George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 23 March 1789

From Henry Knox

New York 23 March 1789

My dear Sir

The Jersey election being decided, the four members from that State will be here tomorrow or next day1—Two members from Pensylvania who have hitherto attended the Assembly of that state which has now adjourned will also be here tomorrow evening—With the above and Mr Smith who has arrived here from Maryland the house of representatives will be formed on Wednesday or Thursday next.2

The senate now consists of ten, and Mr Elmer is expected to arrive from Jersey tomorrow evening—Mr Reed of Delaware has been written to, and if he should arrive on Wednesday evening as expected, both houses will be formed on the 26th instant.3

The opinions are various as to the manner of notifying the President of his appointment—At present it appears probable that Mr Charles Thomson will have the honor of announcing to the President his appointment—and when he shall arrive within a certain short distance of this City, that he be met by a committee of both houses.4 I am my dear Sir Your respectfully affectionate humble Servant

H. Knox

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NNGL: Knox Papers.

1For the New Jersey congressional election, see James Madison to GW, 19 Mar. 1789, n.3.

2William Smith (1728–1814) of Maryland took his seat on 23 March.

3For the difficulty in achieving a quorum, see Knox to GW, 5 Mar. 1789, n.1.

4On 6 April, with the appearance of Richard Henry Lee, the Senate had a quorum and “proceeded by ballot to the choice of a President, for the sole purpose of opening and counting the votes for President of the United States.” John Langdon (1741–1819), senator from New Hampshire, was elected. The Senate then ordered that “Mr. Ellsworth inform the House of Representatives that . . . the Senate is now ready in the Senate Chamber, to proceed, in the presence of the House, to discharge that duty: And that the Senate have appointed one of their members to sit at the Clerk’s table to make a list of the votes as they shall be declared; submitting it to the wisdom of the House to appoint one or more of their members for the like purpose. . . . The President elected for the purpose of counting the votes, declared to the Senate, that the Senate and House of Representatives had met, and that he, in their presence, had opened and counted the votes of the Electors for President and Vice President of the United States.” Out of the 138 ballots counted, GW received 69 and John Adams 34. William Paterson, William Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, and Richard Henry Lee were appointed to draw up a letter to GW informing him of his election (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:7–11). On 6 April the Senate wrote to Charles Thomson (1729–1824), secretary of the Continental Congress, instructing him “to wait upon General Washington, with a certificate of his being elected to the Office of President of the United States of America” (ibid., 9).

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