Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 14 February 1790

To John Jay

Monticello Feb. 14. 1790.

Dear Sir

I am honored with your favor of Dec. 12. and thank you for your friendly congratulations on my return to my native country as well as for the interest you are pleased to express in the appointment with which I have been honored. I have thought it my duty to undertake it, tho with no prepossessions in favor of my talents for executing it to the satisfaction of the public.—With respect to the young gentlemen in the office of foreign affairs, their possession, and your recommendation are the strongest titles, but I suppose the ordinance establishing my office, allows but one assistant: and I should be wanting in candor to you and them were I not to tell you that another candidate has been proposed to me on ground that cannot but command respect. I know neither him nor them, and my hope is that, as but one can be named, the object is too small to occasion either mortification or disappointment to either. I am sure I shall feel more pain at not being able to avail myself of the assistance but of one of the gentlemen than they will at the betaking themselves to some better pursuit. I ask it of your friendship, my dear Sir, to make them sensible of my situation & to accept yourself assurances of the sincere esteem & respect with which I have the honor to be Dr. Sir your most obedt & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: from microfilm of volume of John Jay Papers in Windsor Castle Library); addressed: “John Jay Chief Justice of the United States” postmarked: “Richmond […].” PrC (DLC).

TJ could not have seen before this the Acts of Congress affecting his department. That adopted 27 July 1789 established “the Department of Foreign Affairs” and designated an officer at its head with the title of “the Secretary for the Department of Foreign Affairs” it provided for only one “Chief Clerk.” As to the title of the department, this Act was superseded by another passed 15 Sep. 1789 that changed the name to “the Department of State” and designated its principal officer as “the Secretary of State.” By an Act passed 11 Sep. 1789 the heads of the three departments were authorized to “appoint such clerks therein as they shall find necessary” with respective salaries not to exceed $500 per annum (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845‥‥ Edited by Richard Peters (and others). Second edition. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1856–1873. 17 volumes. description ends , i, 28–9, 68). The other candidate was Roger Alden, recommended by Washington himself (Washington to TJ, 13 Oct. 1789).

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