From Edmund Randolph
January 21. 1794.
The Secretary of State has the honor of informing the President, that he has caused two copies to be made of the laws of the North Western territory, and now incloses them.1 It was long doubted, whether it was the duty of the Executive to lay them before congress. But upon a closer examination of the ordinance, the propriety of the step flows from the right, reserved to congress, to disapprove these laws.2 For how are congress to get official possession of them, but by an official communication from the executive files, among which they are lodged? The form of a message is not sent; because it is apprehended, that the President may choose to connect these laws with some other information, and one message may cover both.3
AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.
1. The transcriptions were being made from “A Copy of Laws passed in the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio from July to Decr 1792 inclusive,” which Winthrop Sargent, the secretary for the territory, had prepared earlier (DNA: RG 59, State Department, Territorial Papers, Northwest, 1787–1801; printed in Pease, Laws of the Northwest Territory description begins Theodore Calvin Pease, ed. The Laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788–1800. Springfield, Ill., 1925. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 17. description ends , 57–119; see also Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 26 Feb. 1793, and Randolph to GW, 4 Jan. 1794 [second letter]).
2. According to “An Ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States North west of the river Ohio,” 13 July 1787, the “governor, and judges or a majority of them shall adopt and publish in the district such laws of the original states criminal and civil as may be necessary and best suited to the circumstances of the district and report them to Congress from time to time, which laws shall be in force in the district until the organization of the general assembly therein, unless disapproved of by Congress” (Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends , 2:42–43).
3. For GW’s submission of these laws, see GW to U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 21 Jan. 1794. For the rejection by Congress of all but one of these laws, see ASP, Miscellaneous 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 , 1:82.