George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 27 February 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] Feby 27. 1794.

E. Randolph has the honor of transmitting to the President the extract of a letter, which Mr Brown, of the Senate, has just furnished. He thinks, that he cannot commit it to the public eye, nor would he wish, that it should be communicated to congress officially. He means it only for the private information of the President; tho’ he does not object to its being spoken of, as intelligence, received from Kentucky.1

⟨Since writin⟩g the above, Mr Brown has shewn me a letter from ⟨the⟩ famous Dr O’Fallon to Capt. Herron, dated Oct: 18. 1793, It was intercepted; and he has permitted me to take the following extract.2

“This plan (an attack on Louisiana) was digested between General Clarke and me last Christmas. I framed the whole of the correspondence in the General’s name; and corroborated it by a private letter of my own to Mr Thomas Pain, of the national assembly, with whom, during the late war I was very intimate. His reply reached me but a few days since, inclosed is the General’s dispatches from the Ambassador.”3

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. The text in angle brackets is from the letter-book copy.

1The extract sent by Senator John Brown of Kentucky concerned a proposed expedition by Kentucky residents against the Spanish colony of Louisiana. Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark had been encouraged by Edmond Genet, the former French minister to the United States, to organize and lead this extralegal expedition.

2James O’Fallon (1749–1794), a native of Ireland, studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh before emigrating to North Carolina in 1774. After serving in the Revolutionary War, he added the prefix to his original name of Fallon and moved to Charleston, S.C. He became an agent for the South Carolina Yazoo Company in 1790 and moved to Kentucky in order to promote the colonization of a tract near the mouth of the Yazoo River that the state of Georgia had granted to the company, despite this territory being under Spanish jurisdiction. In 1791, O’Fallon married Frances Eleanor Clark (1773–1825), the youngest sister of Gen. Clark. On the cause of O’Fallon’s “fame,” see Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Randolph to GW, 14 Feb. 1791, and source note, plus GW’s Proclamation of 19 March 1791, which warned Americans against joining O’Fallon’s efforts to acquire land. On O’Fallon’s controversial activities after the Revolutionary War, see John Carl Parish, “The Intrigues of Doctor James O’Fallon,” MVHR description begins Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 50 vols. 1914–64. description ends 17 (1930), 230–63. The original letter from O’Fallon to Capt. Herron has not been identified.

3Thomas Paine, an English native and an immigrant to the United States in 1774, was a revolutionist and political writer famous at this time for Common Sense (1776) and the Rights of Man (1791–92). He went to Europe in 1787 and during the subsequent years alternated his time between France and England. In August 1792 he received French citizenship, and the following month he was elected to the French National Convention. When the French Revolution became more radical, Paine was stripped of his French citizenship and imprisoned by the French government from 28 Dec. 1793 until November 1794. Paine eventually returned to the United States in 1802, where he remained until his death in 1809. O’Fallon’s letter to Paine has not been identified, but for Paine’s encouraging reply of 17 Feb. 1793, see Louis Phelps Kellogg, “Letter of Thomas Paine,” American Historical Review, 29 (1924):501–5. The specific enclosed dispatches from Genet to Clark have not been identified, but for correspondence between them concerning the proposed expedition against Louisiana, see “Selections from the Draper Collection.” description begins “Selections from the Draper Collection in the Possession of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, to Elucidate the Proposed French Expedition under George Rogers Clark Against Louisiana, in the Years 1793-94.” In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1896, vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1897, pages 930-1107. description ends Genet’s letter to Clark of 12 July 1793, in which he designated Clark as commander in chief of the Independent and Revolutionary Army of the Mississippi, is printed there on p. 986.

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