Jefferson Accepting Secretary of State (1790)


The above letter, which is transcribed below, was sent by Thomas Jefferson to President George Washington accepting the position of the first U.S. Secretary of State. Jefferson held this position from March 22, 1790 until December 31, 1793.

Some of the major issues during Thomas Jefferson's time as Secretary of State were the national debt and the location of the nation's capitol. Jefferson opposed a national debt, which Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed, and instead preferred each state to handle its own debts. In fact Jefferson so strongly apposed Hamilton's plans to establish national credit and a national bank that Washington dismissed Jefferson from his cabinet and the two never spoke again. In general, Hamilton and his party preferred a strong national government while Jefferson favored strong states' rights.  

Regarding the location of the nation's capitol, Hamilton favored a location close to major commercial centers in New England while Jefferson, along with President Washington, wanted the capitol located further south. The Compromise of 1790 located the capital in it's current location in Washington, D.C. and at the same time the federal government assumed the war debts of all of the new thirteen states. 

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Transcript of Letter: 

Monticello Feb. 14. 1790

Sir

I have duly received the letter of the 21st. of January with which you have honored me, and no longer hesitate to undertake the office to which you are pleased to call me. Your desire that I should come on as quickly as possible is a sufficient reason for me to postpone every matter of business, however pressing, which admits postponement. Still it will be the close of the ensuing week before I can get away, and then I shall have to go by the way of Richmond, which will lengthen my road. I shall not fail however to go on with all the dispatch possible nor to satisfy you, I hope, when I shall have the honor of seeing you at New York, that the circumstances which prevent my immediate departure, are not under my controul. I have now that of being with sentiments of the most perfect respect & attachment, Sir Your most obedient & most humble servant,

Th: Jefferson


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