George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 23 October 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Octob. 23. 1791.

Th: Jefferson has the honour to subjoin the alteration he suggested in the last paragraph of the President’s speech.1

Having read Colo. Humphreys’ letters after mister Short’s he had been led into an erroneous arrangements of the facts they state. Colo. Humphreys’ letter mentioning the king’s refusal of the constitution is of Aug. 22. while it appears by mister Short’s letter of Aug. 30. that it had not yet been presented to him, & that it was believed he would ratify it.2

A provision for the sale of the vacant lands of the United states is particularly urged by the important considerations that they are pledged as a fund for reimbursing the public debt; that, if timely and judiciously applied, they may save the necessity of burthening our citizens with new taxes for the extinguishment of the principal; and that being free to pay annually but a limited proportion of that principal, time lost in beginning the payments cannot be recovered however productive the resource may prove in event.

AL (letterpress copy), DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers.

1GW made minor emendations to Jefferson’s suggested alteration before delivering it as the final paragraph of his address to Congress (see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 25 October).

2Jefferson received on 22 Oct. both the 22 Aug. dispatch of David Humphreys and that of William Short of 30 Aug. (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 , 22:59, 105–8). On 25 Oct. he received a letter of 31 Aug. from Humphreys enclosing papers showing that his report of Louis XVI’s rejection of the French constitution had been premature (ibid., 110–11).

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