George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 15 May 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia May 15. 1791.


We are still without any occurrence foreign or domestic worth mentioning to you. it is somtime since any news has been recieved from Europe of the political kind, and I have been longer than common without any letters from mister Short.1

Colo. Hamilton has taken a trip to Bethlehem.2 I think to avail myself also of the present interval of quiet to get rid of a headach which is very troublesome, by giving more exercise to the body & less to the mind. I shall set out tomorrow for New York, where mister Madison is waiting for me, to go up the North river, & return down Connecticut river and through Long-island. my progress up the North river will be limited by the time I allot for my whole journey, which is a month. so that I shall turn about whenever that renders it necessary.3 I leave orders, in case a letter should come from you covering the commission for Colo. Eveleigh’s successor, that it should be opened, the great seal put to it, and then given out. my countersign may be added on my return. I presume I shall be back here about the time of your arrival at Mount-Vernon, where you will recieve this letter.4 the death of Judge Hopkinson has made a vacancy for you to fill. should I pick up any thing in my journey, I will write it to you from time to time. I have the honor to be with sincere respect & attachment, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

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

1For William Short’s dispatches, which Jefferson received on 23 April 1791, see Short to Jefferson, 7, 18, 22 Feb. 1791, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 19:257–59, 289–90, 323–25, 361–63.

2Alexander Hamilton left Philadelphia with his wife sometime after 9 May and apparently lodged alone at the Sun Inn in Bethlehem, Pa., before returning to Philadelphia by 24 May (“Excerpts from the Waste Books of the Sun Inn,” Pa. Mag., description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 139 vols. to date. 1877–. description ends 39:473; Hamilton to Short, 24 May 1791, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 8:356–57).

3The joint tour of Jefferson and James Madison to New York and New England in May and June 1791 was seen by contemporary supporters of Hamilton and many historians since primarily as a political expedition. Both Jefferson and Madison, however, were also interested in exploring the natural history of the region, and Jefferson the enlightened agriculturalist also hoped to study the depredations of the Hessian fly, the larvae of which had been destroying mid-Atlantic wheat crops since at least the late 1770s. He also took the opportunity provided by the trip to obtain information about maple sugar production and acquire saplings to transplant at Monticello (see Jefferson to GW, 1 May 1791, n.4).

4Jefferson addressed the letter to Mount Vernon. GW arrived home on 12 June, and Jefferson returned to the capital on 19 June.

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