To James Madison
Philadelphia. May. 3. 98.
I wrote you last on the 26th. since which yours of the 22d. of April is recieved acknowleging mine of the 12th. so that all appear to have been recieved to that date. the spirit kindled up in the towns is wonderful. these and N. Jersey are pouring in their addresses offering life & fortune. even these addresses are not the worst things. for indiscreet declarations and expressions of passion may be pardoned to a multitude acting from the impulse of the moment. but we cannot expect a foreign nation to shew that apathy to the answers of the President, which are more Thrasonic than the addresses. whatever chance for peace might have been left us after the publication of the dispatches is compleatly lost by these answers. nor is it France alone but his own fellow-citizens against whom his threats are uttered. in Fenno of yesterday you will see one wherein he says to the Address from Newark ‘the delusions & misrepresentations, which have misled so many citizens, must be discountenanced by authority as well as by the citizens at large,’ evidently alluding to those letters from the representatives to their constituents which they have been in the habit of seeking after & publishing. while those sent by the Tory part of the house to their constituents are ten times more numerous, & replete with the most atrocious falsehoods & calumnies. what new law they will propose on this subject has not yet leaked out. the citizen bill sleeps. the alien bill proposed by the Senate has not yet been brought in. that proposed by the H. of R. has been so moderated that it will not answer the passionate purposes of the war-gentlemen. whether therefore the Senate will push their bolder plan, I know not. the provisional army does not go down so smoothly in the R. as it did in the Senate. they are whitling away some of it’s choice ingredients. particularly that of transferring their own constitutional discretion over the raising of armies to the President. a commee of the R. have struck out his discretion, and hang the raising of the men on the contingencies of invasion, insurrection, or declaration of war. were all our members here the bill would not pass. but it will probably as the house now is. it’s expence is differently estimated from 5. to 8. millions of dollars a year. their purposes before voted require 2. millions above all the other taxes, which therefore are voted to be raised on lands, houses, & slaves. the provisional army will be additional to this. the threatening appearances from the Alien bills have so alarmed the French who are among us that they are going off. a ship chartered by themselves for this purpose will sail within about a fortnight for France with as many as she can carry. among these I believe will be Volney, who has in truth been the principal object aimed at by the law. notwithstanding the unfavorableness of the late impressions, it is believed the New York elections, which are over, will give us two or three republicans more than we now have, but it is supposed Jay is re-elected. it is said Hamilton declines coming to the Senate. he very soon stopped his Marcellus. it was rather the sequel that was feared than what actually appeared. he comes out on a different plan in his Titus Manlius, if that be really his. the appointments to the Missisipi territory were so abominable that the Senate could not swallow them. they referred them to a commee to enquire into characters, and the P. withdrew the nomination, & has now named Winthrop Serjeant Governor, Steele of Augusta in Virginia, Secretary, Tilton & two of the judges, the other not yet named. as there is nothing material now to be proposed, we generally expect to rise in about three weeks. however I do not yet venture to order my horses. my respectful salutations to mrs Madison. to yourself affectionate friendship & Adieu.
Perhaps the P’s expression, before quoted, may look to the Sedition bill which has been spoken of, and which may be meant to put the Printing presses under the Imprimatur of the Executive. Bache is thought a main object of it.—Cabot of Massachusets is appointed Secretary of the navy.—it is said Hamilton declines coming to the Senate.
RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange courthouse”; franked. PrC (DLC); lacks final sentence of postscript.
Many of the New Jersey addresses offering life & fortune were sent to Congress as well as to President Adams. Senator Richard Stockton presented the first from Princeton and Kingston on 23 Apr. and others on 30 Apr., 1, 10, 15, 16, and 21 May, the last being signed by 700 inhabitants of Elizabeth pledging “to aid their country against the machinations of its enemies, and in support of the national councils” (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:476, 482, 483, 487, 489, 491). The address from the 5 May meeting at New Brunswick, delivered on 10 May, was specifically addressed to the president of the Senate (MS in DNA: RG 46, Senate Reccords, 5th Cong., 2d sess.). For a review of the addresses, see Thomas M. Ray, “‘Not One Cent for Tribute’: The Public Addresses and American Popular Reaction to the XYZ Affair, 1798–1799,” Journal of the Early Republic, 3 (1983), 389–412. On 2 May the Gazette of the United States printed three of the president’s answers to addresses, one dated 27 Apr. in response to an address from Georgetown and the other two dated 1 May in response to addresses from Bridgeton and Newark, New Jersey. In his response to the address from Newark Adams noted that the misrepresentations, which have misled so many citizens, were “very serious evils.”
On 25 Apr. William Cobbett published two circular letters sent by Virginia representatives to their constituents, the first by Matthew Clay dated 15 Feb. and the second by Anthony New dated 20 Mch. Cobbett described the letters as “false and inflammatory epistles” designed “to keep alive an attachment to France, and a disaffection to the Federal government.” He compared them to the earlier circular letter attributed to William Findley printed in Porcupine’s Gazette on 12 Apr. (see John Page to TJ, 26 Apr. 1798). On 30 Apr. Cobbett printed a fourth Republican circular letter, dated 6 Apr. 1798, from Virginia Representative Samuel J. Cabell. Cobbett noted that this letter deserved special attention because it was written after the publication of the dispatches from the United States envoys and indicated the grounds on which the “French faction” hoped “to justify themselves in the eyes of their constituents.”
Alien bill proposed by the senate: the act originating in the upper house concerning aliens, known as the Alien Friends Act, allowed the president, in times of peace or war, to order all aliens “as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” to leave the country. If evidence satisfactory to the executive were presented indicating that the targeted alien was not a threat, the president could issue a license allowing the person to stay. Without a special license, the suspected alien had to depart by the appointed day or face imprisonment for up to three years. An unlawful return to the United States after deportation called for imprisonment as long as the president thought the public safety required it. The legislation also required the captains of incoming vessels to provide a list of all aliens on board (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:570–2). For a description of the original more arbitrary and rigorous bill presented by the Senate committee on 4 May—the complete text of which was published in the Philadelphia Aurora four days later—and for a detailed examination of the passage of the legislation that was approved on 25 June 1798, see Smith, Freedom’s Fetters description begins James Morton Smith, Freedom’s Fetters: The Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties, Ithaca, N.Y., 1956 description ends , 50–5, 58–93. For the bill proposed by the House of Representatives that became the Alien Enemies Act, see same, 35–49. As approved on 6 July, this bill provided guidelines for the removal of enemy aliens upon an invasion or declaration of war (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:577–8).
George Cabot of Massachusetts declined Adams’s appointment of 1 May. The Senate, on 21 May, approved the president’s second nomination to the post, Benjamin Stoddert of Maryland (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , 1:272,275–6).