Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Arthur St. Clair, 9 August 1793

From Arthur St. Clair

Cincinnati County of Hamilton Augt. 9th. 1793


I have had the honor to receive your Letter of the 19th. of April together with the ten Volumes of the Acts passed at the 2d. Session of the second Congress, which shall be distributed in such manner as to render an acquaintance with them as general as possible.

In my progress to this Place1 Having halted at Marietta to see the Magistrates and enquire a little into the State of that Settlement, and an Opportunity to Pittsburgh presenting at the Moment, on the 25 of July I issued a Proclamation for the meeting of the Legislature of the Territory on the first of September at this Place, and took the Liberty to enclose a Copy of it to you, with a request that you would cause copies to be sent to the Judges Symmes and Turner, neither of whom I knew where to find, but it was probable their residence might be known to You. I am very sensible Sir, this was a Liberty that demands an Apology, and I was sensible of the impropriety at the time and nothing would have induced me to take it but the uncertainty as to the places where they were to be found, and the expence that would have attended the sending an Express, if one could have been obtained, which would have been difficult. Be assured Sir, unless it should be a very pressing Case indeed I shall not take it again.

I have the pleasure2 to inform you that the difficulties which existed with respect to the Court of Common Pleas for this County are accommodated in a manner that gives Satisfaction, and any irregularities that have happened in their proceedings will, I hope be helped by the Legislature. At the same time the Dignity of the Government has not been committed, nor the just and necessary prerogative of the Governor weakened.3 The particulars have been communicated to the Attorney General and I have at the same time made some Observations upon some of the Laws passed here at the last Session of the Legislature, and may possibly make some more, but I realy do not know whether it is to him or to you that the Laws of this Territory are referred for consideration; tho it should seem of course that they be referred to him. This may be considered as a work of supererogation in me—but Sir the Circumstances of different parts of this Territory are extremely dissimilar, and it is very difficult to adapt general Laws4 to those various Circumstances, and the Operation of the Laws falling more immediately within the observation of the Governor than of any Person at the Seat of Government, tho infinitely better-qualified to judge of them in the Abstract, I have presumed that it would not be deemed an intrusion5 and should it be to you they are referred, and you will permit me any Observations which I may think necessary, shall be addressed to you. With Sentiments of the greatest Esteem and respect I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedient and most humble Servant

Dft (O, on deposit OHi: St. Clair Papers); unsigned; below complimentary close: “The honorable Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by St. Clair. Recorded in SJL as received 12 Sep. 1793.

In his letter of the 19th. of April 1793 to the governors of the Northwest and Southwest Territories, TJ according to law transmitted ten copies of both the published acts passed at the second session of the Second Congress and a separate index to the laws of both sessions of this Congress (FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL; at head of text: “Governors St. Clair & Blount”; not recorded in SJL). Even though its official date was 25 July 1793, the proclamation undoubtedly was enclosed in St. Clair to TJ, 24 July 1793, recorded in SJL as received from “Muskingham” on 10 Aug. 1793 but not found (see TJ to John Cleves Symmes, 11 Aug. 1793; Terr. Papers, iii, 412–13). The difficulties with the court of common pleas consisted of a dispute over the tenure of its judges. The possible irregularities were committed when the judges refused to accept commissions running during the governor’s pleasure and continued to exercise their duties under the old ones, which were granted during good behavior but which St. Clair contended had been superseded. In a 9 May 1793 letter to Edmund Randolph communicating the particulars, St. Clair also expressed his intention henceforth to submit his observations on territorial acts awaiting congressional review to the Attorney General (William Henry Smith, The St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair, 2 vols. [Cincinnati, 1882], ii, 312–16). See also TJ to St. Clair, 13 Sep. 1793.

1Sentence to this point added.

2Word interlined in place of “Satisfaction.”

3Sentence written lengthwise in the margin.

4Manuscript: “Law general Laws.”

5Sentence to this point added at foot of text and remainder of clause interlined in place of “if I have been mistaken on this point.”

Index Entries