Today’s post is written by Jackie Kilby, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
After a meeting with President George Washington in Mount Vernon on October 1, 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson rode off to Alexandria. It was only later that day did he realize he “unfortunately dropped… some papers… [on] the road between Mount Vernon and Alexandria,” as stated in his letter to James Madison. At this time Madison was a Representative in the House for the State of Virginia.
On October 7, 1792, President George Washington received a package from a neighbor, who so graciously returned Jefferson’s papers that were “found in the Road.” Washington sent one letter in the stack of papers to the Alexandria post office, and then forwarded the rest to Jefferson to “relieve [Jefferson’s] anxiety.”
The letter that Washington had mailed to the Alexandria post office was from James Madison to Daniel Carroll, a plantation owner and former Continental Congressman from Maryland. It is unknown what this letter contained, but in the preceding and following letters between Madison and Carroll, they discussed current situations with the Federal City [Washington, D.C.], Carroll’s possible return to the Maryland State Government as a Legislator, and even the public debt incurred by the newly formed Government. So it can be assumed the letter mailed off by Washington contained information of a sensitive, but not confidential, nature. Soon after Jefferson lost the letters, he informed Carroll of the dropped papers and that a letter from Madison was among them. Carroll then wrote to Madison on October 1, 1792, saying he was aware that Jefferson lost Madison’s most recent letter, and that the letter would “probably be recovered.”  Continue reading