James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Washington, [12 June?] 1789

From George Washington

Friday Morng. [12 June 1789?]

As the Communications herewith enclosed will not take much time to Read; As there are matters related which to me are new; and as the information respecting land transactions, and other things in the Western Country will require to be noticed & acted upon in some way or another, I send them to you together with a Gazette with a marked paragraph containing some suggestions that have not, I believe, been touched upon in any of the Papers I gave you yesterday—but are handed to you for the same purpose that they were—i e—merely for Consideration.

RC (CSmH). In Washington’s hand, but not signed. In his docket (made at a later time) JM noted that the letter was “without date.” Enclosures not found. Some confusion on the dating is evident from Fitzpatrick, who printed this letter twice—at the end of 1789 and under date of 21 Oct. 1791 (Writings of Washington, XXX, 486 n.; XXXI, 395–96). The editors have assigned the date of 12 June 1789 from circumstantial evidence. Legislation to open a land office for the sale of the unappropriated lands in the Northwest Territory had been proposed to the House on 28 May and remained under consideration during June and July (Cong. Register description begins Thomas Lloyd, comp., The Congressional Register; or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the First House of Representatives … (2 vols.; New York, 1789; Evans 22203–4). description ends , I, 399–405, 449; II, 56–70, 123; DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds., Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America (3 vols. to date; Baltimore, 1972—). description ends , III, 119, 127, 130 and n. 3). The enclosed “Gazette” may have been the N.Y. Daily Advertiser of 11 June 1789, containing the remarks of “A. E.” supporting the proposed land office. “A. E.” warned that the sale and settlement of the U.S. western lands was imperative to counter British and Spanish inducements for Americans to emigrate to their territory: “Here we find two channels open to draw off the inhabitants of the United States; and if the wealth, strength and dignity of a power, consists in any measure, in the number of subjects, these drains must be viewed as highly detrimental to the union.… And although it may be found impossible to prevent the emigration from the Atlantic states, it is a fortunate circumstance, that we have it in our power to direct the emigrants into our own territory. In the latter case … they only go from one part of the building to another; but in the former, they quit the house altogether.” Washington’s habit of sending notes to JM during the first session, the pending land office legislation, and the Daily Advertiser item of Thursday, 11 June, are circumstances leading the editors to conjecture that the president wrote this note on Friday, 12 June.

Index Entries