Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN JAY. [PRIVATE.] - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
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TO JOHN JAY. [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).
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TO JOHN JAY.
Philadelphia, 18 December, 1794.
Since writing to you by Mr. Bayard about the 1st of November, I have been favored with your letters of the 13th of September,1 and 2d of October. As the sentiments contained in the first of these respecting the communications of Mr. M[onroe] to the National Convention of France, were also transmitted in a private letter from you to the Secretary of State, and replied to by him (both of which I have seen), I shall dwell no longer on that subject, than just to observe, 1st, that, considering the place in which they were delivered, and the neutral policy this country had resolved to pursue, it was a measure that does not appear to have been well devised by our Minister—2d, aware of this himself, and that his conduct would be criticized, he has assigned reasons for its adoption, a summary of which are, that the navy officers and privateersmen of France, who had resorted to our ports, and had been laid under such restrictions as neutral policy required from us, although disagreeable to them, had represented this country, (and not without effect,) as unfriendly to the French Revolution. To do away which, he found himself necessitated to counteract them, by strong assurances of the good dispositions we bore to the nation. And, 3d, although I think with you, that he stepped over the true line to accomplish it, yet, under the then existing circumstances, the expression of such reciprocal good will was susceptible of two views, one of which, even in the pending state of the negotiation, by alarming as well as offending the B. Ministry, might have no unfavorable operation in bringing matters to a happy and speedy result, than which nothing is more desirable, or can be more ardently wished for, by the friends of peace and good order in this country.1
As the Secretary of State has written to you several times since the receipt of your statement of the negotiation on the 13th of September, I shall add nothing to the observations, which are contained in his letters on the subject thereof.
The business of the session hitherto has been tranquil; and I perceive nothing at this time to make it otherwise, unless the result of the negotiation, (which is anxiously expected by all,) should produce divisions. As yet, no details have been handed to Congress on this subject. Indeed, no communication on that business has been made to anybody except those about me in the Executive Departments.
A paragraph, of which the enclosed is a copy, is running through all our gazettes, accompanied with a report that the United States are contemplated as mediator between France and England. To ascertain by what authority the first was inserted, Bache, in whose paper it first appeared, has been called upon by the Secretary of State; but no satisfaction has been obtained from him as yet.1 With respect to the other, it seems to have originated on the other side of the water, and is of a delicate nature; the very idea of which, under the present successes of the French arms, (admitting it should be agreeable to the other power,) would, it is conceived, convey unpleasant sensations, and be considered in an evil light by that nation, unless an intimation to the contrary should first come from them.
The Virginia escheats of British property do not, as I am informed, stand upon the ground as related to you; but, as I am not accurately enough read in the law respecting those escheats to be precise in my recital of it, I will request the Secretary of State to give you the principles thereof.
As I expected, and as you were informed the result would probably be, so it has happened; that the Western insurrection has terminated highly honorable for this country, which by the energy of its Laws, and the good disposition of its citizens, have brought the rioters to a perfect sense of their misconduct, without shedding a drop of blood. In the eyes of foreigners among us, this affair stands in a high point of view. With very great esteem, I am, dear Sir, &c.
OPINION OF THE GENERAL OFFICERS.1
The following list contain the names of all the General officers now living in this country, as low as actual Brigadiers inclusively.—Except those who it is conjectured would not, from age, want of health—& other circumstances, come forward by any inducements that could be offered to them—& such as ought not to be named for the important trust of Commander in Chief.
MAJOR GENERAL LINCOLN.
Sober, honest, brave and sensible, but infirm, past the vigor of life—& reluctantly (if offered to him) would accept the appointment.—
MAJR GENERAL BARON DE STEUBEN.
Sensible, sober & brave, well acquainted with Tactics & with the arrangement & discipline of an army.—High in his ideas of subordination—impetuous in his temper—ambitious—and a foreigner.—
MAJOR GENERAL MOULTRIE.
Brave, & it is believed accommodating in his temper—served the whole of last war; & has been an officer in the preceding one, at least had been engaged in an Expedition against the Cherokees; having defeated them in one or two considerable actions.—What the resources, or powers of his mind are—how active he may be, and whether temperate or not, are points I cannot speak to with decision, because I have had little or no opportunities to form an opinion of him.—
BRIGADIER (BUT BY BREVET MAJR GENERAL) McINTOSH.
Is old and inactive;—supposed to be honest and brave.—Not much known in the Union, and therefore would not obtain much confidence, or command much respect;—either in the community or the army.
MAJR GENERAL (BY BREVET) WAYNE.
More active & enterprising than Judicious & cautious.—No œconomist it is feared:—open to flattery—vain—easily imposed upon and liable to be drawn into scrapes. Too indulgent (the effect perhaps of some of the causes just mentioned) to his officers and men.—Whether sober—or a little addicted to the bottle, I know not.
MAJR GENERAL (BY BREVET) WEEDON.
Not supposed to be an Officer of much resource, though not deficient in a competent share of understanding—rather addicted to ease & pleasure—& no enemy it is said to the bottle—never has had his name brot. forward on this acct.
MAJOR GENERAL (BY BREVET) HAND.
A sensible & judicious man;—his integrity unimpeached;—and was esteemed a pretty good officer.—But if I recollect rightly, not a very active one.—He has never been charged with intemperance to my knowledge;—His name has rarely been mentioned under the present difficulty of chusing an officer to comm’d, but this may, in a great measure be owing to his being at a distance.—
MAJR GENERAL (BY BREVET) SCOTT.
Brave & means well; but is an officer of inadequate abilities for extensive command;—&, by report, is addicted to drinking.—
MAJR GENERAL (BY BREVET) HUNTINGTON.
Sober, sensible and very discreet.—Has never discover’d much enterprise; yet, no doubt has ever been entertained of his want of spirit, or firmness.
BRIGADIER GENERAL WILKENSON.
Is, by brevet Senr. to those whose names follow—but the appointment to this rank was merely honorary,—and as he was but a short time in service, little can be said of his abilities as an Officer.—He is lively, sensible, pompous and ambitious, but whether sober or not, is unknown to me.
BRIGADIER GENERAL GIST.
Little has been said of his qualifications as a General Officer—His activity & attention to duty is somewhat doubtful, tho’ his spirit, I believe, is unimpeached.—
BRIGADIER GENERAL IRVINE.
Is sober, tolerably sensible and prudent. It is said he is an œconomist; and supported his authority whilst he was entrusted with a seperate command; but I have no recollection of any circumstance that marks him as a decidedly good, or indifferent officr.
BRIGADIER GENERAL MORGAN.
Has been fortunate, & has met with eclat.—Yet there are different opinions with respect to his abilities as an officer.—He is accused of using improper means to obtain certificates from the soldiers—It is said he has been (if the case is not so now) intemperate: that he is troubled with a palpitation which often lays him up; and it is not denied that he is illiterate.
BRIGADIER GENERAL WILLIAMS.—
Is a sensible man, but not without vanity. No doubt, I believe, is entertained of his firmness:—and it is thought he does not want activity,—but it is not easy, where there is nothing conspicuous in a character, to pronounce decidedly upon a military man who has always acted under the immediate orders of a superior officer, unless he had been seen frequently in action.—The discipline, interior œconomy and police of his Corps is the best evidence one can have of his talents in this line, and of this, in the case of Genl. Williams I can say nothing; as he was appointed a Brigadier after he left the Northern to join the Southern army.—But a material objection to him is delicate health (if there has been no change in his constitution),—for he has gone to the Sweet Springs two or three years successively in such bad health as to afford little hope of his ever returning from them.
BRIGADIER GENERAL RUFUS PUTNAM.—
Possesses a strong mind—and is a discreet man.—No question has ever been made (that has come to my knowledge) of his want of firmness. In short, there is nothing conspicuous in his character—and he is but little known out of his own state, and a narrow circle.
BRIGADIER GENL (BY BREVENT) PINCKNEY.—
A Colonel since Septr. 16th, 1776; but appointed a Brigadr. by brevet at the close of the War, only.—In this Gentleman many valuable qualities are to be found.—He is of unquestionable bravery—Is a man of strict honor, erudition & good sense: and it is said has made Tactics a study—But what his spirit for enterprise is—whether active or indolent;—or fitted for arrangement, I am unable to say—never having had any opportunity to form a judgment of his talents as a military character.—The capture of Charleston put an end to his military services; but his Junr. Rank, and being little known in this part of the Union, are the two considerations most opposed to him,—particularly the latter, as it is more than probable his being a prisoner prevented his promotion: which ought not to be any bar to his ranking as a Brigadier from the time that others of his standing as a colonel, were promoted.
The above and foregoing closes the list of all the General Officers who as has been observed from age—want of health—disinclination, or peculiar circumstances, can be brought into view; from whom to chuse an officer to command the Troops of the U. S.
If from either of the three Major Generals, which have been mentioned;—or from those made so by brevet, the Commander of the Troops should be taken, no Junior Officer can decline serving on the score of Rank; although he may desire, and have had expectations of being—first in command—himself.
Under this idea, and upon the principle of distribution, the arrangement of the Commanding officer, and those next in grade to him, may be placed in the following points of view.
Lincoln * * * or Moultrie.
Under either of these Major Generals might serve as Brigadiers:
Wayne * * * unless by being a Majr. Genl. by brevet & seeking the command himself he should recoil at it.
Morgan * * * for one of the above reasons would also revolt viz.—command or Williams or Darke.
* If Lincoln commands Brooks cannot be appointed: and if Moultree commands the same will happen to Pickens.
If Pennsylvania gives the Commanding Officer and he is of the Rank (by brevet) of Majr. Generl.; the above arrangement is equally applicable on the principle of distribution, & as unexceptionable on the score of rank. But if, in the first case, Wayne, Morgan and Williams refuse to serve, and in the second, the two last do it, unless it be as Commander,—then some others Junr. in dates of Commission, or of inferior rank, must be resorted to.
If upon a full view of characters, and circumstances, General Pinckney should be deemed the most eligable for the command, it would be a fruitless attempt, & a waste of time to propose to those officers who have been his seniors, to engage again subordinately; especially if they have been his seniors in the line of Colonels: and here I would draw a line which I think is a just one—and that is—that his Colonel’s, & not his Brigad’rs Commission, ought to decide his Rank as a Generl. Officer, because it would be hard upon him to suffer in it, on acc’t of his captivity; when motives of policy and not demerit suspended (as may fairly be presumed) his promotion during that period:—but why, when it did take place, Rank was not (to a certain antecedent date) restor’d, I am unable to conceive.
If this be fair reasoning (and I really think it is), neither Morgan nor Williams would have ground to object against serving under Pinckney: but as it is more than probable they will look to what is, rather than to what ought to be; a difficulty would be made on the subject of Rank—especially if there is any dereliction in them to the service in any other character than that of commanding it—and therefore it would be expedient perhaps to look for officers of Junr. Rank—and in that case may come in as * * *
Wilkenson, whose rank is very questionable
If Governor Lee should be prefered to the command, then officers of lower grades than any that have been mentioned in the preceding pages must be sought after, as all of those are greatly his seniors—& their being, in my opinion but little ground to hope, that either the military talents which he has displayed in the course of the War, or his present dignified station, would reconcile any of them to act a subordinate part, except it be Wilkenson, who, as has been observed before, from having been but a short time in service, & quitting it at an early period of the war, would have but little or no cause to complain.—As also Pickins, who has never been in the Continental line.—The arrangement w’d then be, in this case.—
end of vol. xii.
[1 ]See this letter in the Life of John Jay, vol. i. p. 338.
[1 ]“Your public letters of August 15th and 25th, have enabled me to place upon a proper footing the delicacy of your situation, and to efface any improper impressions which may have been entertained anywhere.”—Edmund Randolph to James Monroe, 5 December, 1794.
[1 ]“Since writing the above an unsatisfactory explanation has been given.”—Note by Washington.
[1 ]When it became necessary to select a successor to Arthur St. Clair, as the commander of the Western army, the President placed upon paper the rough notes printed above. These notes were submitted to his cabinet on 9 March, 1792, and in the new collection of Jefferson’s Writings, edited by Paul Leicester Ford, a summary of them is given among the so-called Anas. The original MS. of this opinion is in the State Library, Albany, New York. A single page was reproduced in fac-simile in the Magazine of American History, February, 1879. This opinion should be read in connection with the letters to St. Clair, printed on pp. 115 and 116 of this volume.
[1 ]Andrew Pickens.
[2 ]John Brooks.
[1 ]William Darke.
[2 ]John Eager Howard.
[3 ]Marinus Willett.
[4 ]William Stephens Smith.