To Doctor James O’Fallon February the 17, 1793
To Doctor James O’Fallon1 February the 17, 1793
PASSY, NEAR PARIS,
I had the pleasure of your favor from Kentucky, which came in the French Resident’s dispatches, with which the offers and propositions of General G R Clarke, for an expedition against Louisiana, etc. had arrived, and were received by the Provisionary Executive Council of the Republic with satisfaction.2
I should have replied sooner; but waited a few days, that I may see what the Resident had reported, and after using my best exertions in behalf of your friend’s design, to discover what was likely to be done, in the event of a Spanish war. I have only to inform you, at this early stage of the business, that the General’s offers and propositions are actually under consideration; and a doubt exists not with myself, should a Spanish war take place, but that every, or the greater part of his terms will be complied with. In my private opinion, a Spanish war is inevitable. You may, therefore, in all human probability, expect very soon to hear of the General’s nomination to the post and command solicited by him. The knowledge which report hath brought me of his character, Mr. Jefferson’s private sentiments respecting him, which the Resident has, as I understand, transmitted, and the reliance I have in your narrative,-which confirms the whole, will excite every exertion on part, to have the expedition promoted as you wish. In a week or two hence, a war against Spain will, in all likelihood, be declared. All we fear is, that the intrigues of certain personages in the American cabinet, who are friends of Britain, and the votaries of Kings, may obstruct the General, in his plans of raising men, and procuring officers. The principal characters among the French inhabitants of Louisiana, have already petitioned this convention, for the reduction of that country from the vile servitude under which it actually groans.
This expedition, if successful, will probably promote every end of your Agency, the purposes of which Gouverneur Morris of New York, the present American Minister at Paris, has, long since, unfolded to me. I therefore submit it to your consideration, whether you ought not, in person, to accompany this expedition, to promote it with all your might, and even to act in it as a French officer. Such friendly exertions in favor of the enterprise, will most certainly recommend you, and the Company you represent to the notice and grateful esteem of our magnanimous free nation. In the hoped for contingency, that the arms of the Republic shall prove victorious in this expedition, and dislodge the Spaniard from all the posts which he holds within the three Grants of Georgia; the lands, in the first instance, will be considered, by the Republic, as the conquest of Spanish territory. In such case, I make not the least doubt, but that the Georgia Grants, the lowest down at least, will be confirmed to the companies that shall have been assistants in the expedition, by themselves or their Agents. This, My dear Sir, I only offer, as the sentiments of a private man. Should the Georgia Grant, or Grants ever revert to the United States; it must be by treaty, or exchange; and then even, the actual possessors, under this Republic, will infallibly become confirmed in their rights, under some clause in the deed of cession.
Your instructive correspondence shall ever be pleasing to me. Give me every intelligence and, write often. Please to direct under cover of the Ambassador, Mr. Genet’s address. He is my sincere friend, and your name is already made known to him by me. He is to set out for America speedily3. The rulers of this Republic hold him in very high estimation.
If as yet in the habits of writing; this, My Dear Doctor, is your precious time. Never was there a cause so deserving of your pen. I have tried the force of mine, and with some success. The first characters in Europe are in arms; some with the bayonet, some with the pen, and some with the two-edged sword of Declamation, in favor of Liberty. The tyrants of the earth are leagued against France; but with little effect. Although single-handed and alone, she still stands unshaken, unsubdued, unsubdueable, and undaunted: for our brave men fight not, as the troops of other nations, like Slaves chained to the oar of compulsory power. They fight freely, and for conscience sake. The nation will perish to a man, or be free. France can never fall; but by misapplying her own strength.
This being Sunday, and at my little retreat, a few miles from Paris, where I expect some American friends to dinner; I must defer what more I had to say. This letter is risked by a private hand, who proceeds immediately to New York, and is charged to have it conveyed to you with all the security possible. Fail not to write to me, and believe me to be, with unfeigned sincerity, and best wishes for your health and prosperity.
Dear Sir Your true friend and wellwisher
- This letter is printed from the original manuscript in the Lyman Copeland Draper Collection through the courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historical Society.
James O’Fallon was an Irish adventurer who had been active in the Revolutionary movement in North Carolina. After the war he turned to land speculation and engaged in intrigues with the Spanish, but during the summer of 1791 advocated taking possession of lands which had been granted by the State of Georgia to the South Carolina Yazoo Company over which Spain claimed jurisdiction. George Rogers Clark, hero of the North-west during the American Revolution, was to lead an expedition of one thousand armed men to seize this land which extended from the mouth of the Yazoo River along the Mississippi to an area close to Natchez. The expedition was halted when President Washington issued a proclamation forbidding the project. O’Fallon had married Clark’s daughter, but by the time Paine’s letter reached the United States the two men were on anything but friendly terms.-P.Foner.
Paine’s statement proves that Clark suggested to the French authorities late in 1792 that they support his plan to lead a filibustering expedition to recover Louisiana, held by Spain, for France, and that his proposal received favorable consideration. The French resident at Philadelphia in 1792, referred to by Paine, was Col. J. B. Ternant. He had been appointed by the king in the spring of 1791.-P. Foner
Edmond-Charles-Edouard Genet, wealthy representative of the Girondins, went as French minister to the United States. His conduct in this country played right into the hands of the reactionary Federalists who hated the French Revolution. For one thing, he organized expeditions on American soil against Spanish Louisiana and British Florida. For another, he threatened an “appeal to the people” over Washington’s head to gain financial and military support for France. Genet was removed when the Jacobins replaced the Girondists in France. The proposed expedition against Louisiana failed when Washington demanded that Genet should be recalled, and when the President added to this a proclamation which forbade any American citizen to enlist in such a project.-P.Foner.