George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 8 July 1794

From Edmund Randolph

July 8th 1794.

The Secretary of State has the honor of enclosing to the President a letter from Mr G. Morris of the 6th of March, with the only enclosure which is in English.1 The other enclosures being in French are put into the Translaters hands.2

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

1Morris’s letter to Thomas Jefferson of 6 March is in DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France (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 , 1:404-5). Randolph had summarized its contents in his letter to GW of 25 June. Two of the enclosures with the letter of 6 March are in English—a copy of an undated letter from Joseph Ingraham, Jr., and twelve other Americans in France to Morris, and a copy of Morris’s reply to them of 6 Feb. (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France). The citizens protested a decree of the French council that had "repealed" the decree by which the American ship Enterprize, whose cargo had been seized contrary to France’s treaty obligations, "was acquitted." Morris replied that he had sent a copy of their letter to the French minister.

2These enclosures included copies of Morris’s letter of 22 Feb. to François Louis Michel Chemin Deforgues, the French minister of foreign affairs, protesting the arrest of the U.S. vice-consul at Havre; his three letters to Deforgues of 27 Feb., about the arrest of the chargé d’affaires of Malta, the seizure of American vessels by France, and an embargo laid at Bordeaux; letters from Deforgues to Morris of 1, 11, 12, and 14 Ventôse (19 Feb. and 1, 2, and 4 March), the first denying Morris’s claim that Thomas Paine should be freed as an American citizen and the others responding to Morris’s letters of 22 and 27 Feb.; an undated report of Jean Bon Saint-André to the French executive council about the seizure of the American ship Laurens; a brief notice of the arrest of the vice-consul at Havre; and a letter of 27 Feb. from the Maltese chargé Cibon about French treatment of him (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France).

In his letter to Randolph of 8 April, Morris explained why his letters to the French minister were written in French: "First it cut off one source of delay—which in the tediousness of transacting business at present is important and the more so as the objects once thrown off the minister’s table upon a translator’s Desk might run the risque of not being taken up again. Another reason of a different complexion is to avoid misinterpretation and mistake. A slight change of idea in changing the phrase might have unpleasant consequences for men are very ticklish in such Revolutions as the present, and therefore it became me to be cautious so as not to say either too much or too little, and moreover to use an Eastern phrase not to put my tongue in the mouth of another" (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France).

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