George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 16 November 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Nov. 16. 1792.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to inform the President that the papers from Johanna Lucia Henrietta Hinrichsen, a Danish subject, state that she is entitled to inherit from her brother Daniel Wriesburg deceased two tracts of land in New Jersey & New York and she petitions Congress, & the states of New Jersey & New York to have justice done her, offering, if they will pay her the reasonable rents during her life and an indemnification for the detention hitherto, that she will cede to them the remainder after her death for the establishment of a charitable institution for the benefit of poor military persons, the plan of which she leaves to the President of the U.S. to settle.1

Th: Jefferson is of opinion that the incompetence of the General government to legislate on the subject of inheritances is a reason the more against the President’s becoming the channel of a petition to them: but that it might not be amiss that Th: J. shou⟨l⟩d inclose to the Governors of New Jersey & N. York the petitions addressed to their states, as some advantages are offered to them, of which they will take notice, or not, at their pleasure. if the President approves of this, & will return the petitions they shall be inclosed accordingly.2

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: Jefferson Papers; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1The papers from Johanna Hinrichsen have not been identified, but she wrote GW on 3 May 1794 to express her dissatisfaction with the response to the representation that she had sent “last year” to the “Governor and Council” of New York. According to a contemporary translation of that letter, Hinrichsen’s brother Conrad Daniel Wrisberg had been a lieutenant in the British army during the French and Indian War. When he retired from the army in 1763, he remained in the American colonies. Although he received a “grant of 2000 Acres of uncultivated land in New York,” he apparently settled in New Jersey, and at the time of his death in 1774 he owned an ironworks at Mount Hope, New Jersey. “At his death,” Hinrichsen wrote, “he left a very handsome estate; and, inasmuch as he died unmarried, he left no other heirs but myself—his only sister of the blood.” She sought GW’s assistance and hoped that he would “support my representation in the court of New York; to the end, that, after so many distressing delays, I may finally be placed in the possession, of the inheritance which has fallen upon me” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Hinrichsen wrote a nearly identical letter to GW on 9 Dec. 1794 (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). No reply from GW to either letter has been found.

2On this date, on behalf of the president, Tobias Lear returned Hinrichsen’s petitions “to the Governments of New York and New Jersey” to Jefferson for forwarding to the governors of those states, George Clinton and William Paterson, respectively (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

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