George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 26 January 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Sunday Evening [26 Jan. 1794]

Mr Randolph has just had the honor of receiving the President’s letter, which came, while he was dining out.1

Mr R. writes this note for the consideration of the President.

If the resolution was made in the executive character of the Senate; then a resistance in toto seems at present the true path; because they are executive, only on nominations or Treaties; and can call for papers relative to those subjects, only when the one or the other is propounded to them by the President.2

On the other hand, as a branch of the legislature, the Senate have a greater latitude of power. They may call for papers, altho’ they do not relate to a business, actually depending before them. They may call for them, with a view to originate business. But then, the President interposes his discretion, so as to give to them no more, than, in his judgment, is fit to be given.

So that a very important question seems to be, whether the vote be a legislative or executive vote. It now stands on the legislative journal.3

Mr R. thanks the President for his kind enquiry, after his son, who is much better.4

AL, DLC:GW. This letter is filed at DLC under February 1794.

1GW’s letter to Randolph of this date, which has not been found, was written in response to Randolph’s first letter of this date.

2The Senate’s resolution requested GW to provide it copies of the official correspondence of Gouverneur Morris, the U.S. minister to France (U.S. Senate to GW, 24 Jan. 1794). For the legislative powers of the U.S. Senate, see Article I of the U.S. Constitution. For its executive powers, as defined by Randolph, see Article II, section 2. For Randolph’s further clarification of the distinction between the legislative and executive powers of the U.S. Senate, see his letter to GW of 2 February.

3See Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., 38.

4On the illness of Randolph’s son, see Randolph to GW, 25 January.

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