Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edmund Randolph, [18 December 1791]

From Edmund Randolph

Sunday [18 Dec. 1791]

E. R. to Mr. Jefferson

1. I cannot discover any existing authority, to make the deed to Pennsylvania. Congress must be resorted to. It is probable, that the landoffice is the true channel.

2. Metcalfe has undoubtedly committed murder on the high seas: and altho’ other nations might lay hold of him, and perhaps punish him; it seems to be the peculiar duty of the U.S., whose citizen he is, to disclaim the act, and with adequate testimony1 to take measures for his arrest.2 But the proof ought, I conceive, to be invincibly strong, And of the most formal kind, to justify the seizing of him beyond sea: I mean by this, that otherwise the opprobrium of it would be ecchoed from one end of the U.S. to the other. Even the letter, howsoever authenticated, would be a basis, too unsolemn, for such a violent step.

I was just writing the above, when your servant called.

RC (DLC: TJ Papers, 80: 13909); partially dated; endorsed by TJ as received 18 Dec. 1791. Recorded in SJPL with date torn away.

Deed to Pennsylvania: see Report on Sale of Lands on Lake Erie, 19 Dec. 1791, wherein TJ followed the Attorney General’s advice and recommended that Congress Be resorted to in order to facilitate Pennsylvania’s purchase of the land in question.

On 8 Mch. 1792 Alexander J. Dallas wrote a brief note to TJ transmitting a copy of the survey of the land purchased by Pennsylvania from the United States so that it could be “annexed to the Instrument of Conveyance, upon the footing which you suggested” (FC in PHarH: Mifflin Administration Papers, at foot of text:” To Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of State”; FC in same, Secretary’s Letterbooks).

During this period TJ received two other letters dealing with land matters. On 2 Jan. 1792 Richard Harison, the District Attorney for New York, wrote a letter to TJ from Philadelphia transmitting “the Deeds and Papers, which have been in my Hands, respecting the Lands of the United States at West Point, and which, I think, should be deposited with the Public Archives in your Office” (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR; at foot of text: “Honble. Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of State”; endorsed by Henry Remsen as received 4 Jan. 1792). On 17 Mch. 1792 Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut wrote a letter to TJ on behalf of the governor requesting authenticated copies of Connecticut’s deed ceding its western claims to the United States and the act of Congress accepting it (RC in same; addressed: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by George Taylor, Jr.; see JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxxi, 654–5, for the texts in question).

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Word interlined in place of “capture.”

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