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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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8153. STATES, Correspondence between Executives.—
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8153. STATES, Correspondence between Executives.—

As to the mode of correspondence


Page 836
between the general and particular executives,
I do not think myself a good judge.
Not because my position gives me any prejudice
on the occasion; for if it be possible to
be certainly conscious of anything, I am
conscious of feeling no difference between
writing to the highest or lowest being on
earth; but because I have ever thought that
forms should yield to whatever should facilitate
business. Comparing the two governments
together, it is observable that in all
those cases where the independent or reserved
rights of the States are in question,
the two Executives, if they are to act together,
must be exactly coordinate; they are,
in those cases, each the supreme head of an
independent government. Such is the case
in the beginning of this letter where the two
Executives were to treat de pair en pair. In
other cases, to wit, those transferred by the
Constitution to the General Government, the
general Executive is certainly preordinate:
e. g., in a question respecting the militia, and
others easily to be recollected. Were these,
therefore, to be a stiff adherence to etiquette,
I should say that in the former cases the
correspondence should be between the two
heads, and that in the latter, the Governor
must be subject to receive orders from the
War Department as any other subordinate
officer would. And were it observed that
either party set up unjustifiable pretensions,
perhaps the other might be right in opposing
them by a tenaciousness of his own rigorous
right. But I think the practice in General
Washington's administration was most
friendly to business, and was absolutely
equal. Sometimes he wrote to the Governors,
and sometimes the heads of departments
wrote. If a letter is to be on a general subject,
I see no reason why the President
should not write; but if it is to go into details,
these being known only to the head of
the department, it is better he should write
directly. Otherwise, the correspondence
must involve circuities. If this be practiced
promiscuously in both classes of cases, each
party setting examples of neglecting etiquette,
both will stand on equal ground, and convenience
alone will dictate through whom
any particular communication is to be made.
All the governors have freely corresponded
with the heads of departments, except Hancock,
who refused it. But his Legislature
took advantage of a particular case which
justified them in interfering, and they obliged
him to correspond with the head of a department.
General Washington sometimes wrote
to them. I presume Mr. Adams did, as you
mention his having written to you. On the
whole, I think a free correspondence best,
and shall never hesitate to write myself to
the Governors even in a federal case, where
the occasion presents itself to me particularly.—
To Governor Monroe. Washington ed. iv, 401. Ford ed., viii, 59.
(W. May. 1801)