George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 24 October 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia October 24. 1795.


I affirm to you, that the delay, which has occurred in the arrival of my letter of the 8th instant to your hands, is not to be ascribed to me. It was sent to the post-office on friday the 9th; but too late, I believe, for the mail of that day. If I am not misinformed, it reached Alexandria on Wednesday, the 14th; from whence it was brought back on saturday, the 17th; you having passed thro’ that town on your return. You came hither on tuesday, the 20th in the afternoon.

Whatsoever my objects may be supposed to be, I have but one; which is to defend myself. Your unlimited permission of publication is therefore, as you must be well persuaded, given without hazard. For you never could believe, that I intended unnecessarily1 to exhibit to public view all and every thing, which was known to me. I have indeed the sensibility of an injured man; but I shall disclose even what I am compelled to disclose, under the operation of the necessity, which you yourself have created. I have been the meditated victim of party-spirit.

From the tenor of your letter of the 21st instant I perceive, that you have controuled the opinions of Mr Pickering and Mr Wolcott, by virtually admitting your proceedings on the treaty with Great Britain, to be material in the case, to be laid before our country. I must however contend from a variety of written and other proofs in my possession, that what in that letter you denominate “doubts,” communicated to Mr Hammond, will be found to have been considered by you from the 13th of July to the 11th of August, as your “determination”; and that the “grounds, on which your ultimate decision was professed to be taken,” as far as I understood them, were little if at all different from those, which had been often examined by you before my intervie⟨w⟩ with Mr Hammond.

My intention of troubling you with my letter of detail was merely to prevent a controversy about facts. But since you rest them upon my statement, I pledge myself to aim at accuracy. If I do not succeed, it will not be my fault, that An error shall have crept into my narrative. But I shall be ready to correct it, and to renounce any inference, which I may have deduced from it.

Your letter, sir, shall be published as you request.2 To the people I always meant to appeal⟨.⟩ It will be in the form of a letter, addressed to you; as many of the facts are best known to you. But I shall disclaim, as I have always disclaimed, an appeal to an inferior authority. The people will see, that I have not imitated some others, in treasuring up your letters or observations from any expectation of producing them at a future day⟨;⟩ that I have never betrayed your confidence; and that even where “your prudence may be condemned,” your “unlimited licence” is no more, than a qualified effort to do justice. It would have been less equivocal if it had not been accompanied with a kind of threat, and the candor, which the letter seems to wear, would have been more seasonable, had it commenced with this injurious business.

You hold, sir, a number of my private letters, of which I kept no copy; and which I should be glad to inspect. But, notwithstanding they would add weight to the proofs, which I might produce, of all my opinions to you being founded on a regard to the rights of the people, and a love of order, I shall leave them with yourself, as evidences of my fidelity. I have the honor to be sir with due respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph


Upon receiving this letter, GW drafted and preserved a reply, dated 25 Oct., which, however, he docketed with the explanation that: “This is the rough Draught of a Letter to Edmd Ran[d]olph Esq⟨r.⟩ But, upon re-consideratn was not sent to him.” The unsent reply reads: “Your letter of the 24th has been received. It is full of innuendos, I shall therefore once more, and for the last time repeat in the most unequivocal terms, that you are at full liberty to publish any thing that ever passed between us, written or oral that you think will subserve your purposes. A conscious rectitude, and an invariable endeavour to promote the honor—welfare—& happiness of this country; by every means in the power of the Executive, & within the compass of my abilities—leaves no apprehension on my mind from any disclosure, whatsoever.

“To whom, or for what purpose, you mean to apply the following words of your letter ‘I have been the meditated victim of party-spirit’ will be found I presume, in your defence without which I shall never understand them. I cannot conceive they are aimed at me, because an hundred & an hundred times you have heard me lament from the bottom of my Soul that difference of sentiments should have occasioned those heats which are disquieting a country, otherwise the happiest in the world, and you have heard me express the most ardent wish that some expedient could be devised to heal them. The disclosure to me by an officer of government, of Mr Fauchets intercepted letter after the contents were communicated to him, was an act of such evident propriety, that no man, of candour, entertaining a proper sense of duty, can possibly condemn: I do not see then how they will apply to this case, more than the first.

“You have, Sir, entirely mistaken the principle upon which (in contravention of the opinion of the gentleman, who is discharging the duties of Secretary of State) I gave you the Inspection of what you declared to be the only paper you were in want of, to complete your defence. My sole motive in furnishing it, was, that it might not be imputed that any thing which you conceived necessary to your vindication, was withheld: for however differently the matter may appear in the sequel, I am free to declare that I cannot, at this moment, see what relation there is between the Treaty with G. Britain, and the details and suggestions which are contained in the intercepted letter of Mr Fauchet. And I am still more at a loss to understand the meaning of these other words in your letter ‘But I shall disclose even what I am compelled to disclose under the operation of the necessity which you yourself have created’ Can these expressions allude to my having put Mr Fauchet’s letter into your hands in presence of the heads of departmts for explanation of the passages which related to your conversations with him? Or to the acceptance of your resignation, voluntarily & unexpectedly offered? Or to the assurance given in my letter of the [  ] of Augt in answer to yours of the [  ] (and most religeously observed on my part) not to mention any thing of the matter until you had had an opportunity of clearing it up, whilst you on the other were making free communications thereof in all quarters, & intimating to your friends that in the course of your vindication you should bring things to view which would affect me more than any which had yet appeared? if neither of these, nor an expectation that I shd have passed the matter over unnoticed—or in a private explanation only between ourselves—I know nothing to which the sentiment can have the least reference. But I do not write from a desire to obtain explanations—for it is not my meaning nor shall I proceed any farther in discussions of this sort unless necessity should call for a simple, & candid statement of the business to be laid before the public” (ADfS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW).

1Randolph originally wrote “wontonly,” but struck that word out.

2GW’s letter to Randolph of 21 Oct. was printed in Randolph’s Vindication, 25–26.

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