George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 20 April 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia April 20 1795


On saturday I was honored by your letter from Baltimore of the 17th instant, together with the one inclosed for Mrs Washington, which I immediately sent to her.1

Since my letter of friday, a letter from Valiere, the French Consul at algiers, dated the 28th of december last, and addressed to Colo. Humphries, has come hither, with a request contained in the envelope, that the secretary of state would open it in his absence. I find, that he has prevailed upon the Dey to moderate his terms; and tho’ they are not specified, there is reason to conclude from the complexion of the letter, that the opportunity is extremely favorable. I shall dispatch duplicates to Colo. Humphries, in hopes that they may catch him, before he goes to France.2

Colo. Monroe has also written on the 1st of february; and it appears, that Mr Jay has of his own accord informed him in a second letter, that he will forward to him the heads of the treaty confidentially. Mr Monroe has sent a special messenger over to London for them; and tells Mr Jay, that nothing short of the whole treaty will enable him to speak as he wishes. I doubt, whether Mr Jay will give the whole; especially as he authorizes Mr Monroe to declare in the mean time, that the treaty does not weaken the engagements of the U.S. with France.3 I am pleased to see the word “engagements” thus used by Mr Jay; because it looks, as if the prohibition against the sale of prizes was not intended to be enforced during the present war—Colo. Monroe describes the situation of Holland, as being subject at present to the laws of conquest and I think it is a strong doubt in his mind, whether Holland will emerge as a separate state, or be in some manner or other consolidated with France.4 That all her shipping, and resources will be immediately turned against England seems to him incontestable.

I have sent to Mr Pinckney or in his absence to his secretary a copy of my late correspondence with Mr Hammond,5 and shall to-day add another letter in answer to Mr Hammond’s conception, that we suffered a french fleet to remain at New-York in 1793, under the same circumstances with those of Admiral Murray.6 He is a most forgetful man, not to recollect, that my letters to him and the circular instruction to the governors are the same things in substance with his memorials of the 4th and 6th of September 1793;7 and that it was then known, that the French fleet did not come into our rivers, in order to take a station for cruising from thence, but merely for refuge, and remained inactive. I shall endeavor to close our correspondence by my letter of today, that I may prosecute other business.

Colo. Innes’s packet, which was sent from Washington courthouse, arrived the day before yesterday. By a letter from the governor of Kentucky to him, it is clear, that his mission has been accepted most cordially: and that it has had its full effect; as well proving its policy, as engaging the executive on the side of your measures. Shelby expresses himself in strains of high compliment to you for your exertions on the subject of the Mississippi. I am not sure, that Innes has not said too much in one respect; that is, when he speaks of the Spanish nation, and the conduct of their government towards us—He does not touch in this letter on other subjects.8

Mr Addison, of Washington in Pennsylvania, acknowledges the receipt of my letter, in terms of great civility;9 and adds, that he holds it to be right to declare, that he believes, that the army behaves well, and that the squadron of horse stationed near his town are unexceptionable in their conduct. I have the honor to be Sir with the most respectful and affectionate 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. The internal address is to GW at “Mount Vernon.”

1The previous Saturday was 18 April. GW’s letters to Randolph and to Martha Washington have not been found.

2Césaire-Philippe Vallière (1756–1823) was appointed French vice-consul to Algiers in 1779 and later wrote a descriptive account of the area in a memoir, “Algeria in 1781.” Later becoming vice-consul and then consul to Tripoli, where he spent most of the 1780s, he returned to Algiers in 1791 as consul general and remained in that office until his removal in November 1795. A letter of 28 Dec. 1794 from Vallière to David Humphreys with the stated directions on the envelope has not been identified. A letter from the consul to Humphreys of 22 Dec. and docketed 28 Dec. briefly reviewed Vallière’s efforts to soften the conditions made by Hassan Bashaw, dey of Algiers, for peace. That ruler added a new request but had already made known to Humphreys his preliminary intentions and price for peace. Vallière then outlined the protocol for a future arrival of an American representative at Algiers and assurances for his safety (CtY: Humphreys-Marvin-Olmstead Collection).

Randolph’s brief letter to Humphreys of this date is found in DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801.

3In his letter of 1 Feb., James Monroe referred to John Jay’s letter to him of 28 Nov. 1794. “As I knew,” Monroe informed Randolph, “the good effect which correct information” concerning the treaty “would produce upon our affairs here … I thought it my duty” to obtain it quickly. But Jay planned to send the information in code, and Gouverneur Morris had taken his copy with him. Monroe, therefore, considered the situation “of sufficient importance to authorise the expence of an especial dispatch to London to obtain” the treaty and sent John Henry Purviance to England. Once Monroe received a copy, he hoped “to remove all uneasiness upon that head, and in which I am the more confident, from a knowledge that the government here is well disposed to view it, with the utmost liberality” (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. 5 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003–. description ends 3:218). On 17 Jan., Monroe had stipulated to Jay: “Tis necessary however to observe that as nothing will satisfy this government but a copy of the instrument itself, and which as our ally it thinks itself intitled to, so it will be useless for me to make to it any new communication short of that” (NNC: Jay Papers; see also Papers of James Monroe, description begins Daniel Preston et al., eds. The Papers of James Monroe. 5 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003–. description ends 3:207).

4In his comments about the Netherlands, Monroe wrote: “The French troops have at length entered Amsterdam whereby the whole of the province of Holland was brought immediately under the power of this republic, as indeed the whole of the 7 United Provinces most probably soon will be.” Monroe then described “an effort … made by the States general to yield the same thing upon terms, for the purpose of putting this republic in possession of the country by treaty instead of conquest: and with this view an agent who arrived here about a fortnight before that event, was dispatched, and who offered as I am well assured, to surrender all the important fortifications of the country.”

Monroe briefly described the efforts of Jacob Van Staphorst and the pro-French faction in Amsterdam “to counteract the movements of the agent from the States general.” Monroe then surmised, “What will be the future fate of those provinces is altogether uncertain, and must be in a great measure dependant on events … Many members, and among those some of distinguished weight in the Convention seem disposed to extend” France’s boundary “to the Rhine, and of course to comprehend within its limits, all that part of them lying on this side of that river. This idea was lately avowed by Boissy d’Anglas a member of the committe of public safety … that the Republic shall be hereafter bounded only ‘by the Ocean, the Mountains and the great rivers.’” Monroe speculated, however, “unless the fortunes of war should inspire other councils, that the whole of these provinces will be retained in the hands of this republic until its termination.”

At the close of his letter, Monroe added a postscript dated 5 Feb.: “Since the above was written some details have been received of the success of the French in the U. Netherlands, and by which it appears that every thing which was predicted in that respect has been verified. Williamstadt, Breda, Gorcum, Bergen-op-zoom, the fleet held by ice in the Texel &c. are all taken” (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. 5 vols. to date. Westport, Conn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., 2003–. description ends 3:218–22). For the French conquest of the Netherlands, see Benjamin Franklin Bache et al. to GW, 11 April, n.1.

5Randolph’s letter to Thomas Pinckney of 18 April most likely included his letters to George Hammond of 8 and 10 April (see Randolph to GW, 9 April [first letter], n.1, and 10 April, n.1) as well as his lengthy letter of 13 April. The latter emphasized the stipulation in the Constitution that treaties made between the United States and other nations became “the supreme law of the land.” All “Aliens” within American “limits and jurisdiction” must respect those laws (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

In his letter to Pinckney, Randolph wrote of a “daily” expectation of word about John Jay’s arrival back in the United States. Once Jay returned, Randolph hoped that “an interview with him … might furnish much collateral information, and ascertain, whether the British government waited for the ratification of the treaty, before it would arrest the plunders committed on our commerce, and what orders for this purpose was meditated, even after a ratification.” Randolph, therefore, would not act “upon the subject without a full consultation with him.” However, “the Bermudian privateers, the British ships of war on our coast, and especially Admiral Murray’s fleet will not suffer us, either to believe, that the hope of returning harmony has induced the British ministry to check their maritime outrages, or that we are as yet with respect to Great Britain in a situation much less injurious, than we have been hitherto. The correspondence between Mr. Hammond and myself shews what he has done, and what I have urged.”

Randolph then entreated Pinckney “to lose no time in pressing upon the British ministry, in the most effectual, instantaneous and decisive manner, the necessity of issuing and dispatching without delay the most peremptory orders for restraining the abominable proceedings of their cruisers. It is a vain thing to croud upon parchment the language of amity, when acts abound with hostility against us” (DNA: RG 59, Diplomatic and Consular Instructions, 1791–1801).

6Randolph’s letter to Hammond making the arguments discussed in this paragraph is dated 22 April (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

7For Randolph’s circular to the governors of 16 April, see his letter to GW of 17 April, n.4.

Hammond’s memorial to then-secretary of state Thomas Jefferson of 4 Sept. 1793 complained of a large French fleet using the port of New York as a base from which to cruise the nearby coasts “for the purpose of annoying or intercepting, any vessels which they may happen to encounter, and which may be the property of the subjects of the powers now engaged in war with France.” Hammond’s memorial of 6 Sept. 1793 concerned the capture of the William Tell, a British brigantine, by the French brig Le Cerf, one half mile off the American coast. The documents are summarized in Cabinet Opinion on Relations with France and Great Britain, 7 Sept. 1793. For the full texts, see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 27:30–32, 44–46.

8James Innes had been sent as a commissioner to inform the government of Kentucky about the state of negotiations with Spain for navigation of the Mississippi River (see Randolph to GW, 7 Aug. 1794, and n.2 to that document). The packet that he sent has not been identified with certainty, but it may well have included a copy of the Kentucky Herald (Lexington) of 10 March, which had printed his correspondence with Isaac Shelby. On 21 April, The Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser noted that it had been “yesterday favored with” that paper and began printing the correspondence, which was continued in their issues of 22 and 23 April. In Shelby’s letter to Innes of 21 Jan., he expressed satisfaction at Innes’s mission and approval of the “manner in which you propose to make your communications.” Shelby considered Innes’s instructions “as strong proofs of the purity of the intentions of the President.” Shelby’s letter to Innes of 20 Feb., in response to Innes’s letter of 15 Feb., again expressed satisfaction with Innes and with “The just regard and attention which the President has paid to our right” to navigation of the Mississippi. Innes’s letter to Shelby of 15 Feb. discussed the conduct of the Spanish government toward the United States, from the Revolutionary War through the present negotiations.

9The letter from Alexander Addison has not been identified. Randolph may have referred to the letter he wrote Addison on 25 March in which he expressed confidence “that it is the wish of the President to prevent the military from encroaching on civil authority, and to render the stay of the army as acceptable as possible to the western inhabitants.” Since GW must “decide, what provisions are expedient under the circumstances” Addison described in his letter to Randolph of 7 March, the secretary “communicated” it to GW, “with a request that whatsoever should proceed from him, should not implicate your name” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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