George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 22 May 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] May 22. 1794.

The Secretary of state has the honor of sending to the President Mr Hammond’s reply, this moment received, and the letter of the 29th of April to which he refers. The President will be so good, as to let the Secretary have the papers, as early in the morning as may be convenient; to have them copied on the supposition of their being proper for congress; and to prepare a short answer as to matters of fact, which in the last very long paragraph are presented in a perverted, tho’ very feeble form.1

The copy of the letter to Mr Hammond, intended for the President, was directed to be sent to him this afternoon.2

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

1British minister George Hammond’s letter to Randolph of 22 May responded to Randolph’s letter of 20 May, for which, see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 21 May, n.3. Hammond acknowledged the authenticity of Lord Dorchester’s speech to the Indians but claimed that in referring to the likelihood of war, Dorchester had reference to possible aggression from Vermont, not to any British intentions. Hammond claimed that, despite assurances, the U.S. government had failed to "repress" encroachments from Vermont into territory held by the British, remarking that "though the space of fifty days elapsed between my letter of the 10th of March 1794 upon this subject and your answer of the 29th of April 1794, you did not attempt to deny the facts which I then stated, and which I now explicitly repeat."

With regard to the complaint that John Graves Simcoe was building a fort on the Maumee River in U.S. territory, Hammond denied having any knowledge of such activity, but continued "even admitting your information to be accurate, much will depend on the place, in which you assert that the fort is intended to be erected—and whether it be for the purpose of protecting subjects of his Majesty residing in districts dependent on the Fort of Detroit, or of preventing that fortress from being straitened by the approach of the American army—To either of which cases I imagine that the principle of the status quo, until the final arrangement of the points in discussion between the two countries shall be concluded, will strictly apply." He would, however, transmit to Dorchester and Simcoe copies of Randolph’s letter and his answer "for their respective information."

The long paragraph that Randolph intended to answer reads: "Before I conclude this letter, I must be permitted to observe that I have confined to the unrepressed and continued aggressions of the State of Vermont alone the persuasion of Lord Dorchester that they were indicative of an existing hostile disposition in the United States against Great Britain, and might ultimately produce an actual state of war on their part. If I had been desirous of recurring to other sources of disquietude, I might, from the allusion of his Lordship ’to the conduct of this government toward the sea,’ have deduced other motives of apprehension, on which, from the solicitude you evince to establish a ’contrast between the temper observed on your part towards us and on our part towards you,’ I might have conceived myself justified in dilating. I might have adverted to the privateers originally fitted out at Charleston at the commencement of the present hostilities, and which were allowed to depart from that port, not only with the consent but under the express permission of the Governor of South Carolina—I might have adverted to the prizes made by those privateers, of which the legality was in some measure admitted by the refusal of this government to restore such as were made antecedently to the 5th of June 1793—I might have adverted to the permission granted by this government to the Commanders of French ships of war and of privateers to dispose of their prizes by sale in ports of the United States—I might have adverted to the two privateers le petit Democrat (now la Cornelia) and le Carmagnol, both which were illegally fitted out in the River Delaware, and which, in consequence of my remonstrances and of the assurances I received, I concluded would have been dismantled: But which have remained during the whole winter in the port of New York armed, and now are, as I am informed, in a condition to proceed immediately to sea—I might have adverted to the conduct which this government has observed towards the powers combined against France in the enforcement of the embargo: For while the vessels of the former are subjected to the restrictions of that measure, those of the latter have been permitted to depart from Hampton Road, though three weeks had elapsed subsequently to the imposition of the embargo, though they were amenable to its operation, and though they were chiefly laden with articles ’calculated to support an enemy whom we are seeking to bring to peace’—I might have adverted to the uniformly unfriendly treatment, which his Majesty’s ships of war and officers in his Majesty’s service have since the commencement of the present hostilities experienced in the American ports—and lastly I might have adverted to the unparalleled insult, which has been recently offered at Newport Rhode Island (not by a lawless collection of the people but) by the Governor and Council of that state to the British flag, in the violent measures pursued towards his Majesty’s sloop of war Nautilus, and in the forcible detention of the officers by whom she was commanded—I have however forborne to expatiate upon these points, because I am not disposed to consider them, as I have before stated, as necessary elucidations of the immediate object of your letter, and much less to urge them in their present form as general topics of recrimination" (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation; see also 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 , 1:462-63).

Randolph’s letter to Hammond of 29 April explained the delay in his response about Vermont, pointing out that "very soon" after the receipt of Hammond’s letter he had taken "more than one opportunity of mentioning to you verbally, that the government of the United States was sincere and constant in its determination to fulfil its assurances," but he had delayed his written response "to obtain particular information from a Gentleman . . . well acquainted with the places, to which you refer." He had, however, been "disappointed in seeing that Gentleman," so he would now answer "without further delay."

"I have it in charge from the President of the United States again to assure, that his purpose to cultivate harmony with your nation, and to prevent the measures of which you complain . . . continues unchanged. Orders will be therefore immediately repeated upon this head, to repress the violences, which you state; and they shall be accompanied with an injunction to use against the refractors every coercion, which the laws will permit. We have received no intelligence of the particular facts, to which you refer. But to prevent all unnecessary circuity in first inquiring into them, and next transmitting to this City the result, the proper instructions will be given to act, without waiting for further directions" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; see also 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 , 1:463).

2The document alluded to here has not been identified.

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