Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from John Jay, 19 June 1789

From John Jay

New York 19th. June 1789

I have at length, my dear Sir, the pleasure of informing you (tho’ not officially) that you have Leave to return, and that Mr. Short is appointed to take charge of the public affairs during your absence.

From the Time that your Letter of the 19th. November last was received, Vizt. 10th. February, to the Time that our former Government gave place to the present one, there was not a single Day on which so many States were represented in the late Congress as were necessary to make a House.

Directly after the President came into Office I communicated to him your Request. It was the general Opinion that the Appointments under the late Government expired at that Period, and therefore that the Heads of the different Departments were not in Capacity to proceed without a new Conveyance of Authority. It was expected that the different Offices would without Delay be established and the Business of them put in Train. These Circumstances retarded a Decision on your Request.

Altho the Departments still remain in the same State, yet the President on the 16th. Instant informed the Senate that he had complied with your Request, and that he nominated Mr. Short. On the 17th. I attended the Senate on the subject, and Yesterday they came to a Resolution in the following Words, Vizt.1

“In Senate, Thursday 18th. June 1789.

Resolved that the President of the United States be informed, that the Senate advises and consent to his Appointment of William Short Esqr to take charge of our Affairs at the Court of France, during the Absence of the Minister plenipotentiary at that Court.”

For some Days past the President has been indisposed with a Head Ache attended with Fever. This Morning I went to his House to communicate the Resolution to him, and receive his Orders on the Subject. He is better but his Physicians thought it best that for the present no Applications should be made to him on public Affairs of any kind—consequently the Business in Question must be postponed.

Untill the office for foreign Affairs is established the Papers and Dispatches proper on the Occasion cannot be compleated and transmitted. When I consider how long you have waited for the Result of your Application, and the Sensations which repeated Disappointments must have occasioned, I cannot forbear thus informally to acquaint you with the preceding Facts and to mention to you as my Opinion that you may venture to return, and that the earliest Opportunity will be taken of transmitting to Mr. Short the necessary Papers. I mean to send you Copies of this Letter by various Routes, and sincerely wish that it may arrive seasonably, and that I may have the pleasure of congratulating you on your Arrival here early in the Autumn. With the best wishes and with very sincere Esteem and Regard I am &c.

(signed) John Jay

FC (DNA: PCC, No. 121). Dft (NK-Iselin). Recorded in SJL as received 23 Aug. 1789 “[with my Congé].” Enclosure: Extracts certified by Henry Remsen, Jr., of the following: (1) that part of TJ’s letter to Jay, 19 Nov. 1788, requesting leave; (2) the journal of the office for foreign affairs stating that on 16 June 1789 Jay delivered to the Senate “a message from the President, informing them that he had given Mr. Jefferson Leave of Absence and that he nominated William Short Esq. to take charge of the public Affairs in his Absence”; that the Senate directed Jay to “lay before them the Papers referred to in the Message at 12 O Clock tomorrow”; that on the 17th Jay laid TJ’s letter of 19 Nov. 1788 before the Senate; that on the 18th the Senate “advised and consented to the appointment of Mr. Short”; and that on the 19th “Mr. Jay went to the President’s to communicate the said Resolution to him; but his Physicians thinking it best that no Applications be made to him on public affairs, Mr. Jay did not communicate it, but wrote to Mr. Jefferson an informal or private Letter, informing him that the President had complied with his Request” (DLC: TJ Papers, 44: 7568–9). Washington’s message to the Senate, dated 15 June 1789, is in JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, 1828 description ends , 1, 6. Evidently the papers … proper on the occasion never were transmitted.

1In Dft the resolution is omitted and Jay wrote: “(here insert it).”

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