Thomas Jefferson Papers

Circular to the Governors of the States, 1 March 1792

Circular to the Governors of the States

Philadelphia March 1st. 1792


I have the honor to send you herein enclosed two copies, duly authenticated, of an Act concerning certain fisheries of the United States, and for the regulation and government of the fishermen employed therein; also of an Act to establish the Post office and Post roads within the United States; also the ratifications, by three fourths of the Legislatures of the several States, of certain articles in addition to and amendment of the Constitution of the United States, proposed by Congress to the said Legislatures; and of being with sentiments of the most perfect respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient & most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

RC (Vi); in the hand of Henry Remsen, signed by TJ; at foot of text: “His Excellency The Governor of the State of Virginia.” RC (MdAA); in Remsen’s hand, signed by TJ; at foot of text: “His Excellency The Governor of the State of Maryland.” RC (NN); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of text: “To His Excellency the Governor of the State of Pennsylvania.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “To the Governors of the Several States.” Not recorded in SJL. For the two enclosed acts of Congress, see Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , iii, 1329–41; see below for the other enclosure.

Certain articles in addition to and amendment of the constitution: the first ten amendments as passed by Congress and ratified by eleven of the fourteen states. TJ this day directed that the amendments and ratifications, as well as two amendments that were not ratified, be printed as a pamphlet for transmission to the state governors in the same manner as acts of Congress. The eleven-page booklet, enclosed in this letter, was the earliest official printing of the ratified Bill of Rights (Congress of the United States: Begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine … [Philadelphia, 1792], Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends No. 46596; Memorandum Book of the Department of State, DNA: RG 360, PCC, No. 187; Vincent L. Eaton, “Bill of Rights,” The New Colophon, ii [1949], 279–83; Antiquarian Bookman, vi [1950], 125; note to TJ to Christopher Gore, 8 Aug. 1791). For the steps leading to the transmission to the states of this landmark of American liberty, see Kenneth R. Bowling, “’A Tub to the Whale’: The Founding Fathers and Adoption of the Federal Bill of Rights,” Journal of the Early Republic, viii (1988), 223–51. TJ’s chart tracing state actions on the twelve amendments submitted to the states in 1789 is illustrated in this volume.

TJ dispatched this circular after receiving letters from Tobias Lear of 30 Dec. 1791 transmitting Virginia’s ratification of the Bill of Rights with a covering letter from Governor Henry Lee to the President (RC in DLC, endorsed by TJ as received 30 Dec. 1791; PrC in DNA:RG 59, MLR; FC in Lb in same, SDC) and of 18 Jan. 1792 transmitting Vermont’s ratification with a covering letter from Governor Thomas Chittenden to the President (RC in DNA: RG 11, Bill of Rights and Ratifications; PrC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; FC in Lb in same, SDC). Vermont’s action provided the three-fourths majority required for amendments to the Constitution.

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