To George Washington1
[Philadelphia, January 25, 1792]2
Mr. Hamilton presents his respects to the President & submits the following alterations in the Letter—
instead of “I shall be glad” to say “it is my desire” or “it appears adviseable” that you prepare &c.
Instead of “When our Constituents” say
“When the Community are called upon for considerable exertions, to relieve a part, which is suffering under the hand of an enemy, it is desireable to manifest that due pains have been taken by those entrusted with the administration of their affairs to avoid the evil.”
It is a doubt whether our constituents be a proper phrase to be used by the President in addressing a subordinate officer.
AL, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, National Archives.
1. On December 12, 1791, Washington submitted to Congress Major General Arthur St. Clair’s report on the defeat which the northwestern Indians had inflicted on American troops under St. Clair’s command on November 4, 1791. On January 11, 1792, Washington submitted to Congress two confidential reports prepared by Secretary of War Henry Knox. Washington then ordered Knox to submit to Congress for subsequent publication a statement similar to the second report of January 11, 1792, which had shown “… the conduct which the United States have observed to the neighboring Indian tribes, both during the late war, and since the peace with Great Britain …” and that would “enable the mind to form a judgment how far a further prosecution of hostilities against the Indians would comport with … justice and dignity …” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 197). Washington also asked both Thomas Jefferson and H to prepare drafts for an introduction to Knox’s forthcoming report to Congress. Jefferson’s reply to the President’s request reads as follows:
“Th: Jefferson presents his respects to the President of the U.S. and subjoins what he supposes might form a proper introduction to the statement prepared by the Secretary at war. The occasion is so new, that however short the letter proposed, he has no doubt it will need correction both as to the matter & manner.
“Jan. 25. 1792.
“As the circumstances which have engaged the U. S. in the present Indian war, may some of them be out of the public recollection & others perhaps be unknown, I shall be glad if you will prepare & publish from authentic documents, a statement of those circumstances, as well as of the measures which have been taken from time to time for the re-establishment of peace & friendship. When our constituents are called on for considerable exertions to relieve a part of their fellow-citizens suffering under the hand of an enemy, it is desireable for those entrusted with the administration of their affairs to communicate without reserve what they have done to ward off the evil.” (AL, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, National Archives; AL letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.)
After seeing Jefferson’s draft, H proposed certain changes, which are printed above. Washington then incorporated H’s suggestions in the Jefferson draft, and this became the letter he sent to Knox. See GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXI, 459. Washington’s letter to Knox, in turn, served as an introduction to Knox’s report to Congress, which is dated January 26, 1792, and is entitled “The Causes of the existing Hostilities between the United States and certain Tribes of Indians, Northwest of the Ohio, stated and explained from official and authentic Documents, and published in obedience to the orders of the President of the United States” (Annals of Congress, I description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends II, 1046).
2. In GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXI, 459, as well as in Annals of Congress, I description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends II, 1046, Washington’s letter to Knox is dated January 16, 1792. H’s notes to Jefferson’s draft have been dated in accordance with the January 25, 1792, date that appears on Jefferson’s draft.