George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 1 November 1791

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [Philadelphia] November 1st 1791.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

I received yesterday, from the Judge of the District of South Carolina, a letter, inclosing the presentments of the Grand Jury to him; and stating the causes which have prevented the return of the Census from that District; copies of which are now before you.1

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 233, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals.

For the completion of the First U.S. Census, see GW to Gouverneur Morris, 28 July, n.3, and to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 27 Oct. (second letter), n.3.

1The enclosed presentments, dated 19 Sept., of the federal grand jury for the South Carolina district court sent by Judge Thomas Bee to GW on 2 Oct. read: “They have examined the several returns of the Marshall of the said district and find them accurate and correct for every Part of the State except that part of Charleston district which lies out of the limits of St Michaels and St Philips parishes which had been assigned to William Robertson Assistant to the Marshall to procure the Returns—We therefore present the said William Robertson for neglect of duty in not compleating the same agreeable to the directions of Act of the legislature of the United States Passed the first day of March 1790. We present on the information of Hezekiah Roberts one of the Assistants to the Marshall William Reynolds of St Helena Island in Beaufort district for refusing to Render an Account of his family pursuant to the directions of the aforesaid Act. We present on the information of Jacob Fitzpatrick another of the Marshalls assistants William Russell Jacob Vanzant Benjamin Ingman Regnal Williams and James Hayes all of Orangeburgh district for refusing to render an Account of their respective families pursuant to the said Act. We beg leave to lay before the Court the difficulties which the Marshall of this State appear to have met with in procureing assistants to make the Returns and to the very great expence which he has been under the necessity of incurring and we hope your honor will represent his Case to the president of the United States” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

In his cover letter of 2 Oct., Bee provided GW further details of Marshal Isaac Huger’s difficulties: “William Robertson one of his Assistants after having partly finished his business made a sudden Elopement to St Augustine with all his returns, and wrote from thence to Genl Huger promising to come back & compleat the whole within the limited time, it was so late before this Letter arrived, that no other person could be procured to undertake the business until the day had Elapsed—he has since employed a very careful Person who is now on that service, and I am hopeful will finish the return so as to have it forwarded by the meeting of Congress, in which case a short Act to extend the time will prevent this State’s sustaining any Injury in the next representation” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Concerned about his state’s representation, Congressman William Loughton Smith of South Carolina proposed a resolution to the House of Representatives on 31 Oct., the day GW received Bee’s letter, extending the time allowed for completion of his state’s census, which the House considered on 2 November. It appointed Smith, Elias Boudinot, and Abraham Bedford Venable a committee, which reported a bill the same day. After the Senate amended the bill, the House passed it on 7 Nov., and GW signed “An Act granting farther Time for making Return of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the District of South Carolina” the following day. It granted Huger an extension to 1 Mar. 1792 to complete his returns without incurring any penalties (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 , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 25–26, 27, 148, 150, 153, 157; 1 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 226). On 5 Feb. 1792 Huger sent GW by the ship Augusta, Captain Sheffield, “A Return of the Number of Souls in the State, which would long before this time have been accomplished, had not numerous difficulties intervened.” His cover letter of that date stated that “The Mode of the Returns I have accommodated as nearly as possible to that mentioned in the last communication I had the Honour to receive from you, great part of the business having been then compleated. To guard against any Accidents that might happen in the conveyance, as the time Allowed me by Congress is so near expiring, I shall by A Vessell which Sails Tomorrow for Philadelphia send A Duplicate, and A Third shall be forwarded by Post” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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