George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 18 December 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Dec. 18. 1793.

Th: Jefferson has the honor to submit to the President’s approbation the draught of letters to mister Genet and the Attorney Genl on the subject of the prosecution desired by the former to be instituted against Messrs Jay & King.1

He also incloses the form of a warrant for D=2544.37 for the Director of the Mint for the purchase of copper.2

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

1Jefferson’s letter of this date to Attorney General Edmund Randolph informed him that a copy of Edmond Genet’s letter to Randolph of 16 Dec., requesting the prosecution of John Jay and Rufus King for their “libellous publications” about Genet, had been laid before GW, who, “never doubting your readiness on all occasions to perform the functions of your office, yet thinks it incumbent on him to recommend it specially on the present occasion, as it concerns a public character peculiarly entitled to the protection of the laws. On the other hand, as our citizens ought not to be vexed with groundless prosecutions . . . if you judge the prosecution in question to be of that nature . . . consider this recommendation as not extending to it.” Jefferson’s letter to Genet of this date enclosed to him a copy of the letter to Randolph (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 , 27:583, 587–88). GW approved the drafts and returned them to Jefferson on this date (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 269).

For the initial publication by John Jay and Rufus King asserting that Genet “had said he would Appeal to the People from certain decisions of the President,” see Diary; or Loudon’s Register (New York), 12 August. On 14 Nov. Genet sent through Jefferson a request that the attorney general prosecute the two men for libel, and he had his request and Randolph’s response published (Diary; or Loudon’s Register, 22 Nov.; see also 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 , 27:367–68). Jay and King responded in early December by publishing a more detailed statement of their information, dated 26 Nov. and supported by a certificate from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox dated 29 Nov. (Daily Advertiser [New York], 2 Dec.). On 16 Dec. Genet sent through Jefferson another letter to Randolph that was the immediate impetus for the drafts enclosed here. In that letter, Genet cited the new publication and the involvement of Hamilton and Knox, and asked again that Randolph bring before the Supreme Court an “accusation . . . against Messrs. Jay and King, as also against all those who have participated in the calumnies which have been perfidiously disseminated solely with a view of injuring the interests of France under a republican government” (translation published with the responses of Jefferson and Randolph and additional correspondence in the Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 24 Dec.; see also 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 , 27:527–29).

This controversy continued into March 1794, with Jay and King writing GW on 27 Jan. 1794 (letter not found) complaining about the actions of Randolph and Jefferson and requesting a document that would support their position (see GW to Knox, 15 Feb. 1794; GW to Jay and King, 3 March 1794; and King’s endorsement on Jay to King, 25 Feb. 1794, NHi).

2A letterpress copy of the warrant for $2,544.37 is in DLC: Jefferson Papers, and a letter-book copy is in DLC:GW. GW signed the warrant and returned it to Jefferson (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 269).

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