Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 3 November 1792

To George Washington

Philadelphia Novr. 3d. 1792.


In order to enable you to lay before Congress the account required by law of the application of the monies appropriated to foreign purposes through the Agency of the Department of State, I have now the honor to transmit you the two statements No. 1. and 2. herein inclosed, comprehending the period of Two Years preceding the 1st. day of July last.

The first statement is of the sums paid from the Treasury under the act allowing the annual fund of 40,000 Dollars for the purposes of foreign intercourse, as also under the acts of March 3. 1791. c. 16. and May [8.]1 1792. c. 41. §. 3. allowing other Sums for special purposes. By this it will appear, that, except the sum of 500 Dollars paid to Colonel Humphreys on his departure, the rest has been all received in Bills of Exchange, which identical Bills have been immediately remitted to Europe either to those to whom they were due for services, or to the Bankers of the United States in Amsterdam to be paid out by them to persons performing services abroad. This general view has been given in order to transfer the debit of these sums from the Department of State to those to whom they have been delivered.

But, in order to give to Congress a view of the specific application of these monies, the particular accounts rendered by those who have received them, have been analysed, and the payments made to them have been reduced under general Heads, so as to show at one view the amount of the sums which each has received for every distinct species of service or disbursement, as well as their several totals. This is the statement No. 2. and it respects the annual fund of 40,000 Dollars only, the special funds of the acts of 1791. and 1792. having been not yet so far administered as to admit of any statement.

I had presented to the Auditor the Statement No. 1. with the Vouchers, and also the special accounts rendered by the several persons who have received these monies, but, on consideration, he thought himself not authorized, by any law, to proceed to their examination. I am, therefore, to hope, Sir, that authority may be given to the Auditor, or some other person to examine the general account and vouchers of the Department of State, as well as to raise special accounts against the persons into whose hands the monies pass, and to settle the same from time to time on behalf of the public. I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect respect and attachment, Sir, Your most obedient, and Most humble servant

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; at foot of first page: “The President of the United States.” Tr (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 2d Cong., 2d sess.); in Taylor’s hand, signed by TJ; differs slightly from PrC. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 360, DL). Tr (Lb in DLC: Washington Papers). Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, TR). Recorded in SJPL.

On 5 Nov. 1792 TJ prepared for the President the following communication to the Senate to accompany these documents: “According to the directions of the law, I now lay before you a statement of the administration of the funds appropriated to certain foreign purposes, together with a letter from the Secretary of State, explaining the same” (PrC in DLC; in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., except for date in TJ’s hand; recorded in SJPL). Washington incorporated this sentence into the first paragraph of his message to the two houses on 7 Nov. 1792 (Fitzpatrick, Washington, xxxii, 213). On the same day Tobias Lear also transmitted copies of the accounts to the Secretary of the Treasury (Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xiii, 25).

Responding to TJ’s request that special authority be granted to facilitate the settlement of confidential State Department accounts, Congress extended and amended an existing law in February 1793 by authorizing the President to settle annually with Treasury Department accountants sums issued “for the purposes of intercourse or treaty, with foreign nations, in pursuance of any law.” In the case of expenditures which the President deemed it inadvisable to describe in detail, certificates of the amount only, issued by him or by the Secretary of State under his authority, were to be accepted as sufficient vouchers (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 iii, 1411–12). This expedient was inspired by a proposal TJ submitted to the House committee appointed to consider his letter and its enclosures (TJ to Washington, 1 Dec. 1792).

1Missing digit supplied from Tr in DNA signed by TJ.

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