JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed (in third person), as Secretary of State, TO PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON, no place [Philadelphia], 1 November 1792. 1 page, oblong (6 1/8 x 9¾ in.), remnants of orange wax seal in upper blank margin (with small hole), boldly addressed on the verso by Jefferson: "The President of the United States"; DOCKETED BY PRESIDENT WASHINGTON: "From Thos. Jefferson Esqr. 1 November 1792."
JEFFERSON AND HAMILTON COUNSEL PRESIDENT WASHINGTON ON HIS 1792 MESSAGE TO CONGRESS, THREE DAYS BEFORE WASHINGTON IS ELECTED TO A SECOND TERM
Washington had hoped to retire after one term as President, "but the financial panic of 1792, the open break between Hamilton and Jefferson and the storm clouds that were deepening over Europe all conspired to make him change his mind" (F. McDonald, The Presidency of George Washington, p.104). In preparation for his Annual Message to Congress, Washington had carefully sought reports from various cabinet officers (Randolph, Knox), but discussed the contents of the address in considerable detail with two trusted members of his administration in particular: Hamilton and Jefferson. The Address was principally drafted by Hamilton, but at Washington's request, Jefferson drafted two paragraphs--one on the establishment of the mint, another on issues of foreign relations--which were forwarded on October 15 (see Papers, ed. J. Catanzariti, 24:486). These were incorporated almost verbatim into Hamilton's draft. Jefferson submitted a further revision to the foreign affairs paragraph on 1 November (ibid., p.552). Sometime prior to 1 November, Washington had sent a complete draft to Jefferson for his comments. Here, Jefferson offers some last-minute revisions and comments on the final draft of the address, which the President was scheduled to deliver before a joint session of Congress on 6 November (the same day electors votes were tallied, confirming Washington's almost unanimous re-election.)
Jefferson writes: "Th:Jefferson has the honor to return the enclosed [not present] to the President. The following are the only alterations which he supposes might be proper.
pa.4. line 2. & 3. He thinks it better to omit the passage marked with a pencil.
same page. three bottom lines. He sees no objection to the passage marked.
page 6. & 7. The six lines marked he thinks would be better omitted.
page 11. line 16. perhaps the expression 'just state of our credit' would be better than 'high state of our credit.' Our efforts & our circumstances authorize us to say that we are justly entitled to the credit in which we stand."
Two days after this letter, Washington wrote Jefferson, confirming that "the erazures from the Speech, as you advise, are made, except exchanging the word 'high' for 'just.' If facts will justify the former (as I think they indubitably do) policy, I conceive, is much in its favor." He also pointed out that, because the speech dealt with so many "unpleasant" and alarming issues, it "cannot be amiss to accompany them with communications of a more agreeable nature" (Writings. ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick 32:200). (For the full text of the address, see Fitzpatrick, 32:205-211).
In fact, their joint work on Washington's 1792 address marked one of the very last occasions on which Hamilton and Jefferson collaborated. For Washington's most trusted cabinet members held deeply antithetical conceptions of the role of the executive, the proper sphere of government, the exercise of power and the very nature of republican government, and their already strained relations had worsened during the recent divisive debate over the chartering of the national bank proposed by Hamilton, a measure Jefferson had strongly advised Washington not to sign: "Domestic politics grew warm in 1792, lines of division hardened, and the quarrel between Jefferson and Hamilton broke into public controversy" (M. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation, p.458). Washington held doggedly to the notion of an administration free from partisan dissension, and in a private letter of 18 October to Jefferson, confessed that "I regret, and deeply regret, the difference in opinions which have arisen, and divided you"; and added that he wished "devoutly, there could be an accomodation of them by mutual yieldings" (Washington, Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick, 32:185). Washington's hopes for reconciliation would prove unavailing, as Peterson notes, for neither Jefferson nor Hamilton "would yield his system and principles to the other. Pulling in different directions, each assured of the other's enmity, each accusing the other of designs to subvert the government--Jefferson to anarchy, Hamilton to monarchy--it was little short of miraculous that they were kept in harness at all" (Peterson, p.478).
VERY RARE. Only one other letter from Jefferson to Washington has been offered at auction in the last quarter century. Published in Jefferson, Papers, ed. John T. Catanzariti, 24:553-554.
Provenance: Anonymous owner (sale, Charles Hamilton, 1 July 1982, lot 146).