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unless something more imperious and unknown to me should, in the judgment of yourself and the gentlemen with you,
make it advisable for me to pause." A few days later Washington was recalled by a letter from Randolph, and also by a private note from Pickering, which said, mysteriously, that there was a “special reason » for his immediate return. He had been expecting to be recalled at any moment, and he now hastened to Philadelphia, reaching there on August 11. He little dreamed, however, of what had led his two secretaries, one ignorantly and the other wittingly, to hasten his return. On the very day when he dated his letter to the selectmen of Boston as from the United States, the British minister placed in the hands of Mr. Wolcott, the Secretary of the Treasury, an intercepted letter from Fauchet, the French minister, to his own government. This dispatch, bearing the number 10, had come into the possession of Mr. Hammond by a series of accidents; but the British government and its representatives were quick to perceive that the chances of the sea had thrown into their hands a prize of much more value than many French merchantmen. The dispatch thus rescued from the water, where its bearer had cast it, was filled with a long and somewhat imaginative dissertation on political parties in the United States, and with an account of the whiskey rebellion. It also gave the substance of some conversations held by the writer with the Secretary of State. This is not the place, nor
would space serve, to examine the details of this famous dispatch, with reference to the American statesman whom it incriminated. On its face it showed that Randolph had held conversations with the French minister which no American Secretary of State ought to have held with any representative of a foreign government, and it appeared further that the most obvious interpretation of certain sentences, in view of the readiness of man to think ill of his neighbor, was that Randolph had suggested corrupt practices. Such was the document, implicating in a most serious way the character of his chief cabinet officer, which Pickering and Wolcott placed in Washington's hands on his arrival in Philadelphia.
Mr. Conway, in his biography of Randolph, devotes many pages to explaining what now followed. His explanations show, certainly, a most refined ingenuity, and form the most elaborate discussion of this incident that has ever appeared. All this effort and ingenuity are needless, however, unless the object be to prove that Randolph was wholly without fault, which is an impossible task. There was nothing complicated about the affair, and nothing strange about the President's course, if we confine ourselves to the plain facts and the order of their occurrence.
Before the treaty went to the Senate, Washington made up his mind to sign it, and when the Senate ratified conditionally, he still adhered to his former opinion. Then came the news of the
provision order, and thereupon he paused 'and withheld his signature, at the same time ordering a memorial against the order to be prepared. But there is no evidence whatever that he changed his inind, or that he had determined to make his signature conditional * upon the revocation of the order. To argue that he had is, in fact, misrepresentation. In the letter of July 22, on which so much stress was laid afterwards by Randolph, Washington said that his intention to ratify conditionally was to be announced, if the provision order was not in operation. Put in the converse form, his intention was not to be announced if the order was in operation; but this is very different from saying that his intention had altered, and that he would not sign unless the order was revoked. This last idea was Randolph's, but not Washington's. Indeed, in the very next lines of the same letter he said expressly that his opinion had not changed, that he did not like the treaty, but that it was best to ratify. It is a fair inference, no doubt, that he was considering whether he should change his intention and make his signature conditional; but if this was the case, it is sure beyond a peradventure that his original opinion was only confirmed as the days went by.
He examined with the utmost care all the remonstrances and addresses that were poured in upon him, and found few solid objections, and none that he had not already weighed and disposed of. On July 31 he wrote to Randolph that it was
not to be inferred that he was disposed to quit his ground unless more imperious circumstances than had yet come to his knowledge should compel him to do so. The provision order was of course within his knowledge, and therefore had not led him to change his mind. On August 3 he wrote even more strongly that nothing had come to his knowledge to shake his determination. In his letter to Randolph of October 21, giving him full liberty to have and publish everything he desired for his vindication, Washington said: “You know that it was my determination to ratify before submission to the Senate; that the doubts which arose proceeded from the provision order." Doubts are mentioned here, and not changes of intention. If he had changed his mind at any time he would have said so, for he was neither timid nor dishonest, but as a matter of fact he never had changed his mind. He came to Philadelphia with his mind made up to ratify, and that being the case, it was clear that further delay would be wrong and im-' politic. The surest way to check the popular ex. citement and rally the friends of the administration was to act. Suspense fostered opposition more than ratification, for most people accept the inevitable when the deed is done.
The Fauchet letter, therefore, although its revelations astounded and grieved him, had no effect upon his action, which would have been the same in any event; for he had said over and over again that he had not changed his first opinion. In the
letter to Randolph, just quoted, he also said: “And finally you know the grounds on which my ultimate decision was taken, as the same were expressed to you, the other secretaries of departments, and the late attorney-general, after a thorough investigation of the subject in all the aspects in which it could be placed.” As the Fauchet letter was not disclosed to Randolph until after the treaty had been signed, it was impossible that it should have been one of the grounds of the President's decision, for Washington said to him, “You knew the grounds.” If we are to suppose that the Fauchet letter had anything to do with the ratification so far as the President himself was concerned, we must, in the face of this letter, set Washington down as a deliberate liar, which is so wholly impossible that it disposes at once of the theory that he was driven into signing by a clever British intrigue.
Here as elsewhere the simple and obvious explanation is the true one, although the whole matter is sufficiently plain on the mere narration of facts. The treaty was a great public question, to be decided on its merits, and the only new point raised by the Fauchet dispatch was how to deal with Randolph himself at this particular juncture. To have shown the letter to him at once would have been to break the cabinet, with the treaty unsigned. It would have resulted in much delay, extending to weeks, unless the President was ready to have an acting secretary sign both treaty and