Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bill Establishing a Clerkship of Foreign Correspondence, [18 May 1778]

Bill Establishing a Clerkship of Foreign Correspondence

[18 May 1778]

Whereas it is necessary for the Governour and council to be provided with a person learned in the modern languages for assisting them in a communication with foreign states, and that a competent salary for such person should be provided by law; be it therefore enacted that a clerkship of foreign correspondence be henceforth established, under the direction and controul of the Governor and council, who shall from time to time at their will appoint such person to the said office as they shall find worthy of confidence and qualified to perform the duties thereof and remove him in like manner at their will. Such clerk having taken before them an oath of fidelity to the Commonwealth, and of secrecy in all cases where he shall be specially charged with secrecy, may enter on the exercise of his office, and shall receive for his trouble a yearly salary of two hundred pounds to be paid by the treasurer in quarterly paiments on warrant from the Auditors, who are hereby required to enter such warrants in account against such persons.

MS (Vi); in TJ’s hand. Endorsed by him: “A Bill establishing a clerkship of foreign correspondence.” Docketed in hand of Edmund Randolph: “May 19th. 1778 read 1st. time. May 20. read 2d. to be engrossed.”

On 18 May 1778 TJ was appointed a member of a committee under directions to bring in such a Bill; the Bill was introduced the following day and apparently passed both houses without debate. It was enacted as TJ drew it, without amendment (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1778, 1827 edn., p. 11–14, 21; Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 467). See Report of Committee of Revisors, Bill No. 14, under date of 18 June 1779. TJ undoubtedly had his friend Charles Bellini in mind in proposing such a clerkship (see notes to TJ’s letter to Giovanni Fabbroni, 8 June 1778).

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