George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 8 February 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Feb. 8. 1793.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to inclose to the President a communication from mister Ternant with it’s translation.1 he will have that of waiting on him on the subject tomorrow.2

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

1Jefferson enclosed the French original, as well as his own translation, of Jean-Baptiste Ternant’s letter to him of 8 Feb. 1793. In this letter the French minister to the United States asked that three million livres worth of “superfluous commodities” be sent to France, with the cost of the provisions being applied toward the U.S. debt to that nation (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 25:162–63; see also JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 45–46). Later on this date Tobias Lear transmitted to Alexander Hamilton “By the President’s command. . . a letter from the Minister of France to the Secretary of State, requesting to be furnished with a certain sum by the Government of the United States; on account of the Debt owing to France, to be laid out for provisions in the United States to be sent to France; and to desire that the Secretary will, tomorrow morning, give the President his opinion on the practicability of complying with the Minister’s request” (DLC:GW).

2On 9 Feb., GW met separately with Jefferson and Hamilton. The latter suggested postponing a response to Ternant’s request until the Senate passed an appropriations bill then under consideration, and the president agreed. Hamilton also promised to send to GW a report on the U.S. debt to France (Hamilton to GW, 16 Feb., and ibid., 56). For details on the passage of the “Act making appropriations for the support of Government for the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety three,” see Edmund Randolph to GW, 14 Feb., n.2, and Hamilton to GW, 18 March. At his meeting with Jefferson, GW returned Ternant’s letters and asked for a written opinion on the feasibility of the French request. He also instructed Jefferson to tell the French minister that he could expect a decision within days (ibid., 46; Jefferson to GW, 12 Feb., and note 1; and Jefferson to Ternant, 14 Feb., 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 25:198). During this delay Ternant requested an immediate advance of $100,000, which GW approved (GW to Jefferson, 13 Feb.). For the deliberations leading to GW’s final decision in this matter, see GW to Jefferson, 13 Feb., Randolph to GW, 14 Feb., and Cabinet Opinion on the U.S. Debt to France, 25 February.

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