George Washington Papers

From George Washington to James Madison, 8 September 1789

To James Madison

[New York, c.8 Sept. 1789]1

Confidential

The points which at present occur to me, and on which I wish your aid, are brought to view in the enclosed statement—I give you the trouble of receiving this evening that you may (if other matter do not interfere) suffer them to run through your Mind between this and tomorrow afternoon when I shall expect to see you at the appointed time.

Besides the enclosed2

Would it do now that Mr Barton has declined the Judges Seat (western Territory) to nominate Col. Carrington for that Office?3 If not, can you think of any other that would suit him, of new creation—by this I mean, which has not an actual occupant or one who from similarity of Office may have better pretensions to it.

Can you bring to mind any fit character for the vacancy just mentioned (west of New Jersey)—as Virga has given & may furnish characters, for important Offices probably it would be better to exclude her also on this occasion.

What sort of a character in point of respectability and fitness for this office has Majr Turner late of So. Carolina now of Philadelphia.4

Have you any knowledge of the character of Mr Laurence?—a practising Attorney and Son in law to General St Clair.5

What can I do with A—L——he has applied to be nominated one of the Associate Judges—but I cannot bring my mind to adopt the request—The opinion entertained of him by those with whom I am most conversant is unpropitious and yet few men have received more marks of public favor & confidence than he has. These contradictions are embarrassing.6

Should the sense of the Senate be taken on the propriety of sending public characters abroad—say, to England, Holland & Portugal—and of a day for thanksgiving.

Would it be well to advise with them before the adjournment, on the expediency and justice of demanding a surrender of our Posts?

Being clearly of opinion that there ought to be a difference in the Wages of the Members of the two branches of the Legislature would it be politic or prudent in the President when the Bill comes to him to send it back with his reasons for non-concurring.7 Yrs sincerely

G. Washington

ALS, PPRF.

1This letter has been dated on the basis of GW’s appointment of George Turner as a judge of the Northwest Territory on 11 Sept. 1789.

2The enclosure has not been identified.

3William Barton was appointed a judge of the Northwest Territory by GW on 18 Aug. 1789. For Barton’s letter of application for a post, see his letter to GW, 3 Sept. 1789. Barton’s uncle, David Rittenhouse, had also approached Madison in relation to an appointment for him. Barton declined the appointment as judge but hoped to secure a treasury post. See Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 12:286, 357–58. GW had already mentioned Edward Carrington to Madison for a federal appointment in a letter of 9 Aug. 1789. For Edward Carrington’s solicitation for an appointment, see his letter to GW, 11 May 1789. His inclinations, however, did not lie in the direction of the Northwest Territory. As he wrote Madison, 9 Sept., the “Office of District Marshall for Virginia is thought to be important from its extent, & not altogether unhonorary from the powers & Trusts it involves; it is also thought it will be productive of compensation not contemptible. Viewing the subject thus some of my Freinds have expressed a desire that I should signify my readiness to accept the appointment. . . . Any disposition in me to accept, will depend altogether on your opinion. Should you deem the appointment eligible & not derogatory in its Nature upon a view of all circumstances, I shall be willing to accept it. General Knox has written me on this subject—in my answer I have left my choice dependent on the circumstances here mentioned to you. . . . I have not written, nor shall I write to any other person about it” (Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 12:391–92). GW appointed Carrington to the post on 24 Sept. (DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 2:44).

4For George Turner’s application for office, see his letter to GW, 18 Aug. 1789. On 11 Sept. GW appointed Turner one of the judges for the Northwest Territory (DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 2:38). A letter to Turner from Tobias Lear, 14 Sept. 1789, informed him of his appointment. “If you accept this appointment, you will give due notice thereof to the President of the United States who will cause your commission to be forwarded to you at Philadelphia, and whose wish it is that you should proceed to the western Territory and enter upon the duties of your Office without delay” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

5Later in life Madison inserted an asterisk at this point and wrote “McDougal meant,” a reference to the fact that Alexander McDougall’s daughter Elizabeth married New Yorker John Laurance. However, GW was undoubtedly referring to John Lawrence (1751–c.1799) who had served as a captain during the Revolutionary War and was married to Gov. Arthur St. Clair’s daughter Elizabeth.

6Madison later inserted an asterisk at this point and wrote at the bottom of the page “Arthur Lee.” For Lee’s application for a position as a justice of the Supreme Court, see his letter to GW, 21 May 1789.

7GW is referring to the impending legislation on the salaries of members of the Senate and House of Representatives. It had been suggested that salaries for senators should exceed those for members of the House, and Madison had already spoken in the House of Representatives in support of a discrimination, contending that “it had been evidently contemplated by the constitution to distinguish in favor of the senate” in order to induce outstanding men to serve (Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 12:293). For the debates on the bill, see Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 1st sess., 676–84, 701–5, 706–10, 712–14. “An Act for allowing Compensation to the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, and to the Officers of both Houses,” approved by GW, 22 Sept. 1789, provided that the members of both houses should receive $6 per day while in attendance and an allowance of $6 for every 20 miles from their place of residence to the capital. After 1795, however, the compensation for senators would be raised to $7 per diem (Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:70–71).

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