George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 5 April 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

Mount Vernon April 5th 1793.

Dear Sir,

Your Letter of the 1st instant, came to my hands yesterday. I regret the indisposition of General Knox; but hope, as there is yet time for consideration of those matters I referred to the heads of the Departments, no inconvenience will result from the delay, occasioned thereby;1 unless it should continue much longer. At George Town, I met mister Randolph;2 & by a Letter just received from mister Lear, I am informed that General Lincoln was expected to be in Philadelphia about the middle of this week.3

I am so much surprized, & mortified at the conduct of Judge Turner, that if he should be in Philadelphia at the receipt of this Letter, & not the best evidence of his proceeding to the North-Western Territory immediately; it is my desire that you will, in my name, express to him, as far as my powers will authorise you to do, that I can no longer submit to such abuses of public trust without instituting (if I have powers to set it on foot) an enquiry into his conduct.4 The same with respect to the Governor of that Territory.5 Such remissness in those Gentlemen not only reflects upon the common rules of propriety; but must6 implicate me, in the shamefulness of their conduct, in suffering it.

I hope the account brought by the Captain from Lisbon, had no better foundation than that suggested in your Letter; for I should be sorry to receive a confirmation of it. It was prudent, however, to guard against an event which might have proved unfortunate in case of the capture of the Packet.7 With esteem & regard, I am Dr Sir, Your very humble Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr.’s writing, 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 complimentary closing, initials, and signature at the bottom of the draft at DNA are in Dandridge’s writing.

1For the “matters” to which GW is referring and for Henry Knox’s illness, see, respectively, GW to Cabinet, 21 Mar., and Tobias Lear to GW, 1 April 1793, and note 2.

2For the probable subject of GW’s conversation with Edmund Randolph, see GW to Lear, 8 April 1793.

3Tobias Lear mentioned the expected arrival of Benjamin Lincoln in his letter to GW of 1 April. Lear reported Lincoln’s arrival on Monday, 1 April, in his letter to GW of 3 April.

4For GW’s unhappiness with George Turner’s seeming unwillingness to depart Philadelphia for the Northwest Territory, where he served as one of three federal judges, see Lear to Jefferson, 26 Feb. 1793, and note 6, and GW to Jefferson, 10 March. Jefferson wrote to Turner on 30 Mar. (Jefferson to GW, 1 April, and note 5). On 13 Mar., GW had asked Jefferson to consult Attorney General Edmund Randolph about the propriety of ordering Turner to fulfill his duties (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 88). Jefferson and Randolph did not reach a decision until 17 April, when Randolph suggested that Jefferson instruct Gov. Arthur St. Clair to inform Turner of the negative effects of his absence on the territory, send him copies of the complaints against him, and order him “to attend the seat of government, as a member of the legislature” (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 25:552). Jefferson then wrote to Turner that same date, telling him that “in the opinion of the President, that some legal enquiry into the causes of it [his absence] should be instituted: and I have it in charge from him to inform you, that the Attorney General of the US. is instructed to consider, & do what may be proper on the occasion” (DLC: Jefferson Papers; printed ibid., 553). Although Turner apparently indicated that he would leave immediately, he did not do so, for on 11 May, Randolph wrote to Turner, inquiring why the judge “had not gone to the Westward as he had promised” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 136). Turner answered that he had been “afflicted with a Rheumatic complaint” and declared that he would “set out on monday,” 13 May (ibid.). Nevertheless, Turner did not leave Philadelphia until late August or early September 1793 (St. Clair to Jefferson, 9 Aug. 1793, and Jefferson to St. Clair, 13 Sept. 1793, 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 26:643–44, 27:111–12).

5For Governor St. Clair’s absence from the Northwest Territory and GW’s growing impatience with him, see Lear to Jefferson, 26 Feb. 1793, n.7, and Lear to GW, 3 April.

6At this place in the draft, GW wrote and then struck the word “inevitable.”

7For the arrival of Captain Hodgdon and the Dispatch with news of an expanding war in Europe and for Jefferson’s subsequent advice to Nathaniel Cutting that he should sail on an American ship, see Jefferson to GW, 1 April 1793, and note 1.

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