Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jefferson’s Draft of Items for the President’s Message to Congress, [3 December 1790]

Jefferson’s Draft of Items for the President’s Message to Congress
[redated from 29 November 1790]

[3 Dec. 1790]

The laws you have already passed for the establishment of a judiciary system have opened the doors of justice to all descriptions of persons. You will consider in your wisdom1 whether improvements in that system may yet be made; and particularly whether an uniform process of execution, on sentences issuing from the federal courts, be not desireable thro’ all the states.

The patronage2 of our commerce, of our merchants and seamen, has called for the appointment of Consuls in foreign countries. It seems expedient to regulate by law the exercise of that jurisdiction, and of those functions which are permitted them3 either by express convention, or by a friendly indulgence in the places of their residence.4 The Consular convention too, with his most Christian Majesty has stipulated, in certain cases, the aid of the national authority5 to his Consuls established here. Some legislative provision is requisite to carry these stipulations into full effect.

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated, but see entry listed separately in SJPL under 3 Dec. 1790 as “paragraphs proposed for speech.”

These two paragraphs were inserted in Washington’s message to Congress of 8 Dec. 1790 as written by TJ (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxxi, 167–8; Memorandum to George Washington, Vol. 27:788–789).

Four days after TJ arrived in Philadelphia, Andrew Brown’s newspaper listed the measures requiring action at the forthcoming session of Congress: “a national mint, and a national bankuniformity of weights and measuresthe post-office, and post-roads” (Federal Gazette, 24 Nov. 1790). The list seems almost too balanced a reflection of the aims of both the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State not to have been contrived. But if promptings came from either official, it seems more likely that they came from the former, who at this time regarded the editor as “a zealous federalist and personally friendly” though he later came to believe TJ had detached him through the use of patronage (Coxe to Hamilton, 5 Mch. 1790; Hamilton to Carrington, 26 May 1792, Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961—, 15 vols. description ends , vi, 291–3; vii, 431). Washington had first asked Hamilton, in a private letter, to submit suggestions for the annual message touching both his own department and general matters. But Hamilton, who had been requested by the House of Representatives to present plans for a mint, did not mention this topic. Nor did he advance the idea of a national bank, limiting himself only to a suggested sentence expressing “confidence that measures for the further support of public Credit … will be pursued with zeal and vigour.” He did, however, urge the importance of trade with the Mediterranean—a topic he knew would be reported upon by the Secretary of State and on which his views of policy ran exactly counter to what he urged the President to recommend (“Notes of Objects for Consideration of the President,” endorsed by Hamilton “Decr. 1. 1790,” same, vii, 172–3; Editorial Note, documents on Mediterranean trade and Algerine captives, under 28 Dec. 1790; Washington to Hamilton, 10 Oct. 1790, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxxi, 132). But John Jay anticipated the President’s similar request by proffering suggestions on coinage and post roads even before he was asked (Washington to Jay, Mount Vernon, 19 Nov. 1790, same, xxxi, 155–6; Jay to Washington, Boston, 19 Nov. 1790, Johnston, ed., Corres. … of John Jay, III, 405–8). All of the circumstances appear to justify the inference that the agenda offered by Andrew Brown may have been inspired by the Secretary of the Treasury after he had talked with TJ the day before the paper appeared (TJ to Hamilton, 24 Nov. 1790).

TJ himself certainly made suggestions for the message in addition to the above items dealing with judicial reform and consular regulations. He and Madison had already visited Washington at Mount Vernon and TJ had pointedly called attention to the need of doing something about the Algerine captives and the treaty with Morocco—subjects which, if the above suggestions represent the whole of his recommendations, he also failed to mention (TJ to Washington, 27 Oct. 1790). But the above note was certainly not the whole of TJ’s written suggestions for the annual message. Immediately following the entry in SJPL for 29 Nov. 1790 listing “Subjects of speech to Congress,” there appears the following: “Dec. 3. G. W. to Th: J. on same subject.” Following this entry, under the same date, is this: “paragraphs proposed for speech.” Neither Washington’s note to TJ of 3 Dec. 1790 nor the text of these additional paragraphs has been found. But that passage in the message assuming that the subjects of a militia establishment, a mint, weights and measures, post office, and post roads would be resumed as a matter of course and as being “abundantly urged by their own importance” may well have reflected TJ’s missing response to Washington’s note of the 3rd. And if that response touched upon any other topic, it must have been the “very important transaction” between Virginia and the District of Kentucky by which the latter, if sanctioned by Congress, would become a member of the union. This sentence in the message undoubtedly reflects the views and perhaps the hand of the Secretary of State: “The liberality and harmony, with which [that transaction] has been conducted will be found to do great honor to both the parties; and the sentiments of warm attachment to the Union and its present Government expressed by our fellow citizens of Kentucky cannot fail to add an affectionate concern for their particular welfare to the great national impressions under which you will decide on the case submitted to you” (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxxi, 164–8; see Editorial Note, group of documents on admission of Vermont and Kentucky, under 4 Mch. 1791).

1TJ first wrote: “Your wisdom will decide” and then altered the passage to read as above.

2This word interlined in substitution for “interests,” deleted.

3At this point TJ deleted the following: “in the places of their residence.”

4TJ first wrote: “or by the sufferance of friendly powers,” and then altered the passage to read as above.

5Preceding two words interlined in substitution for “civil power,” deleted.

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