To Edmund Randolph
Mount Vernon Sepr 30th ’93
The continuation, and spreading of the malignant fever with which the City of Philadelphia is vis[i]ted, together with the absence of the heads of Departments therefrom, will prolong my abode at this place until about the 25th of October—at, or about, which time I shall, myself, (if the then state of things should render it improper for me to carry my family) set out for that City, or the vicinity, say German-Town.
I shall be obliged to you therefore, if you remain at your Post, which I by no means wish you to maintain at the hazard of taking the fever, to keep me advised of the existing state of things in that quarter—& moreover that you would be so obliging (if it should be thought unsafe for me to go into my own house in the City at the time abovementioned) to inquire whether a tolerably convenient lodging for myself, one Gentleman of my family, with three Servants and as many horses could be had in or near German Town. To prevent any misunderstanding of my meaning, I declare explicitly, that it is hired lodgings only I will go into—for, unless such can be had, I would repair to one of the most decent Inns.
I have given notice to the heads of departments of these my intentions, requesting their attendance accordingly.1 The time and Place mentioned.
Have you ever examined with attention, and with an eye to the case, whether the Constitution, or Laws of the Union, give power to the Executive to change the place of meeting of the Legislature in cases of emergency in the recess? for example, whether the spreading of the fever which is so fatal in Philadelphia, thereby endangering the Lives of the members who might assemble there the first Monday in December next, is a case that would come under any provision in either. If you have not, I pray you to do it, and give me the result of your opinion.
Mr Jefferson upon a superficial view of the subject, when here, thought there was no power in either to do this; but the Laws were not examined carefully, and the Constitution is, I believe, silent respecting it.2 Mrs Washington joines me in best wishes for you, Mrs Randolph, & family. I am, dear Sir, your Affect. Servt
LB, DLC:GW. A purported ALS of this letter was listed in 1929 as part of the library of Robert Borthwick Adam (Adam Library description begins Adam, Robert Borthwick. The R.B. Adam Library Relating to Dr. Samuel Johnson and His Era. 3 vols. Buffalo, 1929. description ends , 3:254–55).
2. Although GW, after much consideration, did not act to change the place where Congress would meet, Congress clarified his authority by passing in its next session “An act to authorize the President of the United States in certain cases to alter the place for holding a session of Congress,” 3 April 1794 (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 , 1:353).