George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 20 October 1792

To Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] October 20th 1792.

Dear Sir,

The letters of Gouvr Morris give a gloomy picture of the Affairs of France. I fear with too much truth.1

If the order of Senate, dated the 7th of last May, is compleated, it must be with all Offices except the Judges.2

The Post Office (as a branch of Revenue) was annexed to the Treasury in the time of Mr Osgood—and when Colo. Pickering was appointed thereto, he was informed, as I find by my letter to him dated the 29th of August 1791, that he was to consider it in that light.

If from relationship, or usage in similar cases (for I have made no enquiry into the matter, having been closely employed since you mentioned the thing to me, in reading papers from the War Office) the Mint does not appertain to the Department of the Treasury I am more inclined to add it to that of state than to multiply the duties of the other.3 I am always Yours

Go: Washington

P.S. The letters of Mr Seagrove to Genl Knox are a contin[uatio]n of the evidence of Spanish interference with the Southern Indians.4

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADf, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW. The ALS is docketed: “recd Oct. 20,” and only it includes the postscript.

1For letters recently received from Gouverneur Morris, see Morris to GW, 10 June, and to Jefferson, 10 July, which Jefferson enclosed in his letter to GW of 14 Oct. 1792. For GW’s reaction to recent events in France, see his reply to Morris of 20 October.

2GW may be referring to “An Act for regulating Processes in the Courts of the United States, and providing Compensations for the Officers of the said Courts, and for Jurors and Witnesses,” approved on 8 May 1792 (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 275–79).

3Samuel Osgood sent his letter of resignation to GW on 11 July 1791, and the following month GW appointed Timothy Pickering to succeed him as postmaster general. For GW’s view that the post office was “a branch of the revenue department,” see Tobias Lear to Pickering, 29 Aug. 1791, at Pickering to GW, 27 Aug. 1791, n.2. Earlier in the year, in an attempt to decrease Alexander Hamilton’s power in the federal government, Jefferson had suggested to GW that the post office should be transferred to the State Department (see Jefferson’s Memorandum of Conversations with Washington, 1 Mar. 1792). When Congress established the Mint, it placed ultimate authority for the Mint with the president, assigning the Mint to neither the Treasury nor the State Department (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 246–51).

4The letters from James Seagrove to Henry Knox have not been positively identified, but they may have been Seagrove’s letters to Knox of 8 and 13 Sept. 1792 (see DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–93, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, Reports and Communications; see also ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:310–11). Knox acknowledged these letters in his reply to Seagrove of 27 Oct. (see Knox to Tobias Lear, 27 Oct., n.3). Seagrove complained about Spanish intrigues in some detail in his letter of 8 Sept.: “I am happy in informing that no unfavorable change hath taken place in Indian affairs, notwithstanding the unremitting endeavours of the Spanish agents to prejudice them against us. Scarce a day passes but I have additional proofs of the base conduct of the Spanish agents in the Creek nation: They unquestionably are using every means to induce the four southern nations of Indians to take up the Hatchet against the United States. Every undue, unjust and villainous means is using by them, to bring these unfortunate people to act to their diabolical purposes—What the Spaniards can promise themselves by such conduct I cannot discover—with all their promises, presents and threats, added to the exertions of McGillivray and Panton &c. I am hopeful they will not be able to prevail on the Creeks to join them, or even to attend their treaty at Pensacola this month. . . . Mr Olivar, the successor of McGillivray, hath lately been in the lower towns inviting them to Pensacola to receive arms and ammunition from the Spaniards, and talks in the most insulting terms of the United States. . . . In my opinion remonstrance ought to be made to the Court of Spain against the House of Panton, Leslie & Co. british merchants residing in Florida. Panton (it can be proven) openly invited the Creeks and Cherokees to Pensacola to receive arms and ammunition to use against the Americans, and said he was authorized so to do by the Spanish government and that if they entered into a war with us the Spaniards stood ready with troops to assist them. He also advised the Indians to plunder and kill every american trader they found in the nation, declaring to them, that no one had any right or authority to be among them as traders, but such as Spain approved.” For Seagrove’s earlier reports on Spanish activities, see his letters to GW of 5 and 27 July 1792.

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