Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Richard Harison, 1 April 1791

To Richard Harison

Philadelphia Apr. 1. 1791.


The recess of Congress now permitting me to resume the subject of my letter of Aug. 12. which was circular, I have the honor of acknoleging the receipt of yours of Sep. 3. and Dec. 4. together with the papers which accompanied the latter. These, with the observations you have been so good as to make on the subject of British debts and property will enable us to give answers as to the proceedings of N. York whenever the British government shall think proper to come forward.—The other object, that of procuring a complete set of the laws of every state for the use of the federal government, is extremely important. I must therefore ask the favor of you to send forward the volumes you mention to have procured in your letter of Sep. 3. and still beg the continuation of your attention to the procuring any others which may be necessary to complete our collection, and of which you are the best judge. Whenever you will be so good as to notify me of the cost of those already procured, and so from time to time of those to be procured, you shall be immediately reimbursed by a bankpost-note. I am in hopes the apparent necessity of having such a collection made and deposited here will apologize to you for the trouble I have asked you to take herein, and pray you to accept my thanks for the same and assurances of the esteem with which I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedt. & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNS); addressed: “Richard Harrison esquire Attorney for the U.S. New York”; franked; postmarked: “1 AP”; endorsed. PrC (DLC). FC (DNA: RG 59, PCC No. 120).

TJ’s circular of 12 Aug. 1790 to the various District Attorneys asking about possible infractions of the Treaty of Peace by the several states was to prepare himself for discussions of the major problems of American debts owed British merchants and the continued occupation of the western posts which would have to be confronted when diplomatic relations with Great Britain were established. Although TJ’s report of 15 Dec. 1790 made it clear that the next step in this direction would have to come from Great Britain, he had every reason to believe at this time that the well-publicized threat of adoption of a navigation act at the next Congress would prompt such a move. Hence, as indicated by the above letter and others of the same date from Lewis and to Read and Sitgreaves, TJ to ok advantage of the first moment of leisure after the adjournment of Congress to address himself to the subject in a characteristic anticipation of need.

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