May 31, 1789

You dislike the responsibility of the President in the case of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I would have the President responsible for his appointments; and if those whom he puts in are unfit, they may be impeached, on misconduct, or he may remove them, when he finds them obnoxious. It would be easier for a minister to secure a faction in the Senate, or get the protection of the senators of his own state, than to secure the protection of the President, whose character would suffer by it. The number of the senators, the secrecy of their doings, would shelter them, and a corrupt connection between those who appoint to office, and who also maintain in office, and the officers themselves would be created. The meddling of the Senate in appointments is one of the least defensible parts of the Constitution. I would not extend their power any further. I must finish.

Yours, affectionately.

New York, May 27, 1789

Since my last which was written on sunday last and included an introduction of young Mr. Colden who is to be the bearer of it from Scotland where he now resides, I have had the pleasure of yours of March 15. My former letters will have made known to you the obstacles to a licence for your visit to America. The new authority has not yet taken up your application. As soon as the auxiliary offices to the President shall be established & filled, which will probably not be long delayed, I hope the subject will be decided on, and in the manner you wish. It is already agreed in the form of resolutions that there shall be three departments one for finance, another for foreign affairs, and the third for war. The last will be continued in the hands of General Knox. The second will remain with Mr. Jay, if he chooses to keep it. The first is also to be under one head, though to be branched out in such a manner as will check the administration. Chancellor wishes this department but will not succeed. It will be given I think to Jay or Hamilton. The latter is perhaps best qualified for that species of business and on that account would be preferred by those who know him personally. The latter is more known by character throughout the United States.

I have been asked whether any appointment at home would be agreeable to you. Being unacquainted with your mind I have not ventured on an answer.

The Bill of rates which passed the House of Representatives a few days ago is not yet come down from the Senate. The duties will it is said be pretty much reduced. In a few instances perhaps the reductions may not be improper. If they are not generally left as high as will admit of collection, the dilemma will be unavoidable, of either maiming our public credit in its birth, or resorting to other kinds of taxation for which our Constituents are not yet prepared. The Senate is also abolishing the discriminations in favor of nations in treaty whereby Britain will be quieted in the enjoyment of our trade as she may please to regulate it and France discouraged from her efforts at a competition which it is not less our interest than hers to promote. The question was agitated repeatedly in the House of Representatives and decided at last almost unanimously in favor of some monitory proof that our new government able and not afraid to encounter the restrictions of Britain. Both the senators from Virginia particularly Lee go with the majority in the Senate. In this I suspect the temper of the party which sent them is as little consulted as in the conduct of Lee in the affair of titles and his opinion in relation to the western country.

I have already informed you that Madam Brehan is every day recovering from the disesteem and neglect into which reports had thrown her and that Moustier is also becoming more and more acceptable or at least less and less otherwise. His commercial ideas are probably neither illiberal nor unfriendly to this country. The contrary has been supposed. When the truth is ascertained and known unfavorable impressions will be still more removed.

The subject of amendments was to have been introduced on monday last; but is postponed in order that more urgent business may not be delayed. On Monday sevennight it will certainly come forward. A Bill of rights, incorporated perhaps into the Constitution will be proposed, with a few other alterations most called for by the opponents of the Government and least objectionable to its friends.

As soon as Mr. Brown arrives who is the Representative of Kentucky, the admission of that district to the character of a State and a member of the union, will claim attention. I foresee no difficulty, unless local jealousy should couple the pretensions of Vermont with those of Kentucky: and even then no other delay than what may be necessary to open the way for the former, through the forms and perhaps the objections of this State, which must not be altogether disregarded.

The proceedings of the new Congress are so far marked with great moderation and liberality; and will disappoint the wishes and predictions of many who have opposed the Government. The spirit which characterises the House of Reps. in particular is already extinguishing the honest fears which considered the system as dangerous to republicanism. For myself I am persuaded that the biass of the federal is on the same side with that of the State Govts. tho' in a much less degree.

Philadelphia, May 25, 1789

Dear Friend,

I am glad to see by the papers that our grand machine has at length begun to work. I pray God to bless and guide its operations. If any form of government is capable of making a nation happy, ours I think bids fair now for producing that effect. But after all, much depends upon the people who are to be governed. We have been guarding against an evil that old states are most liable to, excess of power in the rulers; but our present danger seems to be defect of obedience in the subjects. There is hope, however, from the enlightened state of this age and country, we may guard effectually against that evil as well as the rest.

My grandson, William Temple Franklin, will have the honor of presenting this line; he accompanied me to France, and remained with me during my mission: I beg leave to recommend him to your notice, and that you would believe me, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,

B. Franklin.
To the Hon. Charles Carrol, Esq.


May 19, 1789

Resolved, that it is the opinion of this committee there should be established for the aid of the chief magistrate in executing the duties of his station, the following departments, to wit: a department for foreign affairs, at the head of which shall be an officer called the Secretary of the United States for foreign affairs; that there should be a department of the Treasury, at the head of which shall be, & c. and a department of war, at the head of which & c. To be nominated by the President, and appointed by him, with the advice and consent of the सीनेट -- and removable by the President.

New York, May 17, 1789

The Vice-President has the honor to present his humble opinion on the points proposed for his consideration.

1. That an association with all kinds of company, and a total seclusion from society, are extremes, which, in the actual circumstances of this country, and under our form of government, may be properly avoided.

2. The system of the President will gradually develop itself in practice, without any formal communication to the legislature, or publication from the press. Paragraphs in the public prints may, however, appear, from time to time, without any formal authority, that may lead and reconcile the public mind.

3. Considering the number of strangers from many countries, and of citizens from various States, who will resort to the seat of government, it is doubted whether two days in a week will not be indispensable for visits of compliment. A little experience, however, will elucidate this point.

4. Under the fourth head, it is submitted to consideration, whether all personal applications ought not to be made, in the first instance, to a minister of state. Yet an appeal should be open, by petition, to the President, who, if he judges the subject worthy of it, may admit the party to a personal interview. Access to the supreme magistrate ought not to be rigorously denied in any case that is worthy of his consideration. Nevertheless, in every case, the name, quality, and, when these are not sufficient to raise a presumption in their favor, their business, ought to be communicated to a chamberlain, or gentleman in waiting, who should judge whom to admit and whom to exclude. Some limitation of time may be necessary, too, as, for example, from eight to nine or ten; for, without it, the whole forenoon, or the whole day, may be taken up.

5. There is no doubt that the President may invite what official characters, members of congress, strangers, or citizens of distinction he pleases, in small parties, without exciting clamors; but this should always be done without formality.

6. The entertainments mentioned in this article would much more properly be made by a minister of state for foreign or domestic affairs, or some other minister of state, or the Vice-President, whom, upon such occasions, the President, in his private character, might honor with his presence. But in no case whatever can I conceive it proper for the President to make any formal public entertainment.

7. There can be no impropriety in the President’s making or receiving informal visits among his friends or acquaintances, at his pleasure. Undress, and few attendants, will sufficiently show that such visits are made as a man, a citizen, a friend, or acquaintance. But in no case whatever should a visit be made or returned in form by the President; at least, unless an emperor of Germany, or some other sovereign, should travel to this country. The President’s pleasure should absolutely decide concerning his attendance at tea-parties in a private character; and no gentleman or lady ought ever to complain, if he never, or rarely attends. The President’s private life should be at his own discretion, and the world should respectfully acquiesce. As President, he should have no intercourse with society, but upon public business, or at his levees. This distinction, it is, with submission, apprehended, ought to govern the whole conduct.

8. A tour might, no doubt, be made, with great advantage to the public, if the time can be spared; but it will naturally be considered, as foreign affairs arrive every day, and the business of the executive and judicial departments will require constant attention, whether the President’s residence will not necessarily be confined to one place.


May 17, 1789

The President of the United States wishes to avail himself of your sentiments on the following points.

1. Whether a line of conduct, equally distant from an association with all kinds of company on the one hand, and from a total seclusion from society on the other, ought to be adopted by him? And in that case, how is it to be done?

2. What will be the least exceptionable method of bringing any system, which may be adopted on this subject, before the public and into use?

3. Whether, after a little time, one day in every week will not be sufficient for receiving visits of compliment?

4. Whether it would tend to prompt impertinent applications, and involve disagreeable consequences, to have it known that the President will, every morning at eight o’clock, be at leisure to give audience to persons who may have business with him?

5. Whether, when it shall have been understood that the President is not to give general entertainments in the manner the presidents of congress have formerly done, it will be practicable to draw such a line of discrimination, in regard to persons, as that six, eight, or ten official characters, including in rotation the members of both houses of congress, may be invited, personally or otherwise, to dine with him on the days fixed for receiving company, without exciting clamors in the rest of the community?

6. Whether it would be satisfactory to the public for the President to make about four great entertainments in a year, on such great occasions as the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the alliance with France, the peace with Great Britain, the organization of the general government; and whether arrangements of these two last kinds could be in danger of diverting too much of the President’s time from business, or of producing the evils which it was intended to avoid by his living more recluse than the presidents of congress have hitherto lived?

7. Whether there would be any impropriety in the President’s making informal visits; that is to say, in his calling upon his acquaintances or public characters, for the purpose of sociability or civility? And what, as to the form of doing it, might evince these visits to have been made in his private character, so as that they may not be construed into visits from the President of the United States? And in what light would his visits rarely at tea-parties be considered?

8. Whether, during the recess of congress, it would not be advantageous to the interests of the union for the President to make the tour of the United States, in order to become better acquainted with their principal characters and internal circumstances, as well as to be more accessible to numbers of well-informed persons, who might give him useful information and advice on political subjects?

9. If there is a probability that either of the arrangements may take place, which will eventually cause additional expenses, whether it would not be proper that these ideas should come into contemplation at the time when congress shall make a permanent provision for the support of the executive?


Paris, May 10, 1789

Dear Sir,—

Since mine of January 14th, yours of January 2d and March 1st have been handed to me; the former by Mr. Jones, whom I am glad to know on your recommendation, and to make him the channel of evidencing to you how much I esteem whatever comes from you. The internal agitations of this country, and the inactivity to which England is reduced by the state of imbecility in which the madness of the King has terminated, will leave the southwestern parts of Europe in peace for the present year. Denmark will probably continue to furnish only its stipulated succors to Russia, without engaging in the war as a principal. Perhaps a pacification may be effected between Russia and Sweden, though at present there is little appearance of it; so that we may expect that the war will go on this year between the two empires, the Turks and Swedes, without extending any further. Even the death of the Emperor, should it take place, would hardly withdraw his dominions from the war this summer. The revolution in this country has gone on hitherto with a quietness, a steadiness, and a progress, unexampled; but there is danger of a balk now. The three orders, which compose the States General, seem likely to stumble at the threshold on the great preliminary question, how shall they vote, by orders or persons? If they get well over this question, there will be no difficulty afterwards, there is so general a concurrence in the great points of constitutional reformation. If they do not get over this question (and this seems possible), it cannot be foreseen what issue this matter will take. As yet, however, no business being begun, no votes taken, we cannot pronounce with certainty the exact state of parties. This is a summary view of European affairs.

Though I have not official information of your election to the presidency of the senate, yet I have such information as renders it certain. Accept, I pray you, my sincere congratulations; no man on earth pays more cordial homage to your worth, nor wishes more fervently your happiness. Though I detest the appearance even of flattery, I cannot always suppress the effusions of my heart. Present me affectionately to Mrs. Adams, Col. and Mrs. Smith. I hope to see you all this summer, and to return this fall to my prison; for all Europe would be a prison to me, were it ten times as big.

Adieu, my dear friend, &c.

Thomas Jefferson.


Paris, May 10, 1789


—I am now to acknolege the honor of your two letters of Nov. 27 and Feb. 13, both of which have come to hand since my last to you of Dec. 4 & 5. The details you are so good as to give me on the subject of the navigation of the waters of the Potowmac and Ohio are very pleasing to me, as I consider the union of these two rivers as among the strongest links of connection between the eastern & western sides of our confederacy. It will moreover add to the commerce of Virginia in particular all the upper parts of the Ohio & it’s waters. Another vast object and of much less difficulty is to add also all the country on the lakes & their waters. This would enlarge our field immensely and would certainly be effected by an union of the upper waters of the Ohio & lake Erie. The Big beaver & Cayahoga offer the most direct line and according to information I received from Genl Hand, and which I had the honor of writing you in the year 1783, the streams in that neighborhood head in lagoons, and the country is flat. With respect to the doubts which you say are entertained by some whether the upper waters of Potowmac can be rendered capable of navigation on account of the falls & rugged banks, they are answered by observing that it is reduced to a maxim that whenever there is water enough to float a batteau, there may be navigation for a batteau. Canals & locks may be necessary, & they are expensive; but I hardly know what expense would be too great for the object in question. Probably negotiations with the Indians, perhaps even settlement must precede the execution of the Cayahoga canal. The states of Maryland and Virginia should make a common object of it. The navigation again between Elizabeth river & the Sound is of vast importance and in my opinion it is much better that these should be done at public than private expense.

Tho’ we have not heard of the actual opening of the New Congress, & consequently have not official information of your election as President of the U. S. yet as there never could be a doubt entertained of it, permit me to express here my felicitations, not to yourself, but to my country. Nobody who has tried both public & private life can doubt but that you were much happier on the banks of the Potowmac than you will be at New York. But there was nobody so well qualified as yourself to put our new machine into a regular course of action, nobody the authority of whose name could have so effectually crushed opposition at home, and produced respect abroad. I am sensible of the immensity of the sacrifice on your part. Your measure of fame was full to the brim: and therefore you have nothing to gain. But there are cases wherein it is a duty to risk all against nothing, and I believe this was exactly the case. We may presume too, according to every rule of probability, that after doing a great deal of good you will be found to have lost nothing but private repose. In a letter to Mr. Jay of the 19 of November I asked a leave of absence to carry my children back to their own country, and to settle various matters of a private nature which were left unsettled because I had no idea of being absent so long. I expected that letter would have been received in time to be decided on by the government then existing. I know now that it would arrive when there was no Congress, and consequently that it must have awaited your arrival at New York. I hope you found the request not an unreasonable one. I am excessively anxious to receive the permission without delay, that I may be able to get back before the winter sets in. Nothing can be so dreadful to me as to be shivering at sea for two or three months in a winter passage. Besides there has never been a moment at which the presence of a minister here could be so well dispensed with, a certainty of no war this summer, and that the government will be so totally absorbed in domestic arrangements as to attend to nothing exterior. Mr. Jay will of course communicate to you some ciphered letters lately written, and one of this date. My public letter to him contains all the interesting public details. I inclose with the present some extracts of a letter from Mr. Payne which he desired me to communicate; your knolege of the writer will justify my giving you the trouble of these communications which their interesting nature and his respectability will jointly recommend to notice.—I am in great pain for the M. de la Fayette. His principles you know are clearly with the people, but having been elected for the Noblesse of Auvergne they have laid him under express instructions to vote for the decision by orders & not persons. This would ruin him with the tiers etat, and it is not possible he could continue long to give satisfaction to the noblesse. I have not hesitated to press on him to burn his instructions & follow his conscience as the only sure clue which will eternally guide a man clear of all doubts & inconsistencies. If he cannot effect a conciliatory plan, he will surely take his stand manfully at once with the tiers etat. He will in that case be what he pleases with them, and I am in hopes that base is now too solid to render it dangerous to be mounted on it.—In hopes of being able in the course of the summer to pay my respects to you personally in New York I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect respect & attachment, Sir, Your most obedient & most humble servant.


New York, May 5, 1789

Dear Sir:

I beg you to accept my unfeigned thanks for your friendly communication of this date, and that you will permit me to entreat a continuation of them as occasion may arise.

The manner chosen for doing it is most agreeable to me. It is my wish to act right; if I err, the head and not the heart shall, with justice, be chargeable.

With sentiments of sincere esteem and regard,

I am, dear sir, your obed’t serv’t,

Geo. Washington.


New York, May 5, 1789


In conformity to the intimation you were pleased to honor me with on * * * evening last, I have reflected upon the etiquette proper to be observed by the President, and now submit the ideas which have occurred to me on the subject.

The public good requires as a primary object, that the dignity of the office should be supported.

Whatever is essential to this ought to be pursued, though at the risk of partial or momentary dissatisfaction. But care will be necessary to avoid extensive disgust or discontent. Men’s minds are prepared for a pretty high tone in the demeanor of the Executive, but I doubt whether for so high a one as in the abstract might be desirable. The notions of equality are yet, in my opinion, too general and too strong to admit of such a distance being placed between the President and other branches of the government as might even be consistent with a due proportion. The following plan will, I think, steer clear of extremes, and involve no very material inconveniences.

* I. The President to have a levee day once a week for receiving visits; an hour to be fixed at which it shall be understood that he will appear, and consequently that the visitors are to be previously assembled.The President to remain half an hour, in which time he may converse cursorily on indifferent subjects, with such persons as shall invite his attention, and at the end of that half hour disappear. Some regulation will be hereafter necessary to designate those who may visit.A mode of introduction through particular officers will be indispensable. No visits to be returned.

* II. The President to accept no invitations, and to give formal entertainments only twice or four times a year, the anniversaries of important events in the Revolution. If twice, the day of the declaration of independence, and that of the inauguration of the President, which completed the organization of the Constitution, to be preferred; if four times, the day of the treaty of alliance with France, and that of the definitive treaty with Britain to be added. The members of the two Houses of the Legislature, principal officers of the government, foreign ministers and other distinguished strangers only to be invited. The numbers form in my mind an objection; but there may be separate tables in separate rooms. This is practised in some European courts. I see no other method in which foreign ministers can, with propriety, be included in any attentions of the table which the President may think fit to pay.

* III. The President, on the levee days, either by himself or some gentleman of his household, to give informal invitations to family dinners on the days of invitation. Not more than six or eight to be invited at a time, and the matter to be confined essentially to members of the Legislature and other official characters. The President never to remain long at table.

I think it probable that the last article will not correspond with the ideas of most of those with whom your Excellency may converse; but on pretty mature reflection, I believe it will be necessary to remove the idea of too immense an inequality, which I fear would excite dissatisfaction and cabal. The thing may be so managed as neither to occasion much waste of time nor to infringe on dignity.

It is an important point to consider what persons may have access to your Excellency on business. The heads of departments will, of course, have this privilege. Foreign ministers of some descriptions will also be entitled to it. In Europe, I am informed, ambassadors only have direct access to the chief magistrate. Something very near what prevails there would, in my opinion, be right. The distinction of rank between diplomatic characters requires attention, and the door of access ought not to be too wide to that class of persons. I have thought that the members of the Senate should also have a right of individual access on matters relative to the public administration. In England and France, peers of the realm have this right. We have none such in this country, but I believe that it will be satisfactory to the people to know that there is some body of men in the state who have a right of continual communication with the President. It will be considered a safeguard against secret combinations to deceive him.

I have also asked myself, Will not the Representatives expect the same privilege, and be offended if they are not allowed to participate with the Senate? There is sufficient danger of this to merit consideration. But there is reason for the distinction in the Constitution. The Senate are coupled with the President in certain executive functions, treaties, and appointments. This makes them in a degree his constitutional counsellors, and gives them a peculiar claim to the right of access. On the whole, I think the discrimination will be proper and may be hazarded.

I have chosen this method of communication because I understood your Excellency that it would be most convenient to you. The unstudied and unceremonious manner of it will, I hope, not render it the less acceptable. And if, in the execution of your commands, at any time I consult frankness and simplicity more than ceremony or profession, I flatter myself you will not on that account distrust the sincerity of my cordial wishes for your personal happiness, and the success of your administration.

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, Your Excellency’s most obedient and humble servant.


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