This volume is described on the opening page as “A memorandum or journal of Letters &ca. which have been submitted to the President of the United States by the Heads of the Departments, for his perusal or approbation.” In effect it is an executive daybook, a day-by-day account of many of the matters that engaged the attention of the executive departments during Washington’s administration.
The entries cover Washington’s decisions on government contracts, appointments of office, and individual departmental problems. They throw considerable light on presidential and cabinet participation in decision-making during Washington’s administration. Entries relating to the War Department are of particular value because of the destruction of most of the War Department’s records by fire in 1800. The Journal also reveals presidential thinking on diplomatic matters, Indian affairs, and patents. It is particularly important because Washington’s personal diaries for most of this period have never been found.
Kept primarily by Washington’s secretaries Tobias Lear and Bartholomew Dandridge, the Journal is written in the first person as if Washington were penning the entries himself. Extensively annotated, it is most comprehensive for 1793, the year of the neutrality crisis precipitated by the activities of Edmond Genet and the most critical period of Washington’s administration.
Dorothy Twohig, ed., et al. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President 1793 – 1797. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1981.
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