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CHAPTER XXVIII.

WASHINGTON RECALLED TO THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT-CONDUOT OF

RANDOLPH BROUGHT IN QUESTION-TREATY SIGNED--RESIGNATION

OF RANDOLPH-HIS CORRESPONDENCE WITH WASHINGTON-UNLIM

ITED DISOLOSURE PERMITTED--APPEARANCE OF HIS VINDICATIONPICKERING TRANSFERRED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE-M'HENRY

APPOINTED SECRETARY OF WAR-ARRIVAL OF GEORGE WASHINGTON

LAFAYETTE,

The difficult and intricate questions pressing upon the attention of government left Washington little mood to enjoy the retirement of Mount Vernon, being constantly in doubt whether his presence in Philadelphia were not necessary. In his letters to Randolph, he requested to be kept continually advised on this head. " While I am in office I shall never suffer private convenience to interfere with what I conceive to be my official duty.” “I do not require more than a day's notice to repair to the seat of government."

His promptness was soon put to the test. Early in August came a mysterious letter, dated July 31, from Mr. Pickering, the secretary of war.

“ On the subject of the treaty," writes Pickering, “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 meanwhile, 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. Mr. Wolcott and I (Mr. Bradford concurring) waited on Mr. Randolph, and urged his writing to request your return. He wrote in our presence, but we concluded a letter from one of us also expedient. With the utmost sincerity I subscribe myself yours and my country's friend.

This letter is for your own eye alone.”

The receipt of this enigmatical letter induced Washington to cut short his sojourn at Mount Vernon, and hasten to Philadelphia. He arrived there on the 11th of August; and on the same day received a solution of the mystery. A despatch written by Fauchet, the French minister, to his government in the preceding month of November, was placed in · Washington's hands with a translation of it made by Mr. Pickering. The despatch had been found on board of a French privateer, captured by a British frigate, and had been transmitted to the ministry. Lord Grenville, finding it contained passages relating to the intercourse of Mr. Randolph, the American secretary of state, with Mr. Fauchet, had sent it to Mr. Hammond, the British Minister in Philadelphia. He had put it into the hands of Mr. Wolcott, the secretary of the treasury, who had shown it to the secretary of war and the attorney-general ; and the contents had been considered so extraordinary as to call forth the mysterious letter entreating the prompt return of Washington.

The following passages in Fauchet's intercepted despatch related to the Western insurrection and the proclamation of Washington :

1795.]

FAUCHET'S INTERCEPTED DESPATCH.

237

“ Two or three days before the proclamation was published, and of course before the cabinet had resolved on its measures, the secretary of state came to my house. All his countenance was grief. He requested of me a private conversation. It was all over, he said to me; a civil war is about to ravage our unhappy country. Four men, by their talents, their influence, and their energy, may save it. But, debtors of English merchants, they will be deprived of their liberty if they take the smallest step. Could you lend them instantaneously funds to shelter them from English prosecution? This inquiry astonished me much. It was impossible for me to make a satisfactory answer.

You know my want of power and deficiency in pecuniary means."

“Thus, with some thousands of dollars, the Republic could have decided on civil war or peace. Thus the consciences of the pretended patriots of America have already their price.-“What will be the old age of this government, if it is thus already decrepit ? »

The perusal of the letter gave Washington deep perplexity and concern. He revolved the matter in his mind in silence. The predominant object of his thoughts recently had been to put a stop to the public agitation on the subject of the treaty; and he postponed any new question of difficulty until decided measures had laid the other at rest. On the next day, therefore, (12th,) he brought before the cabinet the question of immediate ratification. All the members were in favor of it excepting Mr. Randolph ; he had favored it before the news of the British provision order, but now pronounced it unadvisable, until that order were

revoked, and there should be an end of the war between France and England. This led to further discussion, and it was finally agreed to ratify the treaty immediately; but to accompany the ratification with a strong memorial against the provision order. The ratification was signed by Washington on the 18th of August.

His conduct towards Randolph, in the interim, had been as usual, but now that the despatch of public business no longer demanded the entire attention of the cabinet, he proceeded to clear up the doubts occasioned by the intercepted despatch. Accordingly, on the following day, as Randolph entered the cabinet, Washington, who was conversing with Pickering and Wolcott, rose and handed to him the letter of Fauchet, asking an explanation of the questionable parts.

Randolph appears to have been less agitated by the production of the letter, than hurt that the inquiry concerning it had not first been made of him in private. He postponed making any specific reply, until he should have time to examine the letter at his leisure ; and observed on retiring, that, after the treatment he had experienced, he could not think of remaining in office a moment longer.

In a letter to the President the same day he writes : Your confidence in me, sir, has been unlimited, and I can truly affirm unabused. My sensations, then, cannot be concealed, when I find that confidence so suddenly 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

1795.]

RANDOLPH'S DENIAL.

239

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 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 acopy 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 suggestions, I here most solemnly deny that any oyerture 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.”

Washington, in a reply on the following day, in which he accepted his resignation, observes : “Whilst you are in pursuit of means to remove the strong suspicions arising from this letter, no disclosure of its contents will be made by me; and I will enjoin the same on the public officers who are acquainted with the purport of it, unless something will appear to render an explanation necessary on the part of the government, and of which I will be the judge."

And on a subsequent occasion he writes : “No man

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