George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate, 15 June 1789

To the United States Senate

New York June 15th 1789

Gentlemen of the Senate,

Mr Jefferson the present Minister of the United States at the Court of France, having applied for permission to return home for a few months,1 and it appearing to me proper to comply with his request, it becomes necessary that some person be appointed to take charge of our affairs at that Court during his absence.

For this purpose I nominate William Short Esquire, and request your advice on the propriety of appointing him.2

There are in the office for foreign affairs papers which will acquaint you with his character; and which Mr Jay has my directions to lay before you at such time as you may think proper to assign.3

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, entry 10; LB, DNA:PCC, item 122; LB, DLC:GW.

2William Short (1759–1849) of Surry County, Va., graduated in 1779 from the College of William and Mary where he was one of the founders of Phi Beta Kappa. After serving from 1783 to 1784 on the Virginia executive council he went to France as secretary to Thomas Jefferson and later as secretary of legation. Upon Jefferson’s return to the United States in late 1789, Short served as chargé d’affaires in Paris for the next two years. Although ably handling United States affairs in France, he was not appointed to succeed Jefferson, the post going instead to Gouverneur Morris. Short in 1792 became minister to The Hague. During his tenure in Paris and at The Hague he was responsible for negotiating a series of loans to the United States from Dutch bankers and for arranging for payments on the Revolutionary debt due to France from the United States. In 1793 he went to Spain where he carried out most of the preliminary negotiations for the 1795 Pinckney Treaty. Short returned to the United States in 1802.

3GW’s nomination of Short was the first appointment of his administration to be placed before the Senate. The Senate received it on 16 June and ordered John Jay to come to the Senate the next day at noon to present the papers referred to in the president’s message (De Pauw, Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 2:8–9). The message elicited a vigorous debate on the proper procedures for voting on confirmation of appointments. See Maclay, Journal, description begins Charles A. Beard, ed. The Journal of William Maclay: United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789–1791. 1927. Reprint. New York, 1965. description ends 76–80.

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