George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 28 February 1795

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States February 28th 1795

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.

In my first communication to Congress during their present Session, I gave them reason to expect, that “certain circumstances of our intercourse with foreign nations” would be transmitted to them.1 There was at that time every assurance for believing, that some of the most important of our foreign affairs would have been concluded, and others considerably matured, before they should rise. But, notwithstanding I have waited until this moment, it has so happened, that either from causes, unknown to me, or from events, which could not be controuled, I am yet unable to execute my original intention. That I may, however, fulfil the expectation given, as far as the actual situation of things will in my judgment permit; I now, in confidence, lay before Congress the following general statement.

Our Minister near the French Republic has urged compensation for the injuries, which our Commerce has sustained from captures by French Cruisers, from the nonfulfilment of the contracts of the Agents of that Republic with our Citizens and from the Embargo at Bourdeaux. He has also pressed an allowance for the money, voted by Congress for relieving the inhabitants of Saint Domingo. It affords me the highest pleasure to inform Congress, that perfect harmony reigns between the two Republics; and that those claims are in a train of being discussed with candor, and of being amicably adjusted.2

So much of our relation to Great Britain may depend upon the result of our late negociations, in London, that until that result shall arrive, I cannot undertake to make any communication upon this subject.

After the negociation with Spain had been long depending, unusual and unexpected embarrassments were raised to interrupt its progress. But the Commissioner of his Catholic Majesty near the United States, having declared to the Secretary of State that, if a particular accommodation should be made in the conducting of the business, no further delay would ensue, I thought proper, under all circumstances, to send to his Catholic Majesty, an Envoy Extraordinary, specially charged to bring to a conclusion the discussions, which have been formerly announced to Congress.3

The friendship of her most faithful Majesty has been often manifested, in checking the passage of the Algerine Corsairs into the Atlantic Ocean. She has also furnished occasional convoys to the vessels of the United States, even when bound to other ports than her own. We may therefore promise ourselves, that as in the ordinary course of things few causes can exist for dissatisfaction between the United States and Portugal; so the temper, with which accidental difficulties will be met on each side, will speedily remove them.

Between the Executive of the United States and the Government of the United Netherlands, but little intercourse has taken place during the last year. It may be acceptable to Congress to learn, that our credit in Holland is represented, as standing upon the most respectable footing.

Upon the death of the late Emperor of Morocco, an Agent was dispatched to renew with his successor, the treaty, which the United States had made with him. The Agent unfortunately died, after he had reached Europe in the prosecution of his mission. But until lately, it was impossible to determine, with any degree of probability, who of the competitors for that Empire would be ultimately fixed in the Supreme power. Although the measures, which have been since adopted for the renewal of the treaty, have been obstructed by the disturbed situation of Amsterdam, there are good grounds for presuming, as yet, upon the pacific disposition of the Emperor in fact towards the United States and that the past miscarriage will be shortly remedied.4

Congress are already acquainted with the failure of the loan, attempted in Holland for the relief of our unhappy fellow-citizens in Algiers.5 This subject, than which none deserves a more affectionate zeal, has constantly commanded my best exertions. I am happy therefore in being able to say, that from the last authentic accounts, the Dey was disposed to treat for a peace and ransom,6 and that both would in all probability have been accomplished, had we not been disappointed in the means. Nothing which depends upon the Executive shall be left undone, for carrying into immediate effect the supplementary act of Congress.7

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Message from the President of the U.S.—Confidential Foreign Affairs. The dateline is in GW’s writing.

1GW was referring to his address to Congress of 19 November.

2The State Department had compiled a list of captures and spoliations by French cruisers that was supplied to James Monroe, the newly appointed minister to France, with Secretary of State Edmund Randolph’s instructions to him of 10 June 1794 (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; see also Papers of James Monroe description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 4 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003—. description ends , 3:6–11). That list has not been identified, but was likely included in a report of French seizures made by Fulwar Skipwith to Monroe, 17 Oct. 1794 (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France; see also Papers of James Monroe description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 4 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003—. description ends , 3:117–22). Another list of ships that had been subject to spoliations was sent to Monroe in April 1795.

For the complaints of American merchants about the execution of their contracts for supplying the French West Indies, see Walter Stewart et al. to GW, 13 May 1794. About the embargo laid on the port of Bordeaux by the French government and its effects on American shipping, see Edmund Randolph’s first letter to GW of 19 March 1794. By “An Act providing for the relief of such of the inhabitants of Saint Domingo, resident within the United States, as may be found in want of support,” 12 Feb. 1794, Congress had appropriated up to $15,000 for relief, the amount to be “provisionally charged to the debit of the French Republic, subject to such future arrangements as shall be made thereon, between the government of the United States and the said Republic” (6 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 13).

The instructions given by Randolph to Monroe on 10 June directed him to take up all of these topics. As of this date the State Department had received Monroe’s letters of 15 Sept., 16 Oct., and 7 Nov., which reported on his discussions with the French government about them (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France; see also Papers of James Monroe description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 4 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003—. description ends , 3:73–77, 109–16, 141–45). Monroe’s letter to Randolph of 2 Dec., which reported the French decree of 15 Nov. addressing the U.S. complaints, apparently was not yet received (DNA: RG 59, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France; see also Papers of James Monroe description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 4 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003—. description ends , 3:174–79, and, for the decree, 159–60).

3For discussion of the delays attending the negotiations with Spain, the intimation from José de Jaudenes, and the appointment of Thomas Pinckney as envoy to Spain, see GW to Randolph, 19 Aug. 1794, n.2; Randolph to GW, 2–3 Oct. 1794; and GW to the U.S. Senate, 21 Nov. 1794, and notes 1 and 2 to that document.

4For the report of the death of the Sultan Sidi Muhammed, see Giuseppe Chiappe to GW, 13 May 1790, and n.1 to that document. The appointment of Thomas Barclay in 1791 to renew the treaty with Morocco, and the events that delayed the mission, including Barclay’s death in January 1793, are summarized in Thomas Jefferson’s Report on Morocco and Algiers, enclosed with GW’s message to Congress of 16 Dec. 1793. For the recent measures towards renewal of the treaty, see GW to the Emperor of Morocco, 31 Dec. 1794.

5GW informed Congress of problems with the loan by his message of 4 Feb. (see Randolph to GW, 4 Feb., n.2).

6See David Humphreys to GW, 3 Feb., and n.1 to that document.

7GW was referring to “An Act making further provision for the expenses attending the intercourse of the United States with foreign nations … ,” 20 March 1794 (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 345).

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