George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 29 September 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Sep. 29 [1794]—1 o’clock.

E. Randolph has the honor of submitting to the President the draft of a letter to the commissioners.1

It is expected, that their report will be printed in a couple of days.2

In a conversation, which E.R. has just had with Mr Jaudenes, he observed, that Spain must ultimately coalesce with France; and that he had no communication of business with Mr Hammond, nor Mr Hammond with him.

Duplicates of Mr Jay’s three last letters were received by the mail of this morning.3

Mr Hammond declares in his answer to E.R.’s letter of the 23d instant, that he has no power to check the outrages of privateers; tho’ he regrets them.4

A new instance has been presented to-day of a Bermuda privateer taking one of our vessels within a mile of our coast.5

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

1The draft has not been identified. In Randolph’s letter of this date to the commissioners sent to confer with the insurgents in western Pennsylvania, he stated that their report was submitted to GW "this morning," and "Altho’ the insurrection was not absolutely extinguished, he is persuaded, that every thing which could have been done under the existing circumstances has been accomplished by your labors. Indeed he ascribes to your conduct the prospect of finding but a feeble opposition; and let the opposition be what it will, you have at least amply prepared the public mind for the support of any measures, which may be necessary on the occasion. The President has therefore instructed me to communicate to you, his sense of the firmness, skill, patriotism, and general propriety of your proceedings" (Randolph to Jasper Yeates, 29 Sept., PHi: Gratz Collection).

2Randolph referred to the communication sent by the commissioners to GW on 24 September. On 8 Oct. he sent GW twenty copies of the official printed version with an assurance that 280 additional copies would be distributed throughout the nation (DLC:GW). The document, published by Francis Childs and John Swaine of Philadelphia, was entitled Report of the Commissioners, Appointed by the President of the United States of America, to Confer with the Insurgents in the Western Counties of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1794).

3Randolph probably was referring to John Jay’s letters to him of 6, 12, and 16 July, to which he replied on 20 September. Jay’s letter to Randolph of 9 July was received earlier than the letter of 6 July (Randolph to Jay, 17 Sept., NHi). For Jay’s letters, see DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Great Britain (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 , 1:476-80).

4In Randolph’s letter of 23 Sept., he complained to British minister George Hammond that "Not a day passes, which does not bring some report of the British cruisers, capturing American vessels. As far as we are able to judge from the representations of the parties interested, American property and American bottoms are searched and seized, under a variety of frivolous pr[e]texts; and in some instances in our very Bays. But after making every allowance for these reports and these representations, I have no doubt, that the Schooner Betsey, and the Barque John, belonging to Messrs Reed and Forde, merchants in this City, which have been lately carried into Bermuda by the Experiment privateer of that Island, have been arrested without colour or excuse. Increasing as these depredations seem to be; and counteracting as they do, the expectations, which have been formed of an amiable adjustment between the United States and Great Britain, nay reviving as is too obvious, the spirit of the instructions of November 6th 1793, I trust, that you will not confine your answer to the observation, that if these vessels be innocent, they will be acquitted. I rather hope, that if you possess any information, which may put an end to this constant and exasperating invasion of our property, you will transmit it to such places, as that it may more certainly reach the Cruisers, and particularly, that you will furnish the Agent of Messrs Reed & Forde with such letters, as may shelter their vessels and effects. I restrain myself to the request, that any intelligence may be forwarded. But, Sir, if you have powers also on the subject, you will be convinced of the necessity of exerting them, to prevent hourly sacrifice of American substance, and these violent trials of American patience" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

Hammond’s reply of 26 Sept. stated that he had neither "information or powers" or "any authority whatsoever, that would enable me to direct or restrain the operations of private Ships of War, and much less that would justify any interposition of my influence in the judicial proceedings of a court of Admiralty." He agreed that "the conduct of the commanders of British privateers has been on many occasions exceptionable," but remarked "that the instances, in which the owners and commanders of American Ships have been instrumental, in covering the property of his Majesty’s Enemies, and in promoting their designs by the conveyance to them of arms and ammunition, has been so frequent as to afford reasonable grounds of suspicion with respect to vessels of the United States . . . to warrant a scrupulous investigation of the property they may have on board" (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

5Randolph apparently was referring to the case of the schooner Hope, captured by the privateer Experiment "within three miles of the Light-house on Cape Henlopen, and about one mile from the nearest land," about which he protested in a letter to Hammond of 1 Oct. (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). As the capture of the Hope occurred on 19 Sept. and was reported in the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser on 23 Sept., presumably Randolph was referring to the presentation to the State Department of the affidavits in the case that he enclosed to Hammond.

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