George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 31 July 1795

From Timothy Pickering

War-Office, Philadelphia July 31. 1795.


I learn that Mr Hammond has received letters of recall; and that he expects to depart in three weeks.1 I am disposed to believe, from accidental intimations, that before his departure some useful and perhaps very important arrangements may be made to facilitate the compliance with the condition on which the advice of the Senate for ratifying the treaty was suspended; and possibly for expediting the execution of that part of it which respects the posts.

The supreme court is to sit here next week, and perhaps the gentleman named for Chief Justice may arrive. Private information as well as publications of his recent conduct relative to the treaty, have fixed my opinion that the commission intended for him ought to be withheld.2

On the subject of the treaty I confess I feel extreme solicitude; and for a special reason which can be communicated to you only in person. I entreat therefore that you will return with all convenient speed to the seat of Government. In the mean time, for the reason above referred to, I pray you to decide on no important political measure, in whatever form it may be presented to you.3

Mr Wolcott & I (Mr Bradford concurring) waited on Mr Randolph & urged his writing to request your return. He wrote in our presence: but we concluded a letter from one of us also expedient.4 With the utmost sincerity I subscribe myself yours and my country’s friend

Timothy Pickering

(This letter is for your own eye alone).

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Pickering Papers. The docket on the draft is marked “private” and contains a note that the original was sent “by post same day.”

1British minister George Hammond sailed to Great Britain from New York on 17 August.

2On 1 July, GW appointed John Rutledge to replace John Jay as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Pickering referred to the recent gathering of South Carolina citizens to discuss their response to the Jay Treaty (see Charleston, S.C., Citizens to GW, 22 July). At the meeting, Rutledge presented a speech “of considerable length” and demonstrated “in a very striking manner, that the treaty was derogatory to the honor, destructive to the commerce, and highly injurious to the agricultural interests of the United States” (City Gazette & Daily Advertiser [Charleston], 17 July; see also Edmund Randolph to GW, 29 July, n.1).

The Supreme Court met on Monday, 3 August. Rutledge did not arrive in Philadelphia until 10 Aug., when he proceeded to take his seat in the court (see The Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser, 12 Aug.). On 10 Dec., GW submitted Rutledge’s name to the Senate for an official nomination. Five days later that body rejected his appointment by a vote of 14 to 10 (see Senate Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:194–96).

3Pickering referred to the intercepted dispatch of then-French minister Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet. On 28 March an English frigate captured the Jean Bart, which carried dispatches from Fauchet to the French government, including No. 10, written on 31 Oct. 1794. The following May, the British Foreign Office sent a summary and then the original of the intercepted dispatch to George Hammond. The British minister received the dispatches in late July, contacted Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., and on 26 July read a portion of the translated dispatch to him. Two days later he gave Wolcott the original (see Affidavit, 28 July, and the undated “Notes relative to Fauchet’s Letter,” both in CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers). Wolcott wasted no time in sharing the dispatch with Secretary of War Pickering, who made his own translation.

The dispatch, as translated by Pickering and in the notes GW took concerning it, indicated that Secretary of State Edmund Randolph had shared with Fauchet news about the insurrection in western Pennsylvania and its impact on party alliances, and had suggested a strong association between Gov. Thomas Mifflin, his secretary of state, Alexander J. Dallas, and Randolph as influential Republican leaders in Pennsylvania. Fauchet referred to a conversation with Randolph, recorded in dispatch No. 3, dated 3 June 1794, about the administration’s policies toward the protests against the excise tax in western Pennsylvania. Based on comments he attributed to Randolph, Fauchet inferred that GW’s administration had “hastened the local eruption, to make an advantageous diversion, & to lay the more genl storm wch it saw was gathering” (GW’s notes on Fauchet dispatch, DLC:GW). Fauchet also mentioned his dispatch No. 6, written on 5 Sept. 1794, which contained details of Randolph’s visit to Fauchet shortly before GW issued his proclamation of 7 Aug. 1794 to quell the insurrection. According to the French minister, Randolph during that visit had endeavored to obtain money to influence GW’s policy in favor of France.

Pickering and Wolcott consulted U.S. Attorney Gneral William Bradford on 29 July, and the three men agreed to request GW’s return to Philadelphia. For various accounts of dispatch No. 10, see Wolcott to John Marchall, 9 June 1806, CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers; Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 18:527–29; Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering, description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends 3:209–17; Reardon, Edmund Randolph, description begins John J. Reardon. Edmund Randolph: A Biography. New York, 1974. description ends 367–80; Irving Brant, “Edmund Randolph Not Guilty!,” WMQ, description begins The William and Mary Quarterly: A Magazine of Early American History. Williamsburg, Va. description ends 3d. ser., 7 (1950): 182–83; and Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, “George Washington and the Reputation of Edmund Randolph,” Journal of American History, 73 (1986): 24–26.

4On this date at 10 P.M., Randolph penned the following letter to GW: “The secretaries of the treasury and war departments are now with me; and we concur in thinking it expedient, that, if possible, you should return for a few days to the seat of government. Nothing, but the general crisis of public affairs, leads to this recommendation; and it may be important, that you should do some act in consequence of the communications, expected from Mr Hammond, who will sail shortly” (ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters [third letter]; DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State).

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