George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 29 April 1790

From Thomas Jefferson

Thursday Apr. 29. 1790.

Mr Jefferson has the honor to submit to the President draughts of letters to mr Short and the Marquis de la Luzerne.1 as to the former he asks his attention to the paragraph respecting the devices for the Medal.2 he hopes he will change and accomodate the letter to M. de la Luzerne to his own ideas of the part that gentleman acted, & of the length proper to go in expressing our sense of it.3 the President was a witness, where Th: J. had only hearsay evidence, and may therefore have formed ideas not just.4 he will have the honor of waiting on the President tomorrow on these subjects.

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1The enclosures, drafts of Jefferson’s letters to William Short and to Anne-César, chevalier de La Luzerne, both dated 30 April 1790, are in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Final drafts of Jefferson’s letters to Short and La Luzerne are in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 16:394–96.

2Jefferson called GW’s attention to the following paragraph in his letter to Short: “It has become necessary to determine on a present proper to be given to Diplomatic Characters on their taking leave of us; and it is concluded that a medal and chain of Gold will be the most convenient; I am therefore to ask the favor of you to order the dies to be engraved with all the dispatch practicable. The medal must be of 30 lines diameter, with a loop on the edge to receive the chain. On one side must be the Arms of the United States, of which I send you a written description and several impressions in wax to render that more intelligible, round them as a Legend must be ‘the United States of America.’ The device of the other side we do not decide on. One suggestion has been a Columbia (a fine female figure) delivering the emblems of peace and commerce to a Mercury, with the Legend ‘Peace and Commerce’ circumscribed, and the date of our Republic, to wit, IV Jul. MDCCLXXVI. subscribed as an Exergum. But having little confidence in our own ideas in an Art not familiar here, they are only suggested to you, to be altered, or altogether postponed to such better device as you may approve on consulting with those who are in the habit and study of Medals. Duvivier and Dupré seem to be the best workmen, perhaps the last is best of the two” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 16:396).

3Rather than make changes to Jefferson’s letter, GW wrote a separate letter to La Luzerne (see GW to La Luzerne, 29 April 1790).

4GW recorded on 29 April that he “fixed with the Secretary of State on the present which (according to the custom of other Nations) should be made to Diplomatic characters when they return from that employment in this Country and this was a gold Medal, suspended to a gold Chain—in ordinary to be of the value of about 120 or 130 Guineas. Upon enquiry into the practice of other Countries, it was found, that France generally gave a gold Snuff-box set with diamonds; & of differt. costs; to the amount, generally, to a Minister Plenipotentiary of 500 Louisdores—That England usually gave to the same grade 300 guineas in Specie—And Holld. a Medal & Chain of the value of, in common, 150 or 180 Guineas the value of which to be encreas’d by an additional weight in the chain when they wished to mark a distinguished character. The Reason why a medal & Chain was fixed upon for the American present, is, that the die being once made the Medals could at any time be struck at very little cost, & the Chain made by our own artizans, which (while the first should be retained as a memento) might be converted into Cash” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:70–71).

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