Note of Agenda to Reduce the Government to True Principles
[ca. 11 July 1792]
|1.||divide the treasury department|
|2.||abolish the bank|
|4||repeal the Excise law2 & let states raise the money.|
|3.||treasurer to pay and recieve cash not bills.|
|qu?||repeal irredeemable quality and borrow at 4. pr. cent|
|qu 6.||exclude paper holders|
|condemn report of manufactures|
- senators revoke at will
- paper men excluded
MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 233: 41775); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated; consists of a small scrap written on both sides in shorthand except for the en clair heading, two queries, and decipherment of seven lines and part of another, all added by TJ on recto at a later date (see illustration); later archival notation on verso—“From Series 4. Vol 2.”—suggests the MS was once part of “Anas”; text printed literally. Recorded in SJPL between entries for 11 and 17 July 1792: “Note of Agenda to reduce the govmt. to true principles.” Passages undeciphered by TJ have been deciphered by Lucia C. Stanton, Director of Research at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, using Thomas Shelton’s Tachy-Graphy. The Most Exact and Compendious Methode of Short and Swift Writing That Hath Ever Yet Been Published by Any (London, 1646). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 1127. Words thus supplied have been reproduced in small capital letters. Two discrepancies in the shorthand arising from TJ’s long disuse of the Sheltonian method—his confusion of the letter c with the letters h and f in the words “committee” and “manufactures”—have been silently corrected in the decipherment. The Editors also wish to thank Robert C. Latham of Magdalene College, Cambridge University, and Frances Macdonald of New College, Oxford University, for assistance with Shelton’s shorthand system.
The provenance of this document and the reasons why TJ originally wrote it in shorthand are matters of conjecture. Its publication in Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, New York, 1892–99, 10 vols. description ends vi, 171–2, under the conjectural date of February 1793, without any indication that TJ had used shorthand, has led scholars to believe that the document was directly connected with the effort made at that time by Republicans in the House of Representatives to condemn Alexander Hamilton’s administration as Secretary of the Treasury (Peterson, Jefferson, description begins Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, New York, 1970 description ends 475–6; Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans: The Formation of Party Organization, 1789–1801 [Chapel Hill, 1957], 50–3). Yet it is clear that the grounds on which House Republicans attacked Hamilton early in 1793 were far more circumscribed than those set forth here by TJ (Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and his Time, Boston, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , iii, 14–33).
In the absence of any other evidence, the provenance of this document can only be surmised on the basis of TJ’s entry of it in SJPL immediately below an entry dated 11 July 1792. This date is highly significant because on the previous day TJ had conversed with Washington about the dangers to the republic he perceived in the Hamiltonian financial system. This was the third time since the preceding February that TJ had brought this matter to Washington’s attention, and now as in the past the President was unreceptive to the forebodings of his Secretary of State (see Notes and Memoranda of Conversations with the President, 1 Mch., 10 July 1792; TJ to Washington, 23 May 1792). Having thus failed to shake the President’s confidence in Hamilton, TJ evidently drafted this agenda to set forth the legislative remedies he regarded as essential for curbing the power of the Secretary of the Treasury and for eliminating what he considered the worst features of Hamiltonian finance. Given the preponderance of Federalist strength in the second Congress, the Secretary of State must have realized that no legislative action on his proposed agenda was possible unless the forthcoming congressional elections significantly enhanced the power of the Republicans, an eventuality he eagerly anticipated (see TJ to Washington, 23 May 1792).
Although the circumstances that gave rise to this document can be tentatively reconstructed, the same cannot be said of the reasons why the Secretary of State first wrote his notes in shorthand and then deciphered only part of them. TJ had been familiar with Sheltonian shorthand since the early 1760s and, as far as is known to the Editors, had last used it more than twenty years before in his Memorandum Books (TJ to John Page, 23 Jan. 1764; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, forthcoming as part of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 16 Apr. 1771). This long hiatus underscores the supposition that TJ considered his agenda for reform so sensitive that he felt compelled to set his notes down in shorthand in order to avoid any controversy that might ensue if they accidentally fell into unfriendly hands. TJ may possibly have intended to communicate the encrypted document to a trusted confidant, such as James Madison or James Monroe, but no evidence has been found to support this hypothesis. An examination of the MS reveals that TJ’s shorthand entries and the numbers he assigned to some of them, presumably to reflect their hierarchy in the agenda, are in one ink and that the heading (see note 1 below), TJ’s two queries, and his decipherment are in another. This would suggest that TJ did not decipher his shorthand until some later time, possibly on one of the occasions later in life when he reviewed or reorganized his papers.
The closest analogy in point of time to a committee to count money in treasury was the committee appointed by the House of Representatives in February 1794 “to examine the state of the Treasury Department” for the purpose, among others, of determining, on a quarterly basis, whether cash receipts from domestic resources had “exceeded, equalled, or fallen short” of domestic cash expenditures since the establishment of the new federal government (Annals, description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title-page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends iv, 463–6; Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xv, 460–5; and the committee report of 22 May 1794 in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Finance, 281–301). TJ evidently wished to divide the treasury department by making the Treasurer independent of the Secretary of the Treasury (see Draft Resolutions on the Treasury, ca. 28 Feb. 1793). The government certificates that were irredeemable under the terms of the Hamiltonian funding program are described in the 1790 act for the payment of the public debt (Annals, description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title-page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends ii, 2305). For the reasons behind TJ’s desire to exclude paper holders—owners of government securities and stock in the Bank of the United States—from Congress, see TJ to Washington, 23 May 1792. TJ explained his opposition to Hamilton’s report on manufactures in Memorandum of Conversations with Washington, 1 Mch. 1792.
1. Word written en clair.
2. Word in TJ’s decipherment but not in his shorthand.