George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 19 February 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

Feb. 19. 1791.

The Secretary of State having recieved from the Commissioners for the State of Vermont a letter proposing these Questions 1. Whether, as that state will not be a distinct member of the union till the 4th day of March next, the President can, before that day, nominate officers for it? and 2. if he cannot, whether he can nominate them after the recess of the Senate?1 makes thereon to the President of the U.S. the following


He is of opinion the President cannot, before the 4th of March, make nominations which will be good in law: because, till that day, it will not be a separate & integral member of the U.S. and it is only to integral members of the union that his right of nomination is given by the Constitution.

But that nomination may be made on the 4th of March, and, if the Senate will meet on that day, may be reported to them for their approbation, it is true that the two or three new members will be absent, unless they chuse to come on for this purpose; but as the occasion of consulting an imperfect Senate will not be produced by any act of the President’s, and as it is in the power of the new Senators to render the body perfect, by coming on if they chuse it, this difficulty appears smaller than that of making original nominations without the concurrence of the Senate. this therefore is what the Secretary of State thinks best to be done.2

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS, letterpress copy, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers; LB, DLC:GW.

1Nathaniel Chipman and Lewis R. Morris, appointed by Vermont as commissioners to seek the admission of that state into the Union, were seeking the offices of district judge and marshal respectively (see Chipman to GW, 22 Feb. 1791, and Morris to GW, 22 Feb. 1791). Jefferson reported on 23 Feb. 1791 that Chipman was generally regarded as the leading candidate for district judge and that Morris was regarded as a suitable candidate for marshal (see Nathaniel Chipman to GW, 22 Feb. 1791, n.1).

2GW called the Senate into special session, which met on 4 Mar. 1791 to consider nominations to fill offices in Vermont, as well as positions in the excise service and the army (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 3 Mar. 1791).

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