George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 25 March 1792

From George Washington

The President of the United States has attentively considered the “Project of a Convention with the Spanish Provences” which was submitted to him by the Secretary of State, and informs him that the same meets his approbation.—The President, however, thinks it proper to observe, that in perusing the beforementioned Project some doubts arose in his mind as to the expediency of two points mentioned therein.—The one relative to instituting a civil, instead of a criminal process against Forgerers; who, generally, if not always, are possessed of little property.1—The other, respecting the unlimited time in which a person may be liable to an action. 2

By expressing these quæries the President would not be understood as objecting to the points touched upon; he only wishes to draw the Secretary's further attention to them, and if he should, upon reconsideration, think it right for them to stand upon their present footing the President acquiesces therein.3

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 25 Mch. 1792. FC (DNA: RG 59, MLR); in Lear's hand, with one interlineation in Washington's hand and with two deleted passages as indicated in the notes below. Tr (same, SDC).

  1. Preceding ten words are interlined in FC in Washington's hand.
  2. In FC at this point the following passage is deleted: “In regard to the first, Altho' from a well intentioned principle of lenity a civil, instead of a criminal process might be desireable against persons accused of the high crime of forgery—Yet, might not instances occur in which, from the enormity of the crime or from some peculiar circumstances atten[ding it] a criminal process would be highly proper, and that a serious detriment might accrue to the Government from having given up the right of instituting such a process?—And would not the recovery of damages against the culprit, in all cases, be inadequate to the injury sustained by the prosecuting party, and especially, as those who may be guilty of such crimes are generally persons destitute of sufficient property to make good the damages they have done?—In regard to the second point—Would not a limitation of the time between the flight and the commencement of the Action (letting the time extend far enough to take in every supposeable case) be a piece of attention due to the unfortunate (for there may be some of that description among fugitives) by relieving them from solicitude and perhaps vexatious prosecutions after a certain period?—And would not such a limitation prevent an endless litigation, without depriving the Creditor of that right of prosecution to which he is justly entitled?”
  3. In FC at this point the following passage is deleted: “The Secy will receive herewith for his consideration an Estimate of the Post Master General for carrying the Mail <which the President requests him to take into consideration>.”