George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Robert Rutherford, 23 January 1797

Philada January 23d 1797

Dear Sir

From motives the most pure and a very generous impulse, I have hastily Committed my sentiment to paper, as I fear for our Common Country, and please to be assured, your reputation & peace of mind, is Very dear to me, because I have ever Considered you as an honest Man, a patriot and firm friend to this people. The Crisis is Critical & Very important. I am aware of the difficulty’s you had in the introduction of our Excellent Goverment and the waring passions, interests, and even Gigantic prejudices of Two great rival nations.The English have too long reaped the most extensive profits, from our commerce, to yield up, the lucritive business, without practizing every artifice to retain it. The French, have doubtless, the same thing in View, and having been our friends, on the most trying occasion, Consider themselves, intitled. So that this great national article is embarrassed, & demands delicacy & address. The French Republic, by way of retaliation, as it were, are Capturing our Vesels and in this there appears to be some Colour of Justice, or the maritime Strength of the united States must ultimately, have been brought into opperation against that people. The Vesels, Provisions & above all the American Seamen. to Say truth this Conduct of the French, has been produced by a Conduct Similar in that of the English, and I Still hope that when the French Republic recur to Justice, and moderation the goverment, will Justly Consider that we Could not prevent either, and after making us feel their power & resentment they will return to friendship dictated by principles of equity and sound,, policy, and that by Your wisdom, moderation, and Patriotism, the great business will be adjusted, Consonant with your Ideas. When that Republic presented their flag, & recently in reply to the House of Delegates, which I am Convinced were Sincere, I will tell you in the fulness of my heart, that an amicable Close of this business would more fully establish your character, (already very high) than any measure of Your life, as a great Majority of the People, of every age and Sex, are extremely desirous to be on good terms with the French Republic, as a great & powerful Sister & benefactor. We no doubt have nothing to do with European politics, in our Stituation, and the art & address is to steer in Such a manner as to avoid offending any. The American mind has been amused, & much abused, by Low insolent Scribblers, who under pretext, of order and Good Goverment, have presumed to make your Virtues, a rallying point, and have insulted, the best Patriots, who would Support you with their fortunes, & even their Lives, if it were, necessary: The difficulty is in avoiding European politics, without offence, to either Britain, or a Sister Republic, rising by our Example, to the highest pitch of human improvement & power, We have indeed Just Cause of Complaint, in what respects the British Goverment, by an indiscriminate Carnage on our frontier, while the people are our ancestors and really possess many Virtues. A Commerce with that nation, is to us, a loosing traffick, and they really Cannot hurt us. Yet Sound policy, perhaps, forbids Crushing them altogether, but that their Violences on the ocean should be restrained is Surely right. Your generous patriotic,, mind, I am sensible has been hurt, by Some publications, but please to be assured that very few, were engaged in the matter, & your magnanimity & goodness of heart, will Commit these to lasting oblivion as personal insult, passion, or prejudice, I am Conscious will not influence you, on the present, great & Very important occasion, when the peace & happiness of a great people, who look up to you as a common Parent, is at Stake. I beg pardon, for this obtrusion of Sentiment. Please to be assured, that I have no Vanity in offering my opinions, or in writing to one Superior in every respect & that will Certainly do what is right & best. So that be the result what it may, I beg that this incoherent letter may be wholy with Yourself, as it Surely will remain, only in the breast of Dear Sir Your affectionate and Most obedient Humble servant

R. Rutherford

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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