George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 2 July 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia July 2. 1794.


The expression in the opinion of the secretary of the treasury, to which you refer in your favor of the 27th ultimo, appears to me to amount to this: that we have lost ground in not being able to give as strong proofs of our neutrality now, as we were some time ago. No doubt he alluded principally to the rejection of the clause, sent from the senate to the house of representatives, for prohibiting the sale of prizes; and the general predilection discovered by that house in favor of the French nation.1

The day before yesterday I heard by accident that the vessel, for which Mr Fauchet had obtained a passport, was captured and carried into Bermuda, with one hundred and fifty barrels of powder on board. I immediately wrote to Mr Fauchet, and am hourly expecting his answer.2 I also wrote to Mr Fitzsimmons, who was supposed to be able to assist me with information, and who has promised it.3 The day after, that is, yesterday morning, Mr Hammond gave me information of the affair; and I returned for answer, that I had been pursuing the inquiry, and would notify to him the result.4

I expect to be able to inform you by the next mail of the opinions of the gentlemen upon the propriety of sending powers to some American in Europe, who may go to Denmark and Copenhagen, to mature a concert of our navy with theirs for the defence of neutral rights on the sea. But it is proposed, that nothing be done in this matter, unless Mr Jay approve; and therefore the powers are intended to be submitted to his discretion.5

Colo. Hamilton and myself have revived the loan for Algiers, and he will I presume submit the plan to your consideration without delay.6

General Knox was yesterday said to be confined to his bed with the Rheumatism. I have the honor, sir, to be with the highest respect and attachment yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

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

1Randolph here replies to a question that GW asked in a private note enclosed with his letter to Randolph of 27 June (see source note to that letter). The clause to which he refers was a section of the bill "in addition to the act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States" that provided: "it shall not be lawful to sell within the United States any vessel or goods captured from a Prince or State or from the subjects or citizens of a Prince or State, with which the United States, are at peace, which vessel or goods shall have been captured by any other foreign Prince or State or by the subjects or citizens of such Prince or State, unless such vessel and goods shall have been first carried into a port or place within the territory of the Prince or State to which the captors belong, but such vessels and goods shall be carried out of the United States by those who shall have brought them in. And the sale of any vessel or goods prohibited as aforesaid shall be utterly void." An effort to remove this language from the bill in the Senate failed on 12 March, thanks to the casting vote of the vice president, but when the measure went to the House, that body on 2 June voted 48 to 38 to strike that section (U.S. Senate Journal, Washington Administration, 6:75-76; U.S. House Journal, Washington Administration, 6:389-91).

2Randolph’s intelligence about the cargo of the Amiable Gentil apparently derived from ship captains Patrick Hayes and Abiha Hathaway, who gave a deposition on the matter on this date. They stated "That they were at Bermuda on or about the first of May A.D. 1794, when the Schooner Amiable Gentil, which they understood was bound to Port Pais, arrived there as prize to the privateer schooner Duke of York; that they heard the Master of the Amiable Gentil say in the presence of Mr Goodrich owner of the privateer, that there were 154 barrels of Gun powder or thereabouts on board his vessel & in confirmation of which he read the invoice of the same; and that it was generally known and understood in the Island of Bermuda, that there was powder on board the Amiable Gentil to contradict which the people of that vessel did not pretend" (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

The French minister Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet had requested a passport for the ship on 13 May, and it was issued on 14 May (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 15 May, and n.1 to that document). Randolph wrote Fauchet on 30 June that the vessel’s reported cargo was such a violation of "the terms on which passports were known to be granted" that it must have been done without Fauchet’s knowledge. He requested that Fauchet "communicate to me any circumstances respecting this matter which may tend to throw light upon it, and particularly the name of the person who was employed to dispatch her in order that an inquiry may be set on foot as to . . . this abuse of the indulgence of Government" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). Fauchet replied on 2 July (14 Messidor) that indeed he did not know about the powder. He asked to see the British complaints and promised "si le fait est prouvé je ferai rechercher les auteurs & cette infraction à la Neutralité des Etats-unis, & votre Gouvernement recevra toute satisfaction à cet égard" (FrPMAE, Cor. Polit., Etats Unis, 41).

3Randolph’s note to Thomas FitzSimons of 30 June informed him that an inquiry had been started and encouraged FitzSimons to offer "any clue for pursuing the subject more efficaciously" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

4For George Hammond’s letter to Randolph of 30 June, see DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation. For Randolph’s reply of 1 July, see DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

5Randolph had solicited opinions on this subject from Alexander Hamilton, William Bradford, and Henry Knox in a letter of 30 June (DLC:GW; see also Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:542-43). For Hamilton’s response of 8 July, Bradford’s response of 5 July, and Knox’s opinion of 2 July, see Randolph to GW, 9 July, notes.

6Randolph discussed money for negotiations with the Dey of Algiers in his letters to Hamilton of 24 June and 1 July (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:520-21, 551-52). Hamilton wrote to GW on 8 July.

Index Entries