George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 1 December 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Decr 1. 1794.

The secretary of State has the honor of communicating to the President, a letter from Mr Hammond inclosing one from Govr Simcoe, and an answer, proposed by E.R. to Mr Hammond.1

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

1Randolph enclosed George Hammond’s letter to him of 27 Nov., which transmitted a copy of John Graves Simcoe’s letter to Hammond of 20 Oct. in order to “remove by the exposition of the motives of his conduct the misapprehensions to which you, Sir, and the citizens of the United States in general may have been exposed by the misrepresentations of interested individuals” (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

Simcoe objected to virtually all the statements in Randolph’s letter to Hammond of 1 Sept. (for which, see DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters, or The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 5 Sept.) as “misrepresentations.” In particular, he contended that the establishment of a British fort on the Maumee River was an act of self-defense initiated in response to the threat of Anthony Wayne’s army, and not an invasion of U.S. territory; that the protest carried to Charles Williamson by British Lieutenant Roger Hale Sheaffe (for which, see GW to John Jay, 30 Aug., n.1) contained “not a tone of Hostility, but a spirit of conciliation, explanatory of the just principle, on which the settlement in question is termed an aggression”; that charges of British involvement with the Indian attack on Fort Recovery (see Henry Knox to GW, 5 Aug., n.1) were groundless; and that, in fact, British officials would provide “good offices” to mediate between the United States and Indian tribes if the United States would allow them. The timing of Randolph’s letter led Simcoe to “conjecture that it was written not to remonstrate against ‘my excesses’ but to prepare the minds of men for whatever consequences might have arisen from the movement of General Wayne’s Army.” Simcoe concluded by claiming that he had always maintained “impartiality” between the United States and the Indians and had “ever shewn the utmost inclination to cultivate the most perfect harmony between his Majesty’s subjects and those of the United States and have looked forward to an honorable termination of existing differences” (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

Randolph had acknowledged Hammond’s letter on 29 Nov. and informed him that Randolph “considers it as the wish of Governor Simcoe that his letter … should be published” and that “If this be a correct idea,” he would have both Simcoe’s and Hammond’s letters published (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). However, Randolph’s main reply was dated 30 November. There he declined to enter into controversy with Simcoe but asked Hammond if Simcoe’s ideas were “adopted as the sense of your Government”—Hammond’s cover letter having left it “too uncertain how far you approve its doctrines its assertions and its statements.” If Hammond’s “assent is given and it were expedient now to revive our former controversy,” Randolph would ask for a statement of how the fort at Maumee was a “reoccupying of a post … within the limits of those, maintained by the British forces, at the peace, in the year 1783”; “urge an explicit declaration, whether British Officers and British Soldiers, did or did not aid the attack” on Fort Recovery and give the evidence that suggested they did; ask how the “mandate” presented to Williamson by an officer and seven soldiers could be transformed into “the garb of peace”; ask whether the British government denied “that it is inadmissible for one nation to intermeddle with the Indians within the territories of another”; and not “waste a moment in refuting” Simcoe’s “suspicion” about the letter of 1 September. “These, however, and many other striking features in the letter and conduct of Governor Simcoe will, I hope, at no distant day be consigned to oblivion by the reparation of our injuries, and the restitution of our rights” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; see also The Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser, 4 Dec.).

Hammond responded at 4 p.m. on this date that he had just received the letter of 30 November. He contended that his transmittal of Simcoe’s letter was not improper in light of Randolph’s former statements and that it was “unecessary” for him “to express my personal approbation of, or dissent from” Simcoe’s statements (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the British Legation).

The proposed answer enclosed with this letter has not been identified. Most likely it was a draft for the letter that was dated 30 November. It could, however, have been a draft for a response to Hammond’s letter of this date, though no such response has been identified.

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