George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 5 March 1792

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [Philadelphia] March 5th 1792.

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

Knowing the friendly interest you take in whatever may promote the happiness and prosperity of the French Nation, it is with pleasure that I lay before you the translation of a letter which I have received from His most Christian Majesty,1 announcing to the United States of America his acceptance of the Constitution presented to him in the name of his nation.2

Go: Washington

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

1On 2 Mar. 1792 Jean-Baptiste, chevalier de Ternant, the French minister to the United States, presented to GW the receiver’s copy of Louis XVI’s letter of 19 Sept. 1791. At GW’s request Thomas Jefferson translated it and then prepared a message to Congress to cover his translation. The letterpress copy of Jefferson’s draft of the message (DLC: Jefferson Papers) is printed in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 23:221n.

2As both the Senate and the House had tabled GW’s message after receiving it (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., 100, 434–35), GW set Jefferson to work drafting a reply to the king. GW signed the letter on 10 Mar. and showed it to Ternant preparatory to sending it to France (see Jefferson’s Memoranda of Consultations with the President, 11 Mar.–9 April, DLC: Jefferson Papers). On that same day, however, James Madison and the friends of the French Revolution in the House passed a resolution “That this House has received, with sentiments of high satisfaction, the notification of the King of the French, of his acceptance of the Constitution presented to him in the name of the Nation: And that the President of the United States be requested, in his answer to the said notification, to express the sincere participation of the House in the interests of the French Nation, on this great and important event . . . And their wish that the wisdom and magnanimity displayed in the formation and acceptance of the Constitution, may be rewarded by the most perfect attainment of its object, the permanent happiness of so great a People.” The House then appointed Madison, Thomas Tudor Tucker, John Francis Mercer, John Vining, and John Page to a committee to wait on GW with its resolution. Two days later the Senate postponed consideration of a motion that GW “be requested to make known to the King of the French the satisfaction with which the Senate of the United States has received the official communication of his acceptance of a Constitution, which, it is their earnest wish, may establish, on a solid basis, the freedom and prosperity of the French nation, and the happiness and glory of the Monarch presiding over it.” Resuming consideration of the matter on 13 Mar., the Senate passed the resolution after slightly amending its wording (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., 105–7, 456–57; see also Jefferson to GW, 13 Mar., and GW’s Conversation with a Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, 12 Mar. 1792, and source note). Because of the spate of congressional activity, GW did not send his response to Louis XVI until 14 March.

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