George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Hawkins, 27 January 1792

From Benjamin Hawkins

Senate Chamber [Philadelphia] 27th January 1792


I this day drew the attention of the Senate to the evident impropriety in publishing their Executive proceedings. I stated in as strong a point of view as I was capable of, the injustice and impolicy of suffering ourselves to become dupes to the foreign public characters resident at the seat of Government; by detailing in conversation any part of our proceedings.

Our Secretary was imprudently, not intentionally, ordered, in conformity with the usual mode of publishing appointments, to permit the printers to publish this to the Court of Spain.

To remedy which, in future, the Senate have directed that a transcript of their Executive Journal shall be furnished to the President, and that no part thereof be published by their Secretary.1 I have the honor to be, with perfect respect Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

Benjamin Hawkins.


1The Senate in executive session this day ordered “That the President of the United States be furnished with an authenticated transcript of the Executive records of the Senate, from time to time,” and further ordered “That no executive business, in future, be published by the Secretary of the Senate,” Samuel A. Otis. Otis had informed the press of the appointment, confirmed by the Senate on 24 Jan. 1792, of William Short and William Carmichael to negotiate a treaty with Spain for the opening of the Mississippi River to American navigation (see Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:99–100). The Philadelphia National Gazette published a report of the appointment two days later. Otis informed Tobias Lear on 27 Jan. of the Senate order to transmit executive proceedings to the president: “I shall procure a suitable book for the purpose and get it transcribed as soon as possible; but it is a work of time. When the Record is got up I shall send the book, which you may return from time to time for such additions as may take place. The Printers are importunate to have a list of appointments from time to time, and in the hurry of business snatch improper transcripts from my minutes; to prevent which I have solicited an order that nothing of an executive nature be in future published from my office. I wish you to communicate this to the President of the United States in the most respectful terms” (DLC:GW).

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