George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 16 March 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] March 16. 1794.

E. Randolph has the honor of informing the President, that the expression as to the merchants is changed, so as to give no possible offense, even if published.1 But the fact is, that amongst others Colo. Sam: Smith, of congress, yesterday declared himself to be ruined.2

Cyphers, by way of figures, uniformly indicative of the same word, are not beyond the reach of possible discovery—But they have been always considered as safe enough, when combined with the usual precautions of conveyance. However, it cannot be foreseen, by how many ways the cypher may be obtained; and therefore it appeared adviseable to E.R., not to subject our candor to the danger of being blasted, by the opening of a letter, put into the hands of government.3

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

1The questionable expression was in the draft of a letter to William Short of this date that Randolph enclosed in his second letter to GW of 15 March. The draft has not been identified, but the objectionable sentence probably was changed to this one that appears in the letter-book copy: “An embargo does not appear to be relished, and in this uncertainty, I can contribute to your information nothing more than this leading idea; that an indemnification to our merchants from British debts and property here is spoken of, out of doors, by timid men, who possess even Britannic affections” (DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801).

2Maryland merchant Samuel Smith currently represented his state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

3Correspondence to and from U.S. diplomats was frequently enciphered, either in its entirety or in selected portions.

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