NARA Staff Favorites- Online Records

We’ve loved reading your suggestions and comments about sharing NARA’s holdings on Flickr, and it’s been interesting to see which images people are marking as favorites. All of this got us wondering about which records NARA insiders are particularly fond of, so we asked a few of our experienced colleagues for their picks. This week’s contributor is:

Jessie Kratz, Archives Specialist- Center for Legislative Archives

“Message of President George Washington Requesting that the Senate Meet to Advise Him on the Terms of the Treaty to Be Negotiated with the Southern Indians, 08/21/1789”


I am an early American history junkie so most of my favorite documents are from the first Congress (1789-1791) when many constitutional practices were established. For instance, the Constitution gives the President the “power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties.” This first occurred in August of 1789 when President George Washington sent a message to the Senate asking “to advise with them” on a treaty with the Southern Indians (at that time the treaty-making process dictated relationships between American Indians and the US government).

On August 22nd Washington arrived at Federal Hall in New York City (then serving as the capital) with Secretary of War, Henry Knox, and they proceeded to read aloud a series of documents related to the various Southern Indian tribes. The incident was not recorded in the Senate Executive Journal, but Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania kept a diary and documented what transpired: apparently the noise from the Manhattan traffic below drowned out the reading of the documents. (I’ve often wondered what traffic noise sounded like in 1789—carriages, water carts, squealing pigs?)

As a result, the Senate decided to appoint a committee rather than debate the issue in front of the President which caused Washington to become visibly, and audibly, upset. But, after regaining his composure, Washington agreed to come back to receive the Senate’s advice. Shortly thereafter, however, Washington decided that all future dealings with the Senate with regards to treaties would be done in writing and by the end of his administration he simply submitted completed treaties for ratification. Washington’s irritation with the Senate and his decision on how to manage future treaty negotiations was based, in part, on a minor problem with traffic noise. As with many of Washington’s decisions, however, it set a precedent and became standard practice for all Presidents.

Record Citation:
Message of President George Washington Requesting that the Senate Meet to Advise Him on the Terms of the Treaty to Be Negotiated with the Southern Indians, 08/21/1789
ARC ID 306283
Textual Records of the U.S. Senate. (03/04/1789 – )
Center for Legislative Archives (NWL), Washington, DC
Item from Series: Anson McCook Collection of Presidential Signatures, compiled 1789 – 1975

One thought on “NARA Staff Favorites- Online Records

  1. Very interesting – are there more examples of precendents set by the first Congress a/o President Washington?

    Thanks, SAB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *