George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 30 December 1792

To Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Sunday Morning 30th Decr 1792

The Letter to Mr Pinckney meets my ideas—but after mentioning Sweden as the Country most likely to obtain Copper from, I think it would be better not to confine him to the purchase there.1

G. W——n

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers. Jefferson docketed this letter: “recd Dec. 30. 92.”

1On 29 Dec., Jefferson had sent to GW for his review a letter to Thomas Pinckney, U.S. minister to Great Britain, under the cover of a brief note of that date (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Jefferson’s letter to Pinckney concerns a variety of subjects including the appointment of Thomas Barclay as consul to Algiers, a request for Pinckney to procure copper from Sweden for the U.S. Mint, a directive for Pinckney to urge British officials to send instructions to their minister in the United States, George Hammond, and a notice that Jefferson soon would send the latest engravings of the plan for the federal district for distribution in Great Britain.

In regard to the American policy toward the newest French government, Jefferson wrote: “We certainly cannot deny to other nations that principle whereon our own government is founded, that every nation has a right to govern itself internally under what forms it pleases, and to change these forms at it’s own will: and externally to transact business with other nations thro’ whatever organ it chuses, whether that be a king, convention, assembly, committee, president, or whatever it be. The only thing essential is the will of the nation. Taking this as your polar star, you can hardly err” (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 24:802–4). For background on Jefferson’s inclusion of the foregoing passage in this letter, see Jefferson’s Conversation with GW, 27 Dec., and note 2.

A postscript was added to the letter to reflect GW’s suggested alteration, and Jefferson changed the letter’s original date from 29 to 30 Dec. before sending it (see ibid.).

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