George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 19 March 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] March 19. 1794.

E. Randolph has the honor of inclosing to the President a letter and list, from Mr Fenwick, consul at Bourdeaux, stating the affair of the embargo there.1

The vessel from France, which arrived here yesterday brought no letters from Mr Morris, except triplicates and duplicates. But among these is his No. 34. which was missing, when the rest of his correspondence was sent in to the Senate.2

The committee at Baltimore for superintending the unfortunate people of St Domingo, were informed yesterday, that the further sum of two thousand dollars would be furnished to them. The President will therefore be pleased to have a warrant on the treasury sent to E.R.3

Mr Bradford brought the proclamation yesterday. Some amendments were suggested; and it is probable, that it will be completed to-day.4

The letter to the governor of Kentucky is completed; except a paragraph or two, which waits, until I finish the Spanish papers, to see, how much of the negotiation may be communicated. It will probably be completed to-day. The mail for Kentucky goes on tuesday.5

Mr Fauchet is to call upon me at 9 O’clock this morning, to speak about the embargo in France.6

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

1The letter from Joseph Fenwick to Randolph of 4 Jan. is docketed as “recd March 19. 94.” Fenwick devoted much of this letter to the efforts he and others had made to persuade the French government to repeal a measure designed to punish the citizens of Bordeaux for their political opposition to the National Convention. This June 1793 law forbid all vessels from carrying cargo out of this port city (see Gouverneur Morris to Thomas Jefferson, 26 Nov. 1793, 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 , 1:400). To illustrate these efforts, Fenwick enclosed copies of his correspondence with Morris, the U.S. minister to France, from 30 Oct. to 30 Dec. 1793; “a remonstrance from me to the Representa⟨tives⟩ of the Convention at Bordeaux” of 21 Nov. 1793 and 12 Dec. 1794; an address of 12 Oct. 1793 “To the Representatives of the French People now in Commission at Le Recole from the Captains of Vessels of the United States of America detained at Bordeaux in Consequence of the Embargo”; and a letter of 31 Dec. 1793 from several of the American captains giving instructions to “their Deputies sent to Paris the 1 Inst.,” in which they list their rationale for requesting monetary compensation from the French government. Fenwick also enclosed a list of “American Ships clear’d out from 1st January to 30th June 1793,” which gives specific information about each vessel, including its name, classification, captain, size of crew, and cargo, and a list of the thirty-nine American vessels “now in port” (DNA: RG 59, Consular Despatches, Bordeaux).

2The letter marked No. 34 was a “Duplicate” of Morris’s letter to Jefferson of 7 Aug. 1793, which is docketed as “recd March 19. 94.” Morris discussed the depreciation in the value of the assignat, France’s paper money, and enclosed a table showing the specie value of the assignat from June 1792 to June 1793. The original No. 34 had been received by Jefferson on 11 Nov. 1793 and submitted to GW on that same day (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France; 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 , 26:635–38; JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 251). The other Morris correspondence was enclosed in GW’s letter to the U.S. Senate of 26 Feb. 1794.

3On the allocation of federal money for the relief of refugees from the French colony of Saint Domingue, see Edmund Randolph to GW, 27 Feb. (first and second letters). For GW’s instructions to have a warrant issued, see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 21 March.

4William Bradford brought a draft of the proclamation that GW issued on 24 March.

5The unfinished letter was that of Randolph to Gov. Isaac Shelby of 29 March, which missed the post of Tuesday, 25 March. The topic addressed by this letter was an expedition being planned against the Spanish colony of Louisiana by George Rogers Clark and other residents of Kentucky. After reviewing previous correspondence on this matter, Randolph urged Shelby to take measures to prevent the plans of Clark and others from being fulfilled. After reviewing the legal basis for using force to do so, Randolph wrote: “Thus far have I addressed your Excellency upon the constitutional and legal rights of the government. . . . But, as it may not be known, that the navigation of the Missisippi has occupied the earliest labours of the Executive, and has been pursued with an unremitted sincerity, I will lay before you a sketch of the pending negotiations,” which included the efforts by commissioners William Carmichael and William Short to negotiate with officials at Madrid for free navigation of the Mississippi River by Americans. Randolph continued: “Let this communication then be received, Sir, as a warning against the dangers, to which these unauthorized schemes of war may expose the United States, and particularly the State of Kentucky. Let not unfounded suspicions of a tardiness in government prompt individuals to rash efforts, in which they cannot be countenanced, which may thwart any favorable advances of their cause; and which by seizing the direction of the military force, must be repressed by law, or they will terminate in anarchy” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic 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 , 1:456–57). On Carmichael and Short’s commission to negotiate an agreement with the Spanish government, see GW to U.S. Senate, 11 Jan. 1792.

6Fauchet, in a letter of 4 April to François-Louis-Michel Chemin Deforgues, France’s minister of foreign affairs, requested that the French government consider lifting the embargo on the port of Bordeaux, particularly because of its negative effects on relations with the United States and its detrimental effect on the acquisition of supplies for France (Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends , 320–21). In his letter to Randolph of the 7th Germinal, or 27 March 1794, Fauchet wrote: “it is the intention of the Committee of Public Safety, the actual centre of the French Government, to indemnify all the owners or captains, who by the operation of the embargo, have been obliged to remain a length of time in France” (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 , 1:431).

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