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To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 28 November 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia Nov. 28. 1792.


The rise in the price of copper, & difficulty of obtaining it from other quarters, has induced the Director of the Mint (as I had the honor of mentioning to you yesterday) to turn his attention to Sweden, as the country from which according to his information it may be obtained on the best terms. he wishes that some means could be adopted of importing some on the public account. there is so little direct commerce between this country & Sweden that we shall be obliged to resort to some intermediate port, & I have imagined that (our resident in Holland being absent) our Minister in London would be the best person to confide the business to for the present occasion. you will see by mister Rittenhouse’s letter inclosed that he proposes an importation of 30. or 40. tons from Sweden at present. the former quantity, by his estimate will cost between nine & ten thousand dollars.1 if you approve of this mode & quantum of supply, a bill from the Treasury of 10,000 Doll. on our Holland bankers payable to mister Pinckney, would be convenient for the Director of the mint, and mister Pinckney shall be desired to adopt the best means he can of having 30. tons of copper shipped from Sweden for the Mint.2 I also inclose the Director’s letter of yesterday asking a supply of 5000. D. for the current purposes of the mint,3 & have the honor to be with the most perfect respect & attachmt Sir Your most obedt & most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters. On both ALS manuscripts Jefferson first wrote “27” for the date, but he later changed the second digit to an “8”; the letter-book copies are dated 28 November.

1For Director of the Mint David Rittenhouse’s calculations that 30 or 40 tons of copper would be sufficient, “at least at first,” to mint the number of copper coins required, “supposing the number of families in the United States to be 400,000,” see his letter to Jefferson of 28 Nov. in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 24:671–72.

2GW wrote Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on 29 Nov. 1792, instructing him “to have a bill” for $10,000 “drawn on the Bankers of the United States in Holland,” Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard, “payable to Mr Pinckney” (LB, DLC:GW). At GW’s direction Tobias Lear wrote Jefferson on that date to inform him “that a bill for ten thousand dollars will be drawn by the Treasury of the U.S. on our Holland Bankers payable to Mr Pinckney, for the purpose of obtaining Copper for the Mint. The President, however, suggests, that it would not perhaps be best to confine Mr Pinckney strictly to Sweeden for the purchase of the Copper, but to leave it to his discretion to obtain it where it can be had on the most advantageous terms, after calling his attention to Sweeden, for the reason mentioned in the letter from the Director of the Mint to the Secretary of State” (DLC: Jefferson Papers). In light of the anticipated absence of William Short from his duties at The Hague, Jefferson subsequently wrote Thomas Pinckney, the U.S. minister to Great Britain, on 30 Dec. 1792, with instructions to procure “a quantity of copper to be brought us from Sweden” (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 24:803).

3Rittenhouse wrote Jefferson on 27 Nov. that the $10,000 granted in July “for paying for the House and Lot for the Mint and for purchasing Copper, except 900 Dollars, And Considerable Expences having since arisen for Additional Buildings, Furnaces [,] Horse-Mill and Machines of various kinds I find it necessary to apply for another warrant for the Sum of Five Thousand Dollars” (ibid., 668). For background on the original grant of $10,000 to pay for the cost of establishing the U.S. Mint, see Jefferson to GW, 9 June, GW to Rittenhouse, 9 July, and GW to Hamilton, 10 July 1792.

GW wrote Hamilton on 28 Nov. instructing him to pay Rittenhouse $5,000 for the current expenses of the U.S. Mint (LB, DLC:GW). Lear, at GW’s direction, wrote Jefferson on that date to inform him that GW had “drawn the enclosed order for five thousand dollars to be applied to the purposes of the mint agreeably to the Director’s letter of the 27th inst. to the Secretary.

“And that the President will take an opportunity of making an arrangement with the Secretary of the Treasury on the other subject mentioned in the Secretary of State’s letter to him of this date” (DLC: Jefferson Papers). See also GW to Hamilton, 29 Nov. 1792, in note 2.

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