George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 17 February 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Tuesday morning February 17. 1795.


Having caught a cold, I purpose, sir, to nurse it within doors to-day, unless you should intimate your wish, that I should attend you.

I saw General Jackson yesterday. He promised to send me an answer respecting Mr Habersham this morning. He brought up Mr Baldwin again; but appeared to be satisfied, when I placed him upon the ground, which you suggested1—He is in high wrath against the Georgia act of speculation; and considers it, not only as base, but unconstitutional also. He means to be silent upon it here, because it is said by the state to be a law of the state. But when he returns, he is confident, that he can obtain a repeal of it, and prove it to be against the constitution of the United States and of Georgia.2

I conversed also with Mr King; whose course of thinking was nearly the same, with that, which I took the liberty of expressing yesterday—He seemed to have forgotten the effect of the compromize between Georgia and South Carolina; a circumstance, which may support the title of Georgia3—He said too, that in the sales of Massachusetts and New-York, there was a condition, which influenced every one of them; namely, that in the agreement between the two states, no settlement or intrusion was to be made upon the Indian lands, until the Indian title was extinguished in a particular and safe form, which was fixed upon.4

The copies for congress will be ready between 9 and 10 o’clock; and will be sent, with the message.5

The message, accompanying the Georgia act and the papers from Governor Blount, will, I presume, come from the war-office: but I beg leave to suggest the necessity of particular attention to it.6 I have the honor to be sir, with the highest respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 50, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Although GW would appoint Joseph Habersham as postmaster general on 24 Feb., Randolph probably was discussing the appointment of comptroller of the treasury, which was made on the same date (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 26 Jan.). In a letter to Randolph of 13 Jan., James Jackson had already listed Habersham as one of several fit candidates for postmaster general (DLC:GW), and Abraham Baldwin was not included on Jackson’s list for that position.

2Randolph was referring to Georgia’s “Act supplementary to an act, entitled ‘An act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of this State for the payment of the late State troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned’” (see James Seagrove to GW, 13 Jan., and n.4 to that document). On 5 March, Jackson wrote to John Twiggs about the act: “I pronounce it unconstitution there being no ground in the constitution to rest it on, & two clauses opposed to it—the County Clause & the trial of all causes in the Counties where the land lies—no construction however forced, can make the County Clause extend to the sale to Companies of 40,000,000 Acres of land—& the security or mortgage is void—there being no Constitutional County to enter it up in and directly opposed to the Constitution—by the laws expressing it shall be entered up in any County—a manifest deception in value is another reason—our pine barrens, which Morris bought, are established here into a Bank, at half a Dollar an Acre, and this land will sell for more—the Fraud is a still stronger ground” (NcD: James Jackson Papers). In October, Jackson resigned his Senate seat, in accord with the wishes of “my Fellow Citizens, who called on me from many parts of our State, to resign & assist in breaking down this Babel of monopoly” (Jackson to James Madison, 17 Nov., Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 16:128–30).

3Randolph apparently was referring to the convention between South Carolina and Georgia of 28 April 1787, by which South Carolina ceded her claim to any lands “eastward, southward, southeastward, or west” of the boundary line between the states established then (ASP description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , Public Lands, 1:60–62).

4Rufus King was referring to the agreement between New York and Massachusetts concluded at Hartford, Conn., on 16 Dec. 1786, in which Massachusetts ceded to New York “sovereignty and jurisdiction” over the lands that she claimed in what is now western New York, and New York granted to Massachusetts “the right of pre-emption of the soil from the native Indians” in a portion of the disputed area (New-York Packet, 23 Feb. 1787).

5Randolph presumably was referring to GW’s first message to Congress of this date.

6Randolph was referring to GW’s second message to Congress of this date.

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