Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 23 August 1791

To George Washington

The Secretary of State has had under consideration the Official Communications from the Secretary of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio, from January 1st. to June 30th. 1791 inclusive: and thereupon reports to the President, that none of the said Communications appear to require any thing to be done on the part of the Government of the United States; that they contain indeed the titles of several acts passed by the territorial Legislature, but the acts themselves not being yet communicated, no opinion can be given on them.

Th: Jefferson
Aug 23. 1791

RC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); in clerk’s hand except for date and signature which have been excised and are supplied from PrC (DLC). Dft (DLC); TJ added date and following note at foot of text: “to be copied fair for signature.” FC (DNA: RG 59, SDR). An entry in SJPL under 21 Aug. 1791 shows that TJ drafted his “Report … on proceedings of N.W. territory” on that date.

On 1 July 1791 Winthrop Sargent transmitted to Washington a copy of the “Official Communications from the Secretary of the Territory … Northwest of the River Ohio from Jany the 1st 1791 to June 30th inclusive,” to which was appended a list of six Acts passed by the legislature on 22 and 29 June, as follows: “lst. a Law supplementary to a ‘Law respecting Crimes and Punishments.’ 2d. a Law for the Punishment of Persons tearing or defacing Publications set up by Authority. 3d. a Law creating the Office of Clerk of the Legislature. 4th. A Law for rendering authentic as Evidence in the Courts of this Territory the public Acts &ca. of the Courts in the united States. 5th. a Law for abolishing the Distinction between the Crimes of Murder and petit Treason. 6th. a Law regulating the Enclosures of grounds.” Sargent noted that the texts of these Acts could not be copied from the records in time to be transmitted with his communication to the President (Tr of Proceedings in DNA: RG 59, NWT; M–470/1; text printed in Carter, Terr. Papers, iii, 334—47). Lear transmitted Sargent’s report to TJ with Washington’s request that “if there is anything contained therein, which requires the agency or attention of the President the Secretary … report it to him” (Lear to TJ, 18 Aug. 1791; PrC in DNA: RG 59, SDC).

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