George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 11 October 1793

From George Washington

Dear Sir

Your dispatch of the 3d. with it's several enclosures, reached Alexandria on Wednesday evening, and got to my hands yesterday morning.

This afternoon I shall send to the post office the Letters for Mr. Bankson, with my signature to the Exequatur for Mr. Dannery, and Letters patent revoking that of Mr. Duplane. Your letter to the latter, two to the French Minister, one to his Secretary Mr. Bournonville and another to Mr. Morris, being approved are also forwarded.

To a Letter written to you a few days ago I refer for the time and place mentioned for the meeting of the Heads of Departments, and hope it will be convenient for you to attend. If I do not take a circuitous rout by Frederick-town in Maryland &c. I shall not leave this before the 28—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. I have also received a letter from the late Speaker, Trumbull; 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 Government1 is fixed by their own act. Twelve2 days since I wrote to the Attorney General for an official opinion on this head, but have received no answer. If the importance and3 urgency of the case, arising from a supposition that the fever in Philadelphia should not abate,4 would justify calling together the Legislature at any other place—where ought it to be? This, if German town is affected, with the malady, involves5 the Executive in a serious and6 delicate decision. Wilmington and Trenton are equidistant, in opposite directions, from Philada. both on the great thoroughfare, equally dangerous7 on account of the infection being communicated to them, and would, I presume, be equally obnoxious to one or the other set of8 members; according to their situations. Annapolis has conveniences—but it might be thought I had interested and local views in naming this place. What sort of a town then is Reading, and how would it answer?9 Neither Northern nor Southern Members would have cause to complain of its 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 reception10)—and an intimation that I shall be at a certain place         days before the first of December, to meet them in their legislative capacity,11 or to advise with them on measures proper to be taken in the present exigency. If something of this sort should strike12 you favorably, draw (and 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 Mr. 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.

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

Go: Washington

RC (DLC); in the hand of Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., signed by Washington; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Oct. 1793 and so recorded in SJL. Dft (DNA: RG 59, MLR); entirely in Washington's hand; signature and part of complimentary close clipped; only the most significant variations and emendations are noted below. FC (Lb in same, SDC); wording follows Dft. Enclosures: (1) Edmund Randolph to Washington, 3 Oct. 1793, advising that the yellow fever epidemic had claimed victims in Germantown, where Washington had instructed his Cabinet to meet him at the beginning of November (not found; but see Fitzpatrick, Washington, xxxiii, 125). (2) Jonathan Trumbull to Washington, Lebanon, Conn., 2 Oct. 1793, reporting that the fatal sickness continues to rage in Philadelphia and that it was more than probable the city cannot be rendered healthful and convenient for business for several months; and suggesting that “the Occasion exists, sufficiently extraordinary, to warrant the Presidents interposing his discretionary power of making a special Call of Congress, to convene at some other place, than that to which they now stand adjourned,” that this “may be constitutionally done, under the urgency of existing Circumstances,” the date to be fixed a few days prior to the first Monday in December, that otherwise a majority of both houses would have to convene at Philadelphia no matter what the danger before Congress could adjourn to a place of safety and convenience, and that his suggestion was motivated soley by “anxiety for the Health and Safety of the Executive and Legislative of the Union” and of the government departments RC in DLC: Washington Papers).

  1. Reworked in Dft from “where they were.”
  2. Word interlined in place of “ten” in Dft.
  3. Preceding two words interlined in Dft.
  4. Dft: “arising from the unabating fever in Philada.”
  5. In Dft Washington here interlined and then canceled “a delicate.”
  6. Preceding seven words interlined in Dft in place of “is a case of difficulty and delicacy.”
  7. Preceding two words interlined in Dft, which omits the remainder of the clause.
  8. Preceding six words (except “the”) interlined in Dft in place of “the.”
  9. Preceding five words interlined in Dft, with remainder of paragraph added in margin.
  10. Dft: “be unfinished.”
  11. In Dft Washington first wrote “as a Legislature” and then altered the phrase to read as above.
  12. In Dft Washington wrote “If this strikes” and then altered the phrase to read as above.