George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 12 July 1791

To Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Tuesday 12th [July] 17911

The enclosed I send this afternoon, for your perusal.2 Tomorrow, 8’Oclock, I shall send the person who was the bearer of it, to you. It being the hour, he left word, when he left the letter, that he should call upon me. If Mr Pearce merits the character given him by T: D. he will unquestionably merit encouragement, & you can put him in the way to obtain it.3 Yrs ever


ALS, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers. Jefferson endorsed the letter as received on 13 July.

For the background to this letter, see Thomas McCabe, Sr., to GW, 21 July 1790 and notes 2 and 3, and Thomas A. Digges to GW, 1 July 1791.

1Jefferson wrote “July” under GW’s erroneous “June.”

2The enclosure, most likely Digges’s letter of c.28 April 1791 introducing William Pearce to GW, has not been found.

3Only after being so advised by Jefferson and Edmund Randolph had the president declined further involvement in a state plan to establish a woolen manufactory in Virginia. GW was told that “it is felony to export the Machines which it is probable the Artist contemplates to bring with him [from Britain], and it certainly would not carry an aspect very favorable to the dignity of the United States for the President, in a clandestine manner, to entice the subjects of another Nation to violate its laws” (see GW to Beverley Randolph, 13 Jan. 1791 and note 1). For British laws prohibiting the export of textile machinery and the emigration of skilled mechanics and artisans, see Thomas Howells to GW, 14 July 1789, source note, and Arthur Young to GW, 25 Jan. 1791, n.2. One week after GW’s recommendation in his address to Congress of 8 Jan. 1790 that the safety and interest of a free people required the promotion of manufactories of military supplies and other necessities, the House ordered Alexander Hamilton to prepare a plan for the encouragement and promotion of American manufactures, and his new assistant, Tench Coxe, began work on the report shortly after his appointment in May 1790 (DHFC, 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 3:265; Cooke, Coxe and the Early Republic, description begins Jacob E. Cooke. Tench Coxe and the Early Republic. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1978. description ends 183). Jefferson had learned of Coxe’s interest in American manufactures when Coxe had sent him on 15 April a copy of his plan for a manufacturing center to be established near the new Federal City (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 20:215–18). Unwilling to approach Hamilton directly (who was then organizing the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures with William Duer and other speculators) in order to fulfill GW’s command to put Pearce “in the way to obtain” encouragement, Jefferson instead referred Pearce to Coxe. The inventor delivered to Coxe on 13 July Digges’s letter of introduction to GW, and Coxe reported back to Jefferson the same day (see ibid., 623). Coxe then brought Pearce to the attention of Hamilton, who became the artisan’s patron. According to a receipt of 20 Aug. 1791, Hamilton gave Pearce $100 “towards providing the use of Society for the establishment of Manufactures in the State of New Jersey certain machines & models of Machines to be delivered to the said Alexander Hamilton” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 9:85–86). With Hamilton’s continued financial support, Pearce constructed looms in two Philadelphia shops owned by John Nixon, and his cotton manufactory at 13 Penn Street was fully operational by the time Congress considered Hamilton’s report on manufacturers, which was presented to the House on 5 Dec. (see ibid., 10:230). It undoubtedly was Hamilton who was behind GW’s visit to the establishment in June 1792 (see McCabe to GW, 21 July 1790, n.2, and Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 9 June 1792).

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