Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Carrington, 14 May 1788

From Edward Carrington

New York May 14. 1788

My Dear Sir

Mr. Barlow of Connecticut will have the Honor to call on you with this letter. I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with him but his Literary Talents have considerably distinguished him as a poetical as well as prose writer, and he is introduced to me as a Gentleman deserving your countenance. Permit me to recommend him to your attention and civilities. He conducts to the Marquis de La Fayette, the Eldest son of our illustrious Friend Genl. Greene, who is sent at the particular request of that Noble Man, to receive his education under his direction in France. I have given the little Fellow a few lines to you and directed him to deliver them in person. It is unnecessary for me to solicit for him the attention of one who so well knew his Father.

I had the pleasure to write you pretty fully on the 25th.1 Ult. by Mr. Paradise, since which no event has taken place except the adoption of the Constitution in Maryland, by a Majority of 63 against 11. South Carolina is now sitting and the general countenance of intelligence from thence, is much in favor of the Measure. There seems to be no doubt entertained of an adoption by a considerable Majority. Would this be the case it will give eight States. Virginia being the next to set will meet under very critical circumstances, because upon her decision will, in my opinion, depend not the fate of the Measure, but whether some degree of convulsion shall, or shall not, attend its Maturation. It will have2 gone too far to be retracted, and even Virginia herself, should she in the first instance reject, must afterwards come in. Indeed New Hampshire will certainly accede when she re-assembles, and compleate the Nine for giving action to the project, but a decision in the Negative in Virga. would, in one moment, give additional life to the Minority in Pensylvania, whose opposition has taken a stubborn stand, and the appeal may in that quarter, be to the sword, nor will I venture a conjecture upon the effect such an effort there, will have amongst the opposers in Virginia. I hope, however, that the possibility of a calamity of this sort, will have its effect on some of the more wise in the opposition, and incline them to adopt rather than run such a hazard. Should Virga. adopt, we shall at once have a Government, the issue of a thorough revolution, without the violent means which have uniformly been requisite for the like events elsewhere. I pray God we may exhibit to the world this instance of our superior wisdom and benevolence.

I do myself the pleasure to send you by Mr. Barlow a volume containing a Number of Periodical papers which have been written in this City upon the occasion of the Constitution. They are written, it is supposed, by Messrs. Madison, Jay and Hamilton. The Numbers run to as many more, the remainder are to form a second vol. which will be published in a few weeks. I will do myself the pleasure to send it to you as soon as it is done.

Mr. Madison, in a Letter which he wrote me a few days ago, requested me to obtain the first and second volumes of the Philosophical Transactions of the society in Philada. and forward them to you. Upon enquiry I find that the 1st. vol. is not in print, having been destroyed during the War. The second I have got the favor of Mr. Barlow to take with him for you. I am told the 1st. is to be reprinted. When it is done we will take care to forward it to you. During Mr. Madisons absence in Virginia I am aware of your dependance upon me for regular information upon the progress of the business of the constitution and shall omit no opportunity of writing.

I have the Honor to be, My dr. Sir with the most sincere regard Yr. Friend & Hble St.,

Ed. Carrington


Joel Barlow of Connecticut—“an admirable man, of an excellent Character, and his Intentions are most pure,” John Adams had written on 4 Sep. 1787 in explaining to the Russian ambassador that Barlow wanted to present a copy of the Vision of Columbus to the Empress (AMT:MHi)—arrived at Le Havre on 24 June 1788, ambitious to make his fame in literary circles and also to promote land sales for the Ohio Company. He remained in Europe seventeen years, achieved more success in the former object than in the latter, and emerged as a full-blown libertarian, as symbolized by the fact that it was he who, on Paine’s imprisonment in Paris, took the manuscript of The Age of Reason and saw to its publication. He was the guardian on this trip of George Washington Greene, son of Genl. Greene and godson of Washington, who was on his way, at Lafayette’s desire, to be educated in France, just as Lafayette’s Indian protégé, Peter Otsiquette, was returning to America. TJ, Short, Barlow, and Lafayette planned the education of young Greene, who was placed in the Pension Lemoine, across the street from the Hôtel de Langeac, where Crèvecoeur’s two sons were already enrolled. Lafayette hoped that his own son, also a namesake and godson of Washington, would complete his education in America, but this well-intended cultural interchange had disappointing results: the turbulence of French politics detained young Lafayette, Greene was killed in a hunting accident soon after returning to America, and Peter Otsiquette soon sloughed off the astonishing veneer of French, English, and music that he had acquired, returned to the ways of his people, and became a hard drinker (Gottschalk, Lafayette, 1783–89, p. 404–5).—A more enduring part of American thought and culture that Barlow brought to Paris was the first of the two-volume collection of essays by Messrs. Madison, Jay and Hamilton,—The Federalist. The copy of this first volume that Carrington sent (see TJ’s comment to Madison, 18 Nov. 1788), if it survives, is not now identifiable; the copy that remains among TJ’s books in DLC is one with an interesting provenance, for it bears on its two title-pages the signature of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, and above one of these signatures has the inscription: “For Mrs. Church from her sister.” On a fly-leaf of this volume TJ wrote the following which may have been based upon conversations with Madison, but which is not wholly in accord either with Madison’s claims or with the findings of historians:

“No. by Mr. Jay. No. by Mr. Madison.

The rest of the work by Alexander Hamilton”

(see Sowerby, description begins Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, compiled with annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby, Washington, 1952–55 description ends No. 3021 for a description and for illustrations showing Mrs. Hamilton’s signature on one title-page and TJ’s annotations). Alexander Hamilton, two days before his duel with Burr, “concealed,” in a volume of The Federalist in Egbert Benson’s office, being certain that it would be found, a list in his own handwriting containing his own attributions of authorship, though a few months earlier, in the full vigor of life and of political expectations, he had opposed the idea of identifying the author of each number in a new edition of The Federalist; this list reads: “Nos. 2,3,4,5,54, by J. Nos. 10,14,37, to 48 inclusive, M. Nos. 18, 19, 20, M.& H. jointly. All the others by H.” On the basis of this Benson list, The Federalist was issued in 1810 as the second and third volumes of the collected works of Hamilton, assigning major credit to him for originating and executing the idea of Publius’ essays and attributing to him authorship of sixty-three out of the total of eighty-five essays. Madison himself claimed, in a “true distribution of the numbers of the Federalist among the three writers,” furnished by him in 1818 to Jacob Gideon who brought out an edition of The Federalist that year, to be author of twenty-nine of the essays, instead of the fourteen attributed to him in the Benson list. Ten editions published between 1818 and 1857 followed the Madison rather than the Hamilton designations, but with the Civil War the great classic suffered another sea-change as it had in the years immediately following Hamilton’s death: Hamilton’s list, rejected for forty years, was again restored to favor, a fact “directly correlated with the see-saw of prestige between these two interpreters of the Constitution, depending upon whether agrarian or capitalistic interests were politically dominant in the country,” but helped along in the process by the prodding hand of Henry Cabot Lodge as editor of The Works of Alexander Hamilton (1884), whose acceptance of the Benson list was characterized by “self-contradiction, distortion of his data, and sins of documentary omission.” Lodge’s conclusion that “Hamilton’s authority is shown to be six times as good as that of Madison” was, in spite of these defects and in spite of E. G. Bourne’s shattering blows as early as 1896, nevertheless accepted by some usually careful modern scholars. This is no longer possible in the light of the brilliant essay by Douglass Adair, “The Authorship of the Disputed Federalist Papers,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 3rd ser., i (1944), 97–122, 235–64), from which the foregoing facts and quotations are drawn. Adair concludes that Publius “spoke with a Virginia accent in the controversial essays, and that James Madison undoubtedly wrote every number he claimed in the Gideon list.” His conclusions, supported by irrefutable evidence and objective reasoning, should set at rest permanently the long, politically-tinged controversy. See also Madison to TJ, 10 Aug. 1788.

1Thus in MS; it should be “the 24th.”

2Carrington first wrote “has,” then deleted it and wrote “will have.”

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