George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Edmund Randolph, 22 July 1795

To Edmund Randolph

Mount Vernon 22d July 1795

Dear Sir,

Both your letters, dated the 17th instt, found me at this place, where I arrived on Monday.1

The letter from the Commissioners to you, I return; as I also do the Gazettes of Pittsburgh & Boston.2 The proceedings at the latter place are of a very unpleasant nature: the result I forwarded to you from Baltimore, accompanied with a few hasty lines written at the moment I was departing from thence; with a request that it might be considered by the confidential Officers of government, & returned to me, with an answer thereto, if an answer should be deemed advisable.3

In my hurry, I did not signify the propriety of letting those Gentlemen know, fully, my determination with respect to the ratification of the Treaty, & the train it was in; but, as this was necessary, in order to enable them to form their opinions on the subject submitted, I take it for granted that both were communicated to them by you as a matter of course. The first, that is the conditional ratification (if the late order which we have heard of respecting Provision vessels is not in operation)4 may, on all fit occasions, be spoken of as my determination—unless from any thing you have heard, or met with since I left you it should be thought more advisable to communicate further with me on the Subject. My opinion respecting the treaty is the same now that it was namely, not favorable to it, but that it is better to ratifie it in the manner the Senate have advised (& with the reservation already mentioned) than to suffer matters to remain as they are, unsettled. Little has been said to me on the subject of this treaty, along the road I passed; and I have seen no one since from whom I could hear much, concerning it: but from indirect discourses I find endeavors are not wanting to place it in all the odious points of view of which it is susceptible; and in some which it will not admit.5

I should be glad if you would call upon Messrs Morris & Nicholson (Greenleaf not being no6 longer concerned) and in earnest, and strong terms represent to them, the serious consequences which must, inevitably, result to the public buildings in the federal City if the deficiency, or part thereof, due on their contract is not paid. Besides arresting the work in its present critical state, and compelling the discharge of some valuable workmen who may never be recovered again it would throw such a cloud over the public & private concerns of the city and would be susceptible of such magnified & unfavorable interpretations as to give it a vital wound. From the representations which have been made to me by the Comrs, it appears that twelve thousand dollars, pr month, is scarcely adequate to the present expenditures—and that the demand for more must encrease as the more expensive materials are brought into use—as they are now abt to be—of wrought Stone &ca &ca If to pay the whole dificiency is not, at present, within the means of Messrs Morris & Nicholson, a part thereof & to keep pace with the current demand, might possible, enable the Commissioners to proceed without much embarrassment in the principal work. Between forty & 50,000 dollars, I am informed is now due on the Contract of Greenleaf & Co.7

As you have discovered your mistake with respect to the dates of the French decrees I shall add nothing on that, nor on any other subject at this time further than a desire to know if you have heard any thing more from Mr Adet on the treaty with G. Britain;8 and whether Mr Jaudenes has replied to your letter to him on the score of his inconsistency.9 I am &ca &ca

Go: Washington

P.S. A Solomon is not necessary to interpret the design of the Oration of Mr Brackenridge.10

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

1The previous Monday was 20 July.

2The letter was enclosed in Randolph’s first letter to GW of 17 July (see n.1); the gazettes were enclosed with Randolph’s second letter of that date (see notes 2 and 3).

4GW referred to the British order in council of 25 April (see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 7 July, n.3).

5Randolph published this paragraph, with some minor textual differences, in his Vindication, 34–35.

6GW created this double-negative parenthetical phrase on the draft when, at this point, he crossed out “any,” which he had originally written, and inserted “no” instead. The LB contains the corrected version, “Greenleaf being no longer concerned.”

7See Commissioners for the District of Columbia to GW, 15 May.

8See Randolph to GW, 17 July (first letter), and n.2, and 17 July (second letter), n.1.

9Randolph had notified José de Jaudenes, Spanish commissioner to the United States, on 10 July that the letter Jaudenes sent to the secretary on 7 July had “produced a serious embarrassment.” The problem, Randolph wrote, did not arise from the subject of the letter or “from the indelicacy of its insinuations against the Executive.” Randolph discounted the “threats” in the letter, which he assumed possessed no authority from the Spanish monarch, because Jaudenes had received no orders about pending U.S. negotiations with Spain since 26 July 1794, a time when the two nations existed in “harmony.”

The problem arose because “we know not with precision, to what source to trace the various operations of delay, by which the United States have already been, and may still further be, amused.” If the source lay with the Spanish court or its commissioner, Randolph wrote, it would cause “deepest regret.”

Randolph stressed: “Delay will never be imputed to the United States. For who, but they, are prejudiced by procrastination?” Randolph had waited for months for the propositions to arrive, but now Jaudenes desired an answer. “To what, Sir,” the secretary asked, “shall an answer be given?” The president intended “to pay full faith and credit to your communications.” But they “have raised so many uncertainties in his mind; being sometimes hints, demanding and subject to future explanations; and too delicate to be hazarded; at others, expressly ordered by his Catholic Majesty to be made; at others, with a new illustration of them from more mature reflection; at others, amounting to unqualified declarations, that they were the indispensable preliminaries, exacted by Spain; now introduced under the auspices of your diplomatic character, as if one negociation was to be carried on here, while another is proceeding at Madrid; and at no time complete enough for consideration; that he is utterly unable to comprehend the design of these movements, unless he were to ascribe them to a desire of delay.”

Randolph closed the letter by informing Jaudenes that Thomas Pinckney, the U.S. envoy to Spain, “will be immediately instructed to lay before his Catholic Majesty, cooly and explicitly, the whole of this retarding system; to explain the full force of our sentiments upon it; to assure him of our anxiety to maintain the most perfect understanding with him; and to urge, as the most effectual means of preserving mutual friendship inviolate, that he will terminate with equity and expedition the controversy now subsisting” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

10For Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s speech, see Randolph to GW, 17 July (second letter), n.2.

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