To Thomas Jefferson
Mount Vernon October 11th 1793.
Your dispatch of the 3d with it’s several enclosures reached Alexandria on Wednesday evening, and got to my hands yesterday morning.1
This afternoon I shall send to the post office the Letters for mister Bankson, with my signature to the Exequatur for mister Dannery, & Letters patent revoking that of mister Duplane. Your letter to the latter, two to the French minister, one to his Secretary mr Bournonville & another to mr Morris being approved are also forwarded.2
To a Letter written to you a few days ago, I refer for the time & place mentioned for the meeting of the Heads of Departments, & hope it will be convenient for you to attend.3 If I do not take a circuitous rout by Frederick-town in Maryland &c. I shall not leave this before the 28th—and in that case should be glad of your company, if it is not inconvenient for you to call. Since writing that letter, however, I have received the enclosed from the Attorney General which may make a change of place necessary; but I shall wait further advices before this is resolved on.4 I have also received a letter from the late Speaker, Trumbull;5 and as I understand sentiments similar to his are entertained by others—query, what had I best do? You were of opinion when here, that neither the Constitution nor Laws gave power to the President to convene Congress at any other place than where the Seat of Government is fixed by their own act. Twelve days since I wrote to the Attorney General for an official opinion on this head, but have received no answer.6 If the importance & urgency of the case, arising from a supposition that the fever in Philadelphia should not abate, would justify calling together the Legislature at any other place—where ought it to be? This, if German town is affected, with the malady, involves the Executive in a serious & delicate decision. Wilmington & Trenton are equidistant, in opposite directions, from Philada—both on the great thoroughfare, equally dangerous on account of the infection being communicated to them, & would, I presume, be equally obnoxious to one or the other set of members; according to their situations. Annapolis has conveniences—but it might be thought I had interested & local views in naming this place. What sort of a town then is Reading, & how would ⟨it⟩ answer? Neither Northern nor Southern members would have cause to complain of it’s situation. Lancaster would favor the Southern ones most.
You will readily perceive, if any change is to take place, not a moment is to be lost in the notification—whether by a simple statement of facts (among which, I presume, the House intended for them in Philada will be unfit for their reception 7)—and an intimation that I shall be at a certain place days before the first of December, to meet them in their legislative capacity, or to advise with them on measures proper to be taken in the present exigency. If something of this sort should strike you favorably, draw (& if necessary sign) a proper Instrument to avoid delay, leaving the name of the place blank, but giving your opinion thereon. German town would certainly have been the best place for them to have met in the first instance, there to have taken ulterior resolutions without involving the Executive.
I have no objection to the Director of the Mint, with your concurrence, chusing an Engraver in place of mister Wright.
No report has been made to me relative to the Tonnage of the French Ships from St Domingo.
Major Lenox, I perceive by the papers, is marshall for the District of Pennsylvania.8
Limits of Jurisdiction and protection must lie over till we meet, when I request you will remind me of it. I am Your Affecte Servant
LS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADf, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. The LS is docketed in part, “recd Oct. 16.”
4. This probably is a reference to Edmund Randolph’s letter to GW of 3 Oct., which has not been found. Randolph evidently had reported that people in Germantown had died of the yellow fever (see GW to Randolph, 14 Oct.).
7. On the draft and the letter-book copy, the preceding four words are replaced by the word “unfinished.”
8. In a letter to GW of 23 Aug., Clement Biddle, the U.S. marshal for Pennsylvania, had announced his intention to resign at the expiration of his term in September. It was agreed that the post would be offered to Stephen Moylan, and, if he declined, to David Lenox. When Jefferson departed Philadelphia in mid-September, he left a blank commission to be completed with one of the two names, and instructed State Department clerk Benjamin Bankson to write GW for instructions if neither of the two accepted (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 , 27:117). Although Moylan declined the post in a letter to Jefferson of 19 Sept., Jefferson apparently did not receive that letter until early November, and GW first received a copy with Moylan’s letter to him of 21 October. Hence, GW learned of Lenox’s appointment (which was dated 26 Sept.) through the newspapers (it was announced in the Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser of 2 Oct.), and it was recorded in his executive journal on 10 Oct. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 241).
David Lenox (c.1754–1828) was a Continental army officer during the Revolutionary War, being wounded and captured at the fall of Fort Washington and serving after his exchange as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Anthony Wayne. He resigned from his post as marshal in 1795. In 1797 Lenox was appointed agent of the United States at London for the protection of American seamen. Lenox became a director of the Bank of the United States in 1805, and in 1807 he succeeded Thomas Willing as president of the bank, serving until the bank’s demise in 1811.