From James Madison
Philada. Jany. 31. 1796
I inclose a letter from Jno. Bringhurst explaining a claim on you for about £17. Pa. Currency, and requesting me to advance it. Taking him to be an honest man in distress, I shall probably venture a compliance with his solicitation, if it should be found that he cannot wait for your orders. In the mean time you can inform me whether the account be accurately stated: but if so, you need not forward the money, as it will be equally convenient to me to receive it in Virginia.
The original of the British Ratification of the Treaty is still to arrive, and we are not likely to be furnished with a copy. Some members are anxious to apply to the President for the communication, and some would take up the subject on its mere notoriety. It is pretty evident however, that either attempt would be defeated by the advantage which the rub against the P. in one case, and1 the informality in the other,2 would give to the friends of the Treaty, in the discussion, and the pretext they3 would afford to the insincere or cautious opponents. The Treaty with Spain also is not yet [arri]ved, tho’ there is reason for hourly expecting it. The same as to the [Treaty] with Algiers. You will see in the gazette inclosed a sketch of the debate on the proposition to employ Robinson of Petersburg as Stenographer to the House of Reps. The more the subject is opened, the more the objections are found to be insuperable. There is little doubt that the project will be rejected.
A committee of ways and means are employed in investigating our revenues and our wants. It is found that there are between six and seven millions of anticipations due to the Banks, that our ordinary income is barely at par with our ordinary expenditures, and that new taxes must be ready to meet near 1½ millions which will accrue in 1801. The proposition of the Treasury is to fund the anticipations and the foreign debt due in instalments, with an absolute4 irredeemability for such a period, say 20 or 30 years, as will sell the new Stock at par. This is treading as fast on the heels of G.B. as circumstances will permit. It is probable the House will not consent to such an abandonment of the sound5 principles it has been latterly favoring; but loans at least in some form or other will be indispensable, in order to face the demands on the public until6 new taxes can be brought into action. With respect to [this, t]he Committee are now in deliberation and embarrassments. The excise system is unproductive, and new excises that will be popular even in the Eastern States do not occur. On the other hand direct taxes have been so blackened in order to recom[mend] the fiscal policy of indirect ones, and to inspire hatred, and jealousies in the Eastern [against the Southern States, and particularly] Virginia, that it is doubtful whether the measure, now that it is become necessa[ry, will be born]e. Gallatin [is] a real Treasure in this department of legislation. He is sound in his principles, accurate in his calculations and indefatigable in his researches. Who could have supposed that Hamilton could have gone off in the triumph he assumed with such a condition of the finances behind him?
You will see that Govr. Adams has lanced a pretty bold attack against the Treaty. The Legislature have not yet answered his speech. Their unhandsome treatment of the Virga. amendments portends a countertone. Nothing could more than this treatment demonstrate the success with which party calumny has sown animosity and malignity in the State of Massts. against a State which feels no return of illwill, and towards Which there were formerly in that quarter the strongest habits of cordiality and cooperation. Yrs. always & affey.
Js. M. Jr
The navigation project of Genl. Smith waits for a favorable moment of discussion. The Treaty party would make war on it, as secretly levelled at that transaction, and thus endeavor to escape the consequences of sacrificing the obvious interests of the Eastern States.
RC (DLC: Madison Papers); with words torn away at seal and obscured by tape supplied in brackets from Madison, Letters description begins [William C. Rives and Philip R. Fendall, eds.], Letters and Other Writings of James Madison … Published by Order of Congress, Philadelphia, 1865, 4 vols. description ends , ii, 75–6; only the most important emendations are noted below; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Charlottesville Virginia via. Richmond”; franked, stamped and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Feb. 1796 and so recorded in SJL.
The enclosed letter, from John Bringhurst to Madison, has not been found. The gazette inclosed was probably Andrew Brown’s Philadelphia Gazette of 30 Jan. 1796, which carried the extensive debates in the House of Representatives on the previous day concerning the employment of David Robertson of Petersburg, Virginia, as stenographer. On 28 Jan. 1796, William Loughton Smith, of South Carolina, had reported on Robertson’s proposal to prepare accounts of House debates for the Philadelphia Gazette for $4,000 per session, with $1,100 to be paid by Brown and $2,900 by the government. On 2 Feb. 1796, the House agreed to discontinue further consideration of the matter (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , v, 271, 274–82, 286).
A standing committee of ways and means, of which Madison was a member, had been established by the House of Representatives on 21 Dec. 1795; it subsequently considered the estimates for 1796 previously submitted by Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., as well as matters pertaining to the national debt. Madison apparently was also chairman of a subcommittee that took up the question of direct taxes. The Pennsylvania Republican Albert Gallatin served on both of these committees (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1826, 9 vols. description ends , ii 385; Patrick J. Furlong, “The Origins of the House Committee of Ways and Means,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly, 1892- description ends , 3d ser., xxv , 594–600).
In his address before the General Court on 19 Jan. 1796, Governor Samuel Adams delivered a bold attack against the treaty, describing it as “pregnant with evil.” He asserted that the Jay Treaty assumed “powers specially vested in Congress for the security of the people,” and he feared “that it may restore to Great Britain such an influence over the government and people of this country as may not be consistent with the general welfare” (Philadelphia Aurora, 29 Jan. 1796). The Massachusetts legislature refused to endorse Adams’s criticism of the treaty in their answers to his speech (same, 3 Feb. 1796). On 19 Jan. the Massachusetts House and Senate refused to consider the amendments to the Constitution proposed by the Virginia legislature on 15 Dec. 1795 and then forwarded to the other states. The four amendments called for both houses of Congress to approve any treaty affecting the commerce power; for removal of impeachment trials from the Senate; for reduction of the terms of Senators from six to three years; and for the prohibition of federal judges from holding any other office or appointment (same, 29 Jan. 1796; Thomas J. Farnham, “The Virginia Amendments of 1795: An Episode in the Opposition to Jay’s Treaty,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1893- description ends , lxxv , 85–6; Shepherd, Statutes description begins Samuel Shepherd, ed., The Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806 …, Richmond, 1835–36, 3 vols. description ends , i, 434).
Navigation project of Genl. Smith: On 4 Jan. 1796, Congressman Samuel Smith of Maryland laid before the House of Representatives a resolution to make it unlawful “for any foreign ship or other vessel to land in the United States any goods, wares, or merchandise, except such as are of the produce, growth, or manufacture, of the nation to which such ship or other vessel may belong.” After a debate on 15 Jan. 1796 over committal of the resolution, it was agreed to bring the measure before the whole House on 20 Jan. 1796, but the consideration was postponed and it was not brought forth again during the session (Annals, description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends v, 195, 245–9; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , ii, 425).
1. Preceding ten words interlined.
2. Preceding three words interlined.
3. Reworked from “it.”
4. Preceding word interlined.
5. Preceding word interlined.
6. Remainder of text is written lengthwise in margin and then continues perpendicular to first part of the letter.