George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 19 August 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia August 19. 1795.


Immediately upon leaving your house this morning, I went to the office for the department of state, where I directed the room, in which I usually sat, to be locked up, and the key to remain with the Messenger. My object in this was to let all the papers rest, as they stood.

Upon my return home, I reflected calmly and maturely upon the proceedings of this morning. Two facts immediately presented themselves; one of which was, that my usual hour of calling upon the President had not only been postponed for the opportunity of consulting others, upon a letter of a foreign minister highly interesting to my honor, before the smallest intimation to me; but they seemed also to be perfectly acquainted with its contents, and were requested to ask questions for their satisfaction: the other was, that I was desired to retire into another room, until you should converse with them upon what I had said.1

Your confidence in me, sir, has been unlimited, and, I can truly affirm, unabased. My sensations then cannot be concealed; when I find that confidence so immediately withdrawn, without a word or distant hint being previously dropped to me. This, sir, as I mentioned in your room, is a situation, in which I cannot hold my present office; and therefore I hereby resign it.

It will not, however, be concluded from hence, that I mean to relinquish the inquiry. No, sir; very far from it. I will also meet any inquiry; and to prepare for it, if I learn, that there is a chance of overtaking Mr Fauchet before he sails, I will go to him immediately.

I have to beg the favor of you to permit me to be furnished with a copy of the letter, and I will prepare an answer to it; which I perceive, that I cannot do, as I wish; merely upon the few, hasty memoranda, which I took with my pencil.

I am satisfied, sir, that you will acknowledge one piece of justice to be due on the occasion; which is, that, until an inquiry can be made, the affair shall continue in secrecy under your injunction. For after pledging myself for a more specific investigation of all the sugges⟨tions⟩ I here most solemnly deny, that any overture ever came from me, which was to produce money to me or any others for me; and that in any manner, directly or indirectly was a shilling ever received by me; nor was it ever contemplated by me that one shilling should be applied by Mr Fauchet to any purpose, relative to the insurrection.

I presume, sir, that the paper No. 6, to which he refers, is not in your possession otherwise you would have shewn it to me.2 If I am mistaken, I cannot doubt, that you will suffer me to have a copy of it.

I shall pass my accounts at the auditor’s and comptroller’s offices, and transmit to you a copy.3 I have the honor to be Sir with great respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DLC:GW. GW wrote under the docket: “recd the 20th abt noon.”

1Randolph referred to Jean-Antoine-Joseph Fauchet’s dispatch No. 10, to the French commissioner of foreign relations, 31 Oct. 1794.

Randolph later published an account of the events of 19 Aug. that led to his resignation. “I was going to the President’s, as usual, at 9 o’Clock in the morning; when his steward, Mr. Kidd [Kitt], came to me at Mr. Rawle’s in Market Street; and informed me, that the President desired me to postpone my visit, until half after ten.” When Randolph asked the steward whether GW currently met with any particular individual, Kitt replied that “the President was every moment expecting some gentlemen.” Randolph returned to the President’s house “at the appointed hour” and received information that Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., and Secretary of War Timothy Pickering had met with GW “for some time.”

When Randolph “entered the President’s room, [GW], with great formality, rose from his chair; and Messrs. Wolcott and Pickering were also marked in their efforts to a like formality. … Very few words passed between the President and myself; and those, which fell from him, shewed plainly to me, that he wished to hurry to something else.” Immediately afterwards, GW presented Randolph with Fauchet’s correspondence and, according to the secretary’s account, insisted he “read, and make such explanations, as you choose.” Following Randolph’s perusal of the letter and a brief response, GW gave Wolcott and Pickering an opportunity to question the secretary. Wolcott asked one question; Pickering declined the opportunity. Randolph recalled in his account that it “was a style of proceeding, to which I would not have submitted, had it been pursued.”

During the course of the morning, GW told Randolph to go into another room while he discussed the secretary’s comments with Wolcott and Pickering. About forty-five minutes later, Randolph rejoined the three men. He later recalled “that as I wished to put my remarks on paper, [GW] desired that I would.” A brief discussion ensued about the length of time Randolph needed to complete that effort, at the end of which Randolph “declared” to GW, “I would not continue in the office one second after such treatment” (Randolph, Vindication, description begins Edmund Randolph. A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends 5–8; see also Wolcott to John Marshall, 9 June 1806, CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers; and “Miscellaneous Notes” in 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 3:217–18).

2For dispatch No. 6, see Timothy Pickering to GW, 31 July, n.3, and GW to Wolcott and Pickering, 12–18 Aug., n.3.

3Randolph sent GW another communication on this date: “this being nearly the period, when the accounts for the department of State are to be settled, he conceives it to be his duty to state to the President the disbursements made under the President’s immediate direction. These consist of the money, allotted for the fugitives from St Domingo; and the money, paid out of the President’s contingent fund.

“That, allotted to the people of St Domingo, has been accounted for by the Secretary a considerable time ago; as far as 14,400 dollars. The balance (600 dollars) has since been paid by the President’s direction to mr Bowen, of Rhode Island for the use of the St Domingo people.

“The money from the contingent fund amounted to 6580 dollars; all of which has been paid away; and every article will be accounted for to the auditor” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

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