George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 16 November 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Nov. 16. 92.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to submit to the inspection of the President a set of copper promisory notes, & coins, made by Boulton, the superiority of which over any thing we can do here, will fully justify our wish to set our mint agoing on that plan. they are obscured by the sea-air.1

AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1For background on the federal government’s efforts to establish a mint and the attempt of British entrepreneur and engineer Matthew Boulton to profit from those efforts, see John Bailey to GW, 17 April 1790, note 1. On 2 April 1792 GW signed “An Act establishing a Mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States,” which specified that the coinage was to include “Cents—each to be of the value of the one hundredth part of a dollar, and to contain eleven penny-weights of copper” and “Half Cents—each to be of the value of half a cent, and to contain five penny-weights and half a penny-weight of copper” (Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:246–51). GW subsequently assigned the Mint to the jurisdiction of the State Department (see GW to Jefferson, 20 Oct 1792, and note 3). It probably was at GW’s direction that Jefferson wrote Thomas Pinckney, the newly appointed U.S. minister to Great Britain, on 14 June 1792, asking his “assistance in procuring persons” with the necessary skills and knowledge to aid the United States in producing its own coins. “Mr. Bolton,” Jefferson wrote, “had also made a proposition to coin for us in England, which was declined.—Since this the act has been passed for establishing our mint. . . . I am therefore to request that you will endeavor, on your arrival in Europe to engage and send us an Assayer, . . . and a Chief-coiner and Engraver, in one person, if possible, acquainted with all the improvements in coining, and particularly those of [Jean-Pierre] Drost and Boulton” (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 24:74–76). For Pinckney’s difficulty in securing appropriate artisans, see his letter to Jefferson of 13 Dec. 1792 (ibid., 738). For the permanent appointment as chief coiner and engraver of Henry Voight of Pennsylvania, who had been serving temporarily in this position, see Tobias Lear to Jefferson, 30 Jan. 1793 (DLC:GW); see also Voigt to GW, 13 April 1792, and note 1. Former New Jersey resident Albion Cox, who currently was living in his native England, was hired as the assayer in May 1793 (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 141, 297).

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