Senatorial Saucer

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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The following story about a meeting between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington has been repeated many times:

It is said that when Jefferson returned from France he was breakfasting with Washington, and asked him why he agreed to a Senate.

"Why," said Washington, "did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer before drinking it?"

"To cool it," said Jefferson; "my throat is not made of brass."

"Even so," said Washington, "we pour our legislation into the Senatorial saucer to cool it."

To date, no evidence has surfaced that such a conversation actually took place. The earliest known appearance of this story is in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1884 (the transcription above is from this source).[1] It was repeated by M.D. Conway in his Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph, first published in 1888.[2] Since then, the story has appeared many times in print, usually prefaced by the phrase, "the story goes..." or something similar.

Footnotes

  1. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "The Birth of a Nation," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, January, 1884, 242. Available online in Cornell University's Making of America archive at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/moa-cgi?notisid=ABK4014-0068&byte=124245405.
  2. M.D. Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1888).