George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 23 February 1791

To Alexander Hamilton

Wednesday noon 23d Feby 1791.


I have this moment received your sentiments with respect to the constitutionality of the Bill—“to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States.”1

This bill was presented to me by the joint Commee of Congress at 12 oClock on Monday the 14th instant. To what precise period, by legal interpretation of the constitution, can the President retain it in his possession, before it becomes a Law, by the lapse often days?2

Go: Washington


For the background to this letter, see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 16 Feb. 1791.

1See Alexander Hamilton to GW, 23 Feb. 1791, enclosing his opinion on the constitutionality of the bank bill.

2Hamilton responded later the same day: “In answer to your note of this morning, just deliver’d me; I give it as my opinion that you have ten days exclusive of that on which the Bill was delivered to you, and Sundays—Hence in the present case if it is returned on Friday at any time while Congress are setting, it will be in time. It might be a question, if returned after their adjournment on Friday” (DLC:GW).

GW delayed signing the bill and returning it to Congress until Friday, 25 Feb. 1791. According to John Rutledge, Jr., Hamilton “continued with the presidt on the morning of the 9th day untill two OClock” discussing the bank bill, and presumably going over Hamilton’s opinion. On “the morning of the 10th [day],” Rutledge continued, “there was general uneasiness & the President stood on the brink of a pre[ci]pice from which had he fallen he would have brought down with him much of that glorious reputation he has so deservedly established,” but fortunately, Rutledge concluded, this did not take place (Rutledge to Short, 30 Mar. 1791, DLC: Short Papers).

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