Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, SECRETARY OF STATE. [PRIVATE.] - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, SECRETARY OF STATE. [PRIVATE.] - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XII (1790-1794).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Fort Cumberland, 16 October, 1794.
Your letters of the 11th instant were received this morning at my stage fifteen miles short of this place. We arrived here in the afternoon of this day, and found a respectable force assembled from the States of Virginia and Maryland; and I am informed that about fifteen hundred more, (from the former State,) either are or will be at Frankfort, ten miles on our left, this evening or to-morrow at farthest. Nothing more precise, than you were informed of in my last from Carlisle, has been heard from the insurgent counties. All accounts agree, however, that they are much alarmed at the serious appearance of things; the truth of which I expect to be better informed of to-morrow or next day, by persons whom I have sent amongst them, and whose return may be looked for about that time.
I do not expect to be here more than two days; thence to Bedford, where, as soon as matters are arranged and a plan settled, I shall shape my course for Philadelphia; but not because the impertinence of Mr. Bache or his correspondent has undertaken to pronounce, that I cannot constitutionally command the army, whilst Congress are in session.
I believe the eyes of all the well-disposed people of this country will soon be opened, and that they will clearly [see] the tendency, if not the design, of the leader of these self-created societies. As far as I have heard them spoken of, it is with strong reprobation. I should be extremely sorry, therefore, if Mr. M—n, from any cause whatsoever, should get entangled with them or their politics.1
As the speech will be composed of several distinct subjects, my wish was that each of these should receive its final dress, subject however to revision; that part, especially, which relates to the insurrection and the proceedings thereupon. The subjects themselves will naturally point to the order in which they ought to follow each other; and the throwing them into it cannot, at any time, be more than the work of a few minutes, after the materials are all provided. It will appear evident, on a moment’s reflection, that the continual interruptions in a militia camp, where every thing is to be provided and arranged, will allow no time to clothe the speech in a correct or handsome garb; nor will there be time to do it after my return.
My mind is so perfectly convinced, that, if these self-created societies cannot be discountenanced, they will destroy the government of this country, that I have asked myself, whilst I have been revolving on the expense and inconvenience of drawing so many men from their families and occupations as I have seen on their march, where would be the impropriety of glancing at them in my speech, by some such idea as the following; “That, however distressing this expedition will have proved to individuals, and expensive to the country, the pleasing spirit, which it has drawn forth in support of law and government, will immortalize the American character, and is a happy presage, that future attempts of a certain description of people to disturb the public tranquillity will prove equally abortive.” I have formed no precise ideas of what is best to be done or said on this subject, nor have I time to express properly what has occurred to me, as I am now writing at an hour when I ought to be in bed, because all the day, from business or ceremonious introductions, I have been unable to do it sooner.1 I am, &c.
[1 ]“Mr. Izard has returned; and his lady is prepared to go immediately to Charleston with the family. Mr. Izard will follow in the spring. I find him under very proper impressions of our public affairs. He mentioned to me that a society under the democratic garb has arisen in South Carolina with the name of Madisonian. It is a great grief to me, because it must place Mr. Madison under much embarrassment, either to seem to approve by silence what I am confident he must abhor, or to affront those who intended to evince their respect for him. I hope that he will not hesitate to adopt the latter expedient; for I shall with the freedom of friendship bring before him the genuine state of my mind concerning it. As I remarked to you in conversation, I never did see an opportunity of destroying these self-constituted bodies, until the fruit of their operations was disclosed in the insurrection of Pittsburg. Indeed I was, and am still persuaded, that the language, which was understood to be held by the officers of government in opposition to them, contributed to foster them. They may now, I believe, be crushed. The prospect ought not to be lost.”—Randolph to Washington, 11 October, 1794.
[1 ]This paragraph foreshadowed a public utterance against these societies that aroused a very strong resentment among republicans. The attack was characterized by Madison as “perhaps the greatest error” of Washington’s political life. Jefferson saw in it “one of the extraordinary acts of boldness of which we have seen so many from the faction of monocrats,” and wondered that the President should have “permitted himself to be the organ of such an attack on the freedom of discussion, the freedom of writing, printing and publishing.” How could complaint be made against these societies and not against the Cincinnati, “a self-created one, carving out for itself hereditary distinctions, lowering over our Constitution eternally, meeting together in all parts of the union, periodically, with closed doors, accumulating a capital in their separate treasury, corresponding secretly and regularly, and of which society the very persons denouncing the democrats are themselves the fathers, founders and high officers.”—Jefferson to Madison, 28 December, 1794.