Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 21 September 1795

To James Madison

Monticello Sep. 21. 95.

Th:J. to J.M.

I recieved about three weeks ago a box containing 6. doz. volumes of 283. pages 12mo. with a letter from Lambert, Beckley’s clerk, that they came from Mr. Beckley and were to be divided between yourself, J. Walker, and myself. I have sent 2 doz. to J. Walker, and shall be glad of a conveyance for yours. In the mean time I send you by post the title page, table of contents, and one of the pieces, Curtius, lest it should not have come to you otherwise. It is evidently written by Hamilton, giving a first and general view of the subject that the public mind might be kept a little in check till he could resume the subject more at large, from the beginning, under his second signature of Camillus. The piece called ‘the Features of the treaty’ I do not send because you have seen it in the newspapers. It is said to be written by Coxe, but I should rather suspect by Beckley. The antidote is certainly not strong enough for the poison of Curtius. If I had not been informed the present came from Beckly, I should have suspected it from Jay or Hamilton. I gave a copy or two by way of experiment to honest sound hearted men of common understanding, and they were not able to parry the sophistry of Curtius. I have ceased therefore to give them. Hamilton is really a colossus to the antirepublican party. Without numbers, he is an host within himself. They have got themselves into a defile, where they might be finished; but too much security on the Republican part, will give time to his talents and indefatigableness to extricate them. We have had only midling performances to oppose to him. In truth, when he comes forward, there is nobody but yourself who can meet him. His adversaries having begun the attack, he has the advantage of answering them, and remains unanswered himself. A solid reply might yet completely demolish what was too feebly attacked, and has gathered strength from the weakness of the attack. The merchants were certainly (except those of them who are English) as open-mouthed at first1 against the treaty as any. But the general expression of indignation has alarmed them for the strength of the government. They have feared the shock would be too great, and have chosen to tack about and support both treaty and government, rather than risk the government: thus it is that Hamilton, Jay &c. in the boldest act they ever ventured on to undermine the constitution2 have the address to screen themselves and direct the hue and cry against those who wished to drag them into light. A bolder party-stroke was never struck. For it certainly is an attempt of a party which finds they have lost their majority in one branch of the legislature to make a law by the aid of the other branch, and of the executive, under color of a treaty, which shall bind up the hands of the adverse branch from ever restraining the commerce of their patron-nation. There appears a pause at present in the public sentiment, which may be followed by a revulsion. This is the effect3 of the desertion of the merchants, of the President’s chiding answer to Boston and Richmond, of the writings of Curtius and Camillus, and of the quietism into which the people naturally fall, after first sensations are over. For god’s sake take up your pen, and give a fundamental reply to Curtius and Camillus.

Mr. Randolph and my daughter will be back from the springs in the ensuing week. He is almost entirely recovered by the use of the sweet springs. I expect the execution of your promise to bring Mrs. Madison to see us, with whom we should all be glad to get acquainted. I would have been with you before this, but that I have had almost constant threats of rheumatism so obstinately fixed in it’s seat as to render it imprudent for me to move much. Adieu affectionately.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange court house”; stamped; with several emendations, only the most important being noted below. PrC (DLC); lacks one emendation (see note 2 below).

The box TJ received with the letter from Lambert—probably William Lambert to TJ of 31 Aug. 1795, recorded in SJL as received from Richmond on 11 Sep. 1795 but not found—contained copies of Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, Conditionally Ratified by the Senate of the United States, at Philadelphia, June 24, 1795. To Which Is Annexed, a Copious Appendix, published by Mathew Carey in Philadelphia on 12 Aug. 1795 (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 505). Along with the pieces cited by TJ, the table of contents includes addresses, resolutions, and memorials against the treaty from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and several other cities; the protreaty address of the merchants of New York and the resolutions of the New York Chamber of Commerce; prior treaties of the United States with France and Great Britain; and various executive and congressional documents, including Madison’s resolutions on commercial discrimination of 3 Jan. 1794. The twelve essays by Curtius, included in the pamphlet as “Vindication of the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, with Great Britain,” were written by Noah Webster in collaboration with James Kent, not by Alexander Hamilton as TJ conjectured, and first appeared in Webster’s New York American Minerva between 18 July and 5 Aug. 1795. At several points, “Curtius” cited documents written by TJ to indicate that his ideas had been incorporated into the treaty. In his eighth essay, for example, “Curtius” reprinted TJ’s letter to Edmond Charles Genet of 24 July 1793—which had declared that “by the general law of nations, the goods of a friend found in the vessel of an enemy are free, and the goods of an enemy found in the vessel of a friend are lawful prize”—and argued that Article 17 of the treaty, by making enemy goods on a friendly vessel lawful prize, reiterated the same concept. Quoting in his eleventh article from TJ’s Report on Commerce of 16 Dec. 1793, which had stated that American trade with British dominions in Europe rested upon an uncertain annual proclamation, “Curtius” contended that the treaty changed the “precarious privilege” into a right (American Minerva, 29 July, 4 Aug. 1795; Young, Democratic Republicans, 455–6n). Features of the treaty: the essays originally published in Dunlap & Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser between 18 July and 7 Aug. 1795 as “Features of Mr. Jay’s Treaty,” which were written by Alexander J. Dallas, not Tench Coxe or John Beckley as TJ assumed, and subsequently published in various pamphlets (see Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends Nos. 28527, 29757, 31172). President’s chiding answer to Boston and Richmond: Washington to the Selectmen of Boston, [28 July 1795], stating that the Constitution gave the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the power to make treaties, doubtless under the supposition that they would not “substitute for their own conviction the opinions of others,” but rather would seek the truth only through “a temperate and well-informed investigation.” The letter served as a prototype for Washington’s replies to other protests against the treaty, including that of Richmond (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxiv., 252–4n).

1Preceding two words interlined.

2Preceding word interlined in place of “government.” PrC lacks emendation.

3TJ here canceled “partly.”

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