George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Jay, 8 June 1789

To John Jay

New York [8] June 1789


Although, in the present unsettled state of the Executive Departments under the Government of the Union, I do not conceive it expedient to call upon you for information officially; yet I have supposed that some informal communications from the Office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs might neither be improper or unprofitable. For finding myself, at this moment, less occupied with the duties of my Office, than I shall probably be at almost any time hereafter; I am desirous of employing myself in obtaining an acquaintance with the real situation of the several great Departments, at the period of my acceding to the Administration of the general Government. For this purpose, I wish to receive in writing such a clear account of the Department at the head of which you have been, as may be sufficient (without overburdening or confusing a mind which has very many objects to claim its attention at the same instant) to impress me with a full, precise & distinct general idea of the United States, so far as they are comprehended in, or connected with that Department.

As I am now at leisure to inspect such Papers & Documents, as may be necessary to be acted upon hereafter, or as may be calculated to give me an insight into the business & duties of that Department, I have thought fit to address this notification to you accordingly.1 I am with due consideration Sir Your Most Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, NNC; two letter-book copies, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, Correspondence with the Secretaries of State. At the bottom of the letter-book copy at the Library of Congress appears the notation: “Copies of the above letter was likewise sent to the Secretary of War & The Board of Treasury.” A letter-book copy of the copy sent to the Board of Treasury is in DLC:GW.

1Beginning on 4 June, apparently as part of his examination of State Department affairs, GW read and made a series of abstracts of letters from Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, to the Department of State, ranging in date from 20 Aug. 1788 to 15 Mar. 1789, filling eight pages and including Jefferson’s recommendations on consular appointments in France. At the end of the document GW wrote “Finished reading and making the above & foregoing extracts June 8th” (DLC:GW).

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