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Special Message

January 19, 1797

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

At the opening of the present session of Congress I mentioned that some circumstances of an unwelcome nature had lately occurred in relation to France; that our trade had suffered, and was suffering, extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republic and that communications had been received from its minister here which indicated danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority, and that were in other respects far from agreeable, but that I reserved for a special message a more particular communication on this interesting subject. This communication I now make.

The complaints of the French minister embraced most of the transactions of our Government in relation to France from an early period of the present war, which, therefore, it was necessary carefully to review. A collection has been formed of letters and papers relating to those transactions, which I now lay before you, with a letter to Mr. Pinckney, our minister at Paris, containing an examination of the notes of the French minister and such information as I thought might be useful to Mr. Pinckney in any further representations he might find necessary to be made to the French Government. The immediate object of his mission was to make to that Government such explanations of the principles and conduct of our own as, by manifesting our good faith, might remove all jealousy and discontent and maintain that harmony and good understanding with the French Republic which it has been my constant solicitude to preserve. A government which required only a knowledge of the truth to justify its measures could not but be anxious to have this fully and frankly displayed.


George Washington, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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