George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 11 April 1798

From Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia April 11 1798.


I do myself the honor to inclose copies of the instructions to and dispatches from the Envoys of the United States at Paris.1 No statement of the facts described in the latter can give them their proper force: but the facts as related by the envoys, with the manner and all their circumstances, carry irresistable evidence to every fair and unprejudiced mind, that this display of corruption and injustice exhibits the true character of the French Government; and that all the propositions made to our envoys have been authorized and required by the Directory itself: Yet Mr Jefferson says that there is no evidence that the Directory have any participation in or knowledge of this infamous business! That Talleyrand was known to be an unprincipled man; and that all the evil lies at his door! I am with great respect, sir your most obt servt

Timothy Pickering


1On 3 April President Adams sent to the House of Representatives the decoded dispatches from the envoys to France, and on 6 April the House decided to have 1,200 copies of each printed for distribution. Sen. James Lloyd sent GW copies on 9 April (see GW to Lloyd, 15 April, n.1). With the publication of the dispatches telling how the French foreign minister Talleyrand had received the U.S. commissioners and the demands that he had made through his agents X, Y, and Z, the rising tide of indignation in the country led to the rapid enactment of President Adams’s proposals for strengthening naval defenses and for protecting American mercantile interests. The Federalists followed up on this in June and July by pushing through Congress the repressive Alien and Sedition Acts. Congress in May also enacted a bill authorizing the creation of a provisional army, and in July after GW had become commander in chief, it voted to enlarge significantly the regular army (see James McHenry to GW, 3 July 1798, n.1).

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