To admit then a right in the House of Representatives to demand, and to have as a matter of course, all the Papers respecting a negotiation with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent. It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for, can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution has not expressed. I repeat, that I have no disposition to withhold any information which the duty of my station will permit, or the public good shall require to be disclosed: and in fact, all the Papers affecting the negotiation with Great Britain were laid before the Senate, when the Treaty itself was communicated for their consideration and advice. The course which the debate has taken, on the resolution of the House, leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the Constitution of the United States.
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Source Notes: Source: President GEORGE WASHINGTON, address to the House of Representatives, March 30, 1796.The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 35, p. 3 .Washington refused to provide papers relating to the Jay Treaty, since the assent of the House was unnecessary.
George Washington was commander in chief of the Continental army during the American Revolution and first president of the United States (1789-97).