FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE THIRD CONGRESS, 1793-4, WITH RARE EARLY PRINTING OF WASHINGTON’S FIRST OFFICIAL RESPONSE TO THE CONTROVERSIAL GENET AFFAIR
UNITED STATES CONGRESS. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Being the First Session of the Third Congress, Begun and Held at the City of Philadelphia, December 2d, 1793. Philadelphia: Printed by John Fenno, 1793 [i.e. 1794]. Folio, period style full brown tree calf, raised bands, tan morocco spine label, marbled endpapers. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $4000.
First edition of the official record of the First Senatorial Session of the Third Congress convened under newly re-elected President Washington, with early printing of his December fifth Message to Congress voicing clear displeasure with France’s Citizen Genet, “the official document of the celebrated Genet affair” (Sabin 48045), one of only 700 copies printed.
“The first six months of his second administration had taxed Washington beyond anything he had known in the Presidency.” At the center of the storm was the President’s interest in establishing a policy of neutrality amidst fresh war in Europe, particularly in light of recent actions by Citizen Genet, Minister of the French Republic, whose insistence on his right to commission privateering ships in order to raid British vessels traveling along the American coastline had provoked a “widening rift in Washington’s cabinet… Washington wrote late in November, ‘I am occupied in collecting and arranging the materials for my communications to Congress.’ Never before had an Annual Address been so tedious in preparation. How to explain, how to justify the Proclamation of Neutrality was the real difficulty… As the President entered the Senate Chamber to deliver his fifth Annual Address, he may have taken solace at the thought that Congress now would share tribulations which had been exclusively his for so long. His explanation of the policy of neutrality was direct and unpretentious, vigorous in its simplicity… Two days later the President’s special message on French and British relations went to Congress… Only when he came to the subject of Genet did the President show asperity. The French Minister, Washington told Congress, evidenced ‘nothing of the friendly spirit of the nation which sent him.” In this record of that first session, convening on December 2, 1793 and adjourning on June 9, 1794, is one of the earliest printings of Washington’s December fifth Message—“the official version of the Genet affair” (Howes M554). Washington and Congress would continue to confront these problems throughout the session but “as June broke upon Philadelphia Washington could reflect with satisfaction that America was still at peace” (Freeman, 637, 621, 641-42, 649). This Session also addressed the increasingly disruptive war between Great Britain and France, the retirement of the public debt, relations with Indians on the frontier, the introduction of a flag bill to reflect the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union, and other pressing business of the new nation. Washington’s December fifth Message earlier printed separately in 1793. No more than 700 copies of each bound Journal of a Senate session were printed, intended for distribuiton to members of the government only. Evans 27911. Powell, Books of a New Nation, 85-100. See Sabin 48045.
Light scattered foxing. An important piece of early Ameircana in near-fine condition.