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Catalog Number 2015.02.0044
Object Name Letter
Date 1790
Title 1790 August 11 John Brown to James Brown
Scope & Content Letter from John Brown (New York, NY) to James Brown. This letter from John to his brother James describes a meeting with President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson about free navigation of the Mississippi River. Washington wished to claim the river, then controlled by Spain, for the United States. Access to the river was a concern in the bid for Kentucky statehood, another topic that John implies was discussed. At Washington's recommendation, the First U.S. Congress accepted Kentucky's statehood petition and passed an act on February 4, 1791, admitting Kentucky to the Union.

[Transcription]

11th August 1790 N York

Dear Brother

Congress adjourns this day to meet again on the 1st Dec. in Philad.a - you will readily concur how desirable a relaxation must be after Seven Months constant attention to Business - I enclose you a list of the Acts passed this Session. When printed I shall take the earliest oppy to forward both them & the Journals to you - The inclosed Gazette contains the Act funding the public Debt - The assumption of 21.500000 Dolls. of the State debts was carried by a small majority & was effected by a Bargain three or four members agreeing to Vote for the measure provided the permanent seat of the Government near or [?ed] on the Potomack R. Bland Lee & White of our state were of the number I will trouble you with no observations upon this subject as the Gazette heretofore sent you contained is fully the arguments on both sides of the question - I send an Estimate of Annual Interest on the original debt with the ways & means - it is expected revenue sufficient for the payment of the interest will be raised without having recourse to direct taxes. An act has passed appropriating one million of Dolls. was in the public Treasury for the purchase of Certs. in the market & the President is authorized to borrow two million more to be applied to the same purpose. The design of this measure is not only to reduce the Capital of the debt but also to raise Securities to their full value & thereby put a stop to the purchase of them by Foreigners at a great discount. The proceeds of the sales which shall be made of the western Lands are also to be appropriated towards sinking the public Debt. An Act opening a Land Office will I expect be one of the first passed at next Session.

We have not as yet any further information relative to the expected War between Engd &Spain than contained in my last letter except that very great preparations are making by both & that both display a strong dispassion for war. The British Packet has been expected for some time past by her we shall probably have decisive information. The President considers this as a favorable moment to urge our claim to the Right of Navigating the Mississippi & has in the most explicit terms declared his determination to take the most effectual measures for obtaining that important object & for perpetuating the Union between this & the Western Country. -- I am sorry that I cannot be more explicit in my communications to you upon this subject. None but Mr. Jefferson - a gentn who proceeds immediately to Madrid & myself have been admitted to confer with the President on this head - all therefore I am now at liberty to say is that should the plan proposed succeed the result must prove highly satisfactory to the Western People.

A Treaty was this day concluded with WGilory & the Creek Chiefs. It has not as yet been published and some of the Articles am told are to be kept secret I am informed by the Secretary of War that it is as advantageous as could be desired.

I do not now expect to return to Kentucke before March next the time between this and the next session being too short to admit of my making a stay in that Country so long as to compensate for the fatigue and risk of the journey. I therefore shall take this leisure time to visit such parts of the States as I have not yet seen & expect to set out in about an hours time with one or two very agreeable friends for Albany & shall proceed from thence into Vermont & perhaps into Canada - should I not go into Canada my return will be in three or four weeks & in that case perhaps I may visit my Virga Relations.-- However write to me as frequently as usual and inclose them to Sam. in Staunton. I will give him directions how to forward them to me.

I will write you as frequently as private oppys of Conveyance offer. As my privilege of franking ceases after today.-- I wish you would let me know what necessaries you may want as I can get them so much cheaper & better for you in Philad than they can be had in Kentucke & will have an oppy of sending them to you this fall. I shall also have Cash to spare & if my affairs in Kentucke or yours require a remittance from me I beg you to let me know it. -- Let me know what A Breckinridge has done about the Lands I purchased from Quirk. -- I also wish you to make some enquiry about my Military locations on the Continental Line. -- If you find the land has been taken by a prior Entry get Col. Buford & Col. Taylor to assign the Warrants to me & get them located between the Scioto & Miami. -

I write this in my place in the House amidst that confusion which always precedes an adjournment therefore need make no other apology. -- I am in good health & intirely yours

J. Brown

Ja Brown Esq.

People John Brown
James Brown
A Breckinridge
Thomas Jefferson
Colonel Buford
Colonel Taylor
W Gilory
George Washington
Alexander McGillivray
Search Terms Free Navigation of the Mississippi
Federal assumption of state debts
Sale of western lands
War with Spain
Creek Indians
Potomac River
Scioto River
Miami River
Mississippi River
Land patents
Kentucy Statehood