alexander J. Dallas about Genet’s threatened appeal to the people, see Jefferson’s Notes on a Conversation with Genet, 10 July 1793, enclosed in Jefferson’s first memorandum to GW of 11 July 1793.

2GW subsequently met first with Jay and then twice with King to discuss their differences. King, during his first meeting with GW, presented the draft of the offending letter to GW, who then “put into the fire” the draft, the letter received, and “a paper in the President’s own handwriting justifying his conduct,” which King was allowed to read beforehand. At a second meeting with King, GW provided a “certified extract from Jefferson’s Report” (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 , 1:477–79). For the certified extract, see GW to John Jay and Rufus King, 3 March 1794.

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