George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 15 March 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] March 15. 1794.

E. Randolph begs leave to submit to the President the inclosed rough of a letter, just written to Mr Short,1 in consequence of information of the immediate departure of a vessel for Spain, which was received last night from the Spanish commissioners.2

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Earlier on this date, Randolph wrote GW that he “has the honor of sending to the President of the U.S. two letters, received last night from Mr Short,” a U.S. commissioner currently conducting negotiations with Spanish officials at Madrid (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The enclosed letters from William Short to the secretary of state were those of 20 and 27 Dec. 1793 (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Spain). The diplomatic news contained in these two letters concerned the receipt of a letter from the Duque de Alcudia of 18 Dec. and the reply of Short and William Carmichael of 22 Dec. 1793, both of which revolved around Spanish insistence that difficulties over Indian relations could not be resolved until there was an acknowledged distinction between the Indians in Spanish territory and those within U.S. territory. This distinction, however, was impeded by “the want of fixing positively the limits” between the two nations (both letters, 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 , 1:439–40). Both of Short’s letters to the secretary of state also contained news of recent military and political events in Europe.

The enclosed rough draft of Randolph’s reply has not been identified, but the letter-book copy of his letter to Short of 16 March acknowledged the receipt of Short’s letters of “Sept. 5. No. 128 (triple) Oct 22. No. 130.—Novr 6 No. 131—(dup). Decr 13th No. 133 (dup). Decr 20th No. 134 (dup). Decr. 27. No. 135. 1793. & Jany. 3 No. 136 (dup) 1794” (On the receipt of the letter of 3 Jan., see Randolph’s first letter to GW of 16 March). Randolph then offered an explanation of recent events that could potentially affect U.S. relations with Spain:

“Mr. Genet, the late Minister here from the French Republic, had laboured to convulse our Country, by kindling parties, and forcing us from our neutrality. Among his other machinations was the raising of military corps within South-Carolina and Kentucky for the invasion of the dominions of his Catholic Majesty in Florida and Louisiana. The government of the former State has opposed itself firmly to these outrages, and altho’ the Governor of the latter has been frequently pressed by the Executive of the United States to crush such attempts, even by military coercion, yet there is reason to fear, that a hostile descent down the Missisippi was lately meditated, and matured to an alarming height. Whether it escaped his notice, or from what other cause, we are not yet sufficiently apprized of the transaction, to transmit to you the particulars. We are tolerably certain, however, that the enterprize has been abandoned, and that the countenance, which some at least of the Confederates at first gave to it, was the effect of a supposition, wholly unfounded, that Mr. Genet could not have acted thus, without some connivance in the government. The truth is, that, as soon as a suspicion was entertained, on the 29th of August 1793, the Governor of Kentucky was admonished in terms of the greatest urgency; and at this moment, measures are in contemplation to repel with energy the repetition of such a combination. By this course of proceeding, we are intitled to full credit for the sincerity of our conduct; I mean the conduct of the federal government. The Spanish Commissioners in a conversation, which I held with them, on the first rumor of the movements in Kentucky expressed themselves satisfied of the candor and exertions of the President.”

Randolph then offered his opinion on current problems in American shipping: “the authorized rapine of the British Cruisers and Courts have swept so much of our property on the water, as to impair our capitals, engross our Seaman, and chill, by the fear of seizure, the spirit of trade. What Congress, now in Session, may resolve, is a problem” (DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801). For Randolph’s reply to questions that GW raised about the draft, see Randolph’s third letter to GW of this date.

2The Spanish commissioners were José de Jaudenes and José Ignacio de Viar.

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