George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 15 September 1792

To Thomas Jefferson

Mount Vernon Septr 15th 1792

Dear Sir,

This letter goes Express, to obtain the signature of the Secretary of State to the enclosed Proclamation. The reasons for sending it in this manner, are, to avoid the circuitous rout by Richmond, and the delay it might meet with by the Post; not having reached my hands until this morning, too late for the Mail of this day—nor in time for any other before Tuesday next—and because it is unknown to me, when one will set out from Richmond for Charlottesville.1

If good is to result from the Proclamation, no time is to be lost in issueing of it; as the opposition, to what is called the Excise Law, in the Western Survey of the District of Pennsylvania, is become too open, violent & serious to be longer winked at by Government, without prostrating it’s authority, and involving the Executive in censurable inattention to the outrages which are threatened.2

I have no doubt but that the measure I am about to take, will be severely criticised; but I shall disregard any animadversions upon my conduct when I am called upon by the nature of my office, to discharge what I conceive to be a duty—and none, in my opinion, is more important, than to carry the Laws of the United States into effect.

The Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of War and the Attorney General, concur in the expediency of the Proclamation; as forbearance seems to have produced no other effect than to spread the evil.3

I have scored a few words, which possibly may as well be omitted; and if, upon an attentive perusal of the draught, others should appear which you think might as well be expunged or altered; mark them in like manner with a pencil, and I will give due consideration thereto.4

Your note of the 27th ulto with the enclosures to Mr Tayler, were forwarded in the manner you desired, by the first Post after they came to my hands. With sincere & affectionate regard, I am Dear Sir, Your very hble Servt

Go: Washington

LS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADf[S] (mutilated), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW. Jefferson docketed the LS as being received on 18 September. The draft is missing the last paragraph, which has been cut off with the closing signature.

1Earlier this morning GW had received Hamilton’s letter of 11 Sept., enclosing a draft of a proclamation urging compliance with the federal excise tax on whiskey. Anxious to issue the proclamation, GW sent his tenant William Gray to deliver this letter to Jefferson. In a memorandum also written on 15 Sept., GW instructed Gray to “bring an Answer from the Secretary of State—Mr Jefferson—you will enquire for his Seat of Monticello. Delay no time you can avoid, in bringing back his answer—and in order to obtain it, you must if he is not at Home, go to him. . . . be here, if possible by, or before friday Noon [21 Sept.], ensuing the date of this” (ALS [photocopy], NHi: George and Martha Washington Papers).

2For background on the events leading to the writing of the proclamation, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 1 Sept. 1792, and notes, and Edmund Randolph to GW, 10 Sept., and notes 3 and 4.

3For Randolph’s opinion on issuing a proclamation, see his letter to Hamilton of 8 Sept. in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:336–40.

4Upon receiving this letter on 18 Sept., Jefferson immediately returned the enclosed proclamation with his signature and a suggested change (see Jefferson to GW, 18 September). For the final version, see Proclamation, 15 Sept. 1792.

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