George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 16 December 1791

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Dec. 16. 1791.

Th: Jefferson presents his respects to the President, and sends a sketch of such a message as he thinks might accompany the statement from the Secretary at war.1 he does not know whether the President intended that an estimate of the next years operations should accompany it. but he thinks it a proper occasion to bring forward the preparations for the next year, and that it forms the safest ground for making the present communication.

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

For the background to this document, see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 12 Dec. 1791.

1GW promised Congress on 12 Dec. to communicate “all such matters as shall be necessary to enable the Legislature to judge of. . . future measures” for pacifying the hostile northwestern Indian nations. He accordingly instructed the secretary of war to draw up a statement describing the background to Arthur St. Clair’s unsuccessful campaign, and he apparently asked the secretary of state to draft a message of transmittal to Congress. Jefferson’s draft reads: “The pacific measures which were adopted for establishing peace between the U.S. & the North Western Indians, having proved ineffectual, and the military operations which thereon became necessary, tho’ succesful in the first instances, being otherwise in the last as was stated to you in my communication of [ ] instant. it behoves us to look forward in time to the further protection of our Western citizens. I see no reason to doubt that operations of force must still be pursued. I have therefore instructed the Secretary at war to prepare, for your information, a statement of the transactions of his department material to this object. these are now laid before you. while they serve to shew that the plan which was adopted for employing the public force & wealth was such as promised reasonably a more effectual issue, they will enable you also to judge of the provision which it may now be expedient to make for the ensuing year. an estimate of the Secretary at war on this subject is now laid before you” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Henry Knox presented GW his draft statement on 17 Dec., and he subsequently prepared another one outlining plans for a new campaign. GW discussed the drafts with his department heads before submitting the statement to Congress on 11 Jan. 1792, under cover of a message that differed substantially from Jefferson’s draft.

Index Entries