George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 27 April 1790]

Tuesday 27th. Had some conversation with Mr. Madison on the propriety of consulting the Senate on the places to which it would be necessary to send persons in the Diplomatic line, and Consuls; and with respect to the grade of the first. His opinion coincides with Mr. Jays and Mr. Jeffersons—to wit—that they have no Constitutional right to interfere with either, & that it might be impolitic to draw it into a precedent their powers extending no farther than to an approbation or disapprobation of the person nominated by the President all the rest being Executive and vested in the President by the Constitution.

At the time appointed, Messrs. Lee & Walker (the Senators from Virginia) attended, & presented the Address as mentioned yesterday & received an answer to it.

A good deal of respectable Company was at the Levee to day.

conversation with mr. madison: See entries for 23 and 26 Mar., 16 April 1790. Although James Madison and John Jay apparently did not present GW with written opinions, Jefferson’s views on the appointment of the diplomatic establishment are expressed in his “Opinion on the Powers of the Senate Respecting Diplomatic Appointments,” 24 April 1790 (DLC: Jefferson Papers). That GW also may have consulted John Adams on the question is indicated by the fact that a fair copy of Jefferson’s opinion, in his own hand and endorsed by GW, is found among Adams’s papers (MHi: Adams Papers). It was GW’s frequent habit to submit the written opinions of one cabinet member to other members for their comments. See also JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 16:378–82.

John Walker (1744–1809) was born at Castle Hill, Albemarle County, Va., the son of Dr. Thomas Walker (1715–1794) and his first wife, Mildred Thornton Meriwether Walker (d. 1778), who was a granddaughter of GW’s aunt, Mildred Washington Gregory. In 1764 John Walker graduated from the College of William and Mary and became a planter at Belvoir in Albemarle County. During the Revolution he held the rank of lieutenant colonel and in Feb. 1777 was sent by the Virginia legislature to GW’s headquarters as an observer, with orders to report to the legislature any events of interest from camp. The appointment proved to be a considerable embarrassment to GW who wrote Gov. Patrick Henry, 24 Feb. 1777, stating that he had appointed Walker an “Extra Aid de Camp” in order “that he may obtain the best information, and, at the same time, have his real design hid from the World; thereby avoiding the evils which might otherwise result from such Appointments, if adopted by other States. It will naturally occur to you, Sir, that there are some Secrets, on the keeping of which so, depends, oftentimes, the salvation of an Army. . . . If Mr. Walker’s Commission, therefore from the Commonwealth of Virginia, should be known, it would, I am persuaded, be followed by others of the like nature from other States, and be no better than so many marplots” (DLC:GW; General Orders, 19 Feb. 1790, DLC:GW). In 1780 Walker served in the Continental Congress. After the war he practiced law in Virginia and in Mar. 1790 was appointed United States senator to fill the vacancy left by the death of William Grayson.

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