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219: TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS - George Washington, George Washington: A Collection 
George Washington: A Collection, compiled and edited by W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988).
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TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
Philadelphia, December 22, 1795
My dear Sir:
I am become so unprofitable a corrispondent, and so remiss in my corrispondencies, that nothing but the kindness of my friends in overlooking these deficiencies, could induce them to favor me with a continuance of their letters; which, to me, are at once pleasing, interesting, and useful. To a man immersed in debt, and seeing no prospect of extrication but by an act of insolvency (perhaps absolvency would be a better word) I compare myself: and like him too, affraid to examine the items of the account, I will, at once, make a lumping acknowledgment of the receipt of many interesting private letters from you, previous to your last arrival in England; and will begin with those of the 3d. of July and 22d. of Augt. subsequent thereto.
As the British government has repealed the order for seizing our Provision Vessels, little more need be said on that head than that it was the principle which constituted the most obnoxious and exceptionable part thereof; and the predicament in which this country was thereby placed in her relations with France. Admitting therefore that the compensation to some individuals was adequate to what it might have been in another quarter, yet the exceptions to it on these grounds, remained the same.
Continued grievances with Great BritainI do not think Colo. Innes’s report to the Govr. of Kentucky was entirely free from exceptions; but let the report be accompanied with the following remarks. 1. That the one which Lord Grenville might have seen published, was disclaimed by Colo. Innes as soon as it appeared in the public Gazettes, on account of its incorrectness. 2. An irritable spirit at that time pervaded all our people at the Westward, arising from a combination of causes (but from none more powerful than the analogous proceedings of Great Britain in the North, with those of Spain in the South, towards the United States and their Indian borderers) which spirit required some management and soothing. But 3. and principally, Lord Grenville if he had adverted to the many remonstrances which have gone from this country against the conduct of his own; which I will take the liberty to say has been as impolitic for their Nation (if Peace and a good understanding with this, was its object) as it has been irritating to us. And that it may not be conceived that I am speaking at random, let his Lordship be asked if we have not complained, that some of their naval Officers have insulted and menaced us in our own Ports? That they have violated our national rights, by searching Vessels, and impressing Seamen within our acknowledged Jurisdiction? and in an outrageous manner have seized the latter by entire crews in the West Indies, and done the like, but not so extensively, in all parts of the World? That the Bermudian Privateers, or to speak more correctly, Pirates; and the Admiralty Court of that Island, have committed the most atrocious depredations and violences on our Commerce in capturing, and in their adjudications afterwards, as were never tolerated in any well organized or efficient government? That their Governor of Upper Canada has ordered, in an official, and formal manner, Settlers within our own territory (and far removed from the Posts they have withheld from us) to withdraw, and forbid others to settle on the same? That the persons to whom their Indian Affairs are entrusted, have taken unwearied pains, and practiced every deception to keep those people in a state of irritation and disquietude with us; and, to the last moment, exerted every nerve to prevent the Treaty which has lately been concluded between the United States and them, from taking effect?
These complaints were not founded in vague and idle reports, but on indubitable facts. Facts not only known to the government, but so notorious as to be known to the people also; who charge to the last item of the above enumeration, the expenditure of a million, or more dollars annually, for the purpose of self defence against Indian tribes thus stimulated, and for chastising them for the ravages and cruel murders which they had committed on our frontier Inhabits. Our Minister at the Court of London has been directed to remonstrate against these things, with force and energy. The answer, it is true, has been (particularly with respect to the interferences with the Indians) a disavowal. Why then are not the Agents of such unauthorised, offensive, and injurious measures, made examples of? For wherein, let me ask, consists the difference to us between their being the acts of government, or the acts of unauthorised Officers, or Agents of the government; if we are to sustain all the evils which flow from such measures?
Attitude of British governmentTo this catalogue may be added, the indifference, nay more than indifference, with which the government of Great Britain received the advances of this country towards a friendly intercourse with it; even after the adoption of the present Constitution, and since the operation of the government; and also, the ungracious and obnoxious characters (rancorous refugees, as if done with design to insult the country) which they have sent among us as their Agents; who retaining all their former enmity, could see nothing through a proper medium, and becoming the earwigs of their Ministers (who bye the by does not possess a mind capacious enough, or a temper sufficiently conciliatory, to view things and act upon a great and liberal scale) were always labouring under some unfavorable information and impression; And, probably not communicating them in a less exceptionable manner than they received, or conceived them themselves.
I give you these details (and if you should again converse with Lord Grenville on the subject, you are at liberty, unofficially, to mention them, or any of them, according to circumstances) as evidences of the impolitic conduct, for so it strikes me, of the British government towards these United States; that it may be seen how difficult it has been for the Executive, under such an accumulation of irritating circumstances, to maintain the ground of neutrality which had been taken; at a time when the remembrance of the aid we had received from France in the Revolution, was fresh in every mind, and when the partizans of that country were continually contrasting the affections of that people with the unfriendly disposition of the British government and that too, as I have observed before, while the recollection of their own sufferings during the War with the latter, had not been forgotten.
Peace with England and EuropeIt is well known that Peace has been (to borrow a modern phraze) the order of the day with me, since the disturbances in Europe first commenced. My policy has been, and will continue to be, while I have the honor to remain in the administration of the government, to be upon friendly terms with, but independant of, all the nations of the earth. To share in the broils of none. To fulfil our own engagements. To supply the wants, and be carriers for them all: being thoroughly convinced that it is our policy and interest to do so; and that nothing short of self respect, and that justice which is essential to a national character, ought to involve us in War; for sure I am, if this country is preserved in tranquillity twenty years longer, it may bid defiance, in a just cause, to any power whatever, such, in that time, will be its population, wealth, and resource.
If Lord Grenville conceives that the United States are not well disposed towards Great Britain, his candour, I am persuaded, will seek for the causes; and his researches will fix them as I have done. If this should be the case, his policy will, I am persuaded, be opposed to the continuance, or renewal of the irritating measures which I have enumerated; for he may be assured, tho the assurance will not, it is probable, carry conviction with it from me to a member of the British administration, that a liberal policy will be one of the most effectual means of deriving advantages to their trade and manufactures from the people of the United States; and will contribute more than any thing else, to obliterate the impressions which have been made by their late conduct towards it.
Defense of executive branchIn a government as free as ours where the people are at liberty, and will express their sentiments, oftentimes imprudently, and for want of information sometimes unjustly, allowances must be made for occasional effervescences; but after the declaration which I have here made of my political creed, you can run no hazard in asserting, that the Executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity; or will give its sanctions to any disorderly proceedings of its citizens.
By a firm adherence to these principles, and to the neutral policy which has been adopted, I have brought on myself a torrent of abuse in the factious papers in this country, and from the enmity of the discontented of all descriptions therein: But having no sinister objects in view, I shall not be diverted from my course by these, nor any attempts which are, or shall be made to withdraw the confidence of my constituents from me. I have nothing to ask, and discharging my duty, I have nothing to fear from invective. The acts of my Administration will appear when I am no more, and the intelligent and candid part of mankind will not condemn my conduct without recurring to them.
Opposition to treaty with Great BritainThe Treaty entered into with G. Britain has (as you have been informed) undergone much, and severe animadversion; and tho’ a more favorable one were to have been wished, which the policy perhaps of Great Britain might have granted, yet the demerits thereof are not to be estimated by the opposition it has received; nor is the opposition sanctioned by the great body of the yeomanry in these States: for they (whatever their opinion of it may be) are disposed to leave the decision where the Constitution has placed it. But an occasion was wanting, and the instrument by those who required it, was deemed well calculated for the purpose of working upon the affections of the people of this country, towards those of France; whose interests and rights under our treaty with them, they represented as being violated: and with the aid of the Provision order, and other irritating conduct of the British Ships of War, and agents, as mentioned before, the means were furnished, and more pains taken, than upon any former occasion, to raise a general ferment with a view to defeat the Treaty.
But knowing that you have other corrispondents who have more leizure, and equally capable of detailing these matters, I will leave you to them, and the Gazettes, for fuller information thereon; and for a more minute account of the prevailing politics. And thanking you for the interesting information, and opinions contained in your letter of the 22d. of August, I shall only add that with sincere esteem etc.
PS: We have not heard through any other channel than your letter, of the intended resignation of Mr. Skipwith, and of the proposed recommendation of Mr. Montflorence.