Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 5 April 1798

To James Madison

Philadelphia Apr. 5. 98.

I wrote you last on the 29th. ult. since which I have no letter from you. these acknolegements regularly made and attended to will shew whether any of my letters are intercepted, and the impression of my seal on wax (which shall be constant hereafter) will discover whether they are opened by the way. the nature of some of my communications furnishes ground of inquietude for their safe conveyance. the bill for the federal buildings labors hard in Senate, tho’ to lessen opposition the Maryland Senator himself proposed to reduce the 200,000 D. to one third of that sum. Sedgwick & Hillhouse violently opposed it. I conjecture that the votes will be either 13 for & 15 against it, or 14 & 14. every member declares he means to go there, but tho’ charged with an intention to come away again not one of them disavowed it. this will engender incurable distrust.—the debate on mr Sprigg’s resolutions has been interrupted by a motion to call for papers. this was carried by a great majority. in this case, there appeared a separate squad, to wit the Pinckney interest, which is a distinct thing, and will be seen sometimes to lurch the President. it is in truth the Hamilton party, whereof P. is only made the stalking horse. the papers have been sent in & read, & it is now under debate in both houses whether they shall be published. I write in the morning, & if determined in the course of the day in favor of publication, I will add in the evening a general idea of their character. private letters from France by a late vessel which sailed from Havre Feb. 5. assure us that France classing us in her measures with the Swedes & Danes, has no more notion of declaring war against us than them. you will see a letter in Bache’s paper of yesterday which came addressed to me. still the fate of Sprigg’s resolutions seems in perfect equilibrio.—you will see in Fenno two numbers of a paper signed Marcellus. they promise much mischief, and are ascribed, without any difference of opinion, to Hamilton. you must, my dear Sir, take up your pen against this champion. you know the ingenuity of his talents, & there is not a person but yourself who can foil him. for heaven’s sake then, take up your pen, and do not desert the public cause altogether.

Thursday evening. The Senate have to-day voted the publication of the communications from our envoys. the House of Repr. decided against the publication by a majority of 75. to 24. the Senate adjourned over tomorrow (good Friday) to Saturday morning: but as the papers cannot be printed within that time, perhaps the vote of the H. of R. may induce the Senate to reconsider theirs. for this reason I think it my duty to be silent on them. Adieu.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange court house”; franked. PrC (DLC).

The committee in charge of the bill for the federal buildings was chaired by Maryland senator James Lloyd (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:459). A printed copy of the bill passed by the House on 20 Mch. 1798 can be found in the Senate records. On it the “two hundred thousand” is canceled with “66,666” interlined above it, perhaps in TJ’s hand. The final clauses, which appropriated the $200,000 over three years from 1798 to 1800 at $66,667 per annum, are also deleted (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 5th Cong., 2d sess.; on verso in clerk’s hand: “An act making appropriations for completing…” and “Messrs. Lloyd & others 5 Cong: 2 Sess:”; with the following appearing in TJ’s hand: “buildings Washington. Mar. 20th. Read 1st. passed to 2d. 21st. read 2d. and refd. to Comme 28. reported. lie on table Apr. 2. made order of day for Wedn. 4th. Apr. 4. taken up. postponed 5. taken up. & postponed. 9. amended & passed to 3d. reading 10. read 3d. & recommitted”). For the passage of the bill see note to TJ to Madison, 29 Mch. 1798.

For an analysis of the joint Federalist and Republican call for papers, see Dauer, Adams Federalists description begins Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists, Baltimore, 1953 description ends , 141–2. For the publication of the letters from the envoys to France, see TJ to John Wayles Eppes, 11 Apr. 1798. late vessel: the brig James from Le Havre arrived in New York on 28 Mch. (Philadelphia Gazette, 30 Mch. 1798). For the letter in Bache’s paper, see Editorial Note and group of documents on Jefferson, the Aurora, and Delamotte’s letter from France, at 23 Jan. 1798. No evidence has been found to prove that Hamilton wrote the two numbers by marcellus that appeared in John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States on 31 Mch. Five days later, however, the same newspaper began publishing articles entitled “The Stand” under the signature “Titus Manlius,” which Hamilton was submitting to the New York Commercial Advertiser (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 21:381–7).

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