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Letter to James McHenry, September 30, 1798

George Washington. Autograph letter signed: Mount Vernon, to James McHenry, 1798 Sept. 30. 3 p.

Mount Vernon 30 Sep 1798.

Dear Sir,

I have lately received information, which, in my opinion, merits attention. It is that the brawlers against Governmental measures in some of the most discontented parts of this state, have, all of a sudden, become silent; and; it is added, are very desirous of obtaining Commissions in the Army, about to be raised.

This information did not fail to leave an impression upon my mind at the time I received it, but it has acquired strength from a publication I have lately seen in one of the Maryland Gazettes (between the Author of which and my informant, there could have been no interchange of sentiments) to the same effect.

The motives ascribed [inserted: to them] are, that [2] in such a situation they would endeavour to divide, & contaminate the Army, by artful & seditious discourses, and perhaps at a critical moment, bring on confusion. What weight to give these conjectures you can judge of as well as I. But, as there will be characters enough of an opposite description, who are ready to receive appointments, circumspection is necessary; for my opinion of the first are, that you could as soon scrub the blackamore white, as to change the principles of a profest Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.

Finding the resentment of the People at the conduct of France too strong to be resisted, they have, inappearance, adopted their senitments; and pretend that, not withstanding the misconduct of Government have brought it upon us, yet, if an Invasion should take place, it will be found that they will be among the [3] first to defend it. This is their story at all Elections, and Election meetings, and told in many instances with effect.

Whether [inserted: there] be little, much, or nothing in the information, I shall not take upon me to decide; but it appeared to me to be of sufficient moment to apprise you thereof.

With esteem & reg[ar]d

I am – Dear Sir
Your Obed[ien]t H[um]ble Serv[an]t
Go: Washington

The Secretary of War.

Notes: Published in Fitzpatrick, 36: 474-475. Washington writes to James McHenry, Secretary of War, that he fears a French invasion and a possible war with France in the wake of the “X, Y, Z Affair” and French dissatisfaction with the Jay Treaty.