To James Madison
Philadelphia. Jan. 16. 1799.
The forgery lately attempted to be plaid off by mr H. on the house of representatives, of a pretended memorial presented by Logan to the French government, has been so palpably exposed as to have thrown ridicule on the whole of the clamours they endeavored to raise as to that transaction. still however their majority will pass the bill. the real views in the importance they have given to Logan’s enterprize are mistaken by nobody. mr Gerry’s communications relative to his transactions after the departure of his collegues, tho’ he has now been returned 5. months, & they have been promised to the house 6. or 7. weeks, are still kept back. in the mean time the paper of this morning promises them from the Paris papers. it is said they leave not a possibility to doubt the sincerity & the anxiety of the French government to avoid the spectacle of a war with us. notwithstanding this is well understood, the army, & a great addition to our navy are steadily intended. a loan of 5. millions is opened at 8. per cent interest! in a rough way we may state future expences thus annually, Navy 5 ½ millions (exclusive of it’s outfit) army (14,000 men) 6 ½ millions, interest of national debt (I believe) about 4. millions, interest of the new loan 400,000. which with the expences of government will make an aggregate of about 18,000,000. all our taxes this year have brought in about 10 ½ millions, to which the direct tax will add 2. millions, leaving a deficit of between 5 & 6. millions. still no addition to the taxes will be ventured on at this session. it is pretty evident from the proceedings to get at the measure & number of windows in our houses that a tax on air & light is meditated, but I suppose not till the next session. the bankrupt bill was yesterday rejected by a majority of three. the determinations of the British commissioners under the treaty (who are 3. against 2. of ours) are so extravagant, that about 3. days ago ours protested & seceded. it was said yesterday they had come together again. the demands which will be allowed on the principles of the British majority will amount to from 15. to 20. millions of Dollars. it is not believed that our government will submit to it, & consequently that this must again become a subject of negociation. it is very evident the British are using that part of the treaty merely as a political engine.-notwithstanding the pretensions of the papers of the danger & destruction of Buonaparte, nothing of that is believed. it seems probable that he will establish himself in Egypt, and that that is, at present at least, his ultimate object. Ireland also is considered as more organised in her insurrection and stronger than she has been hitherto.-as yet no tobacco has come to this market. at New York the new tobo. is at 13. D. Georgia has sent on a greater quantity than had been imagined, and so improved in quality as to take place of that of Maryland & the Carolinas. it is at 11. D. while they are about 10. immense sums of money now go to Virginia. every stage is loaded. this is partly to pay for last year’s purchases, & partly for the new.-in a society of members between whom & yourself is great mutual esteem & respect, a most anxious desire is expressed that you would publish your debates of the Convention. that these measures of the army, navy & direct tax will bring about a revulsion of public sentiment is thought certain. & that the constitution will then recieve a different explanation. could those debates be ready to appear critically, their effect would be decisive. I beg of you to turn this subject in your mind. the arguments against it will be personal; those in favor of it moral; and something is required from you as a set-off against the sin of your retirement.-your favor of Dec. 29. came to hand Jan. 5. seal sound. I pray you always to examine the seals of mine to you, & the strength of the impression. the suspicions against the government on this subject are strong. I wrote you Jan. 5. accept for yourself & mrs Madison my affectionate salutations & Adieu.
RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “James madison junr. near Orange courthouse”; franked, stamped, and postmarked. PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink at foot of first page.
Mr H.: Robert Goodloe Harper. On 10 Jan. 1799 during debate on the bill that became known as the Logan Act, Harper introduced a paper transmitted through unofficial channels that he identified as being “presented to the French Government by an American citizen who was lately in France.” Harper’s language implied that the paper was a memorial presented by Logan to Talleyrand. In debate the next day Gallatin reported that Logan had assured him that although he had neither written nor presented the paper read by Harper he recognized it as one given to him by Richard Codman, a Boston merchant in Paris, with the request that he present it to the French government as his own. Logan refused, and he returned the document to Codman a few days later. On 14 Jan. Logan disavowed the memorial in writing and identified Congressman Harrison Gray Otis as one of Codman’s correspondents and the probable source of the document (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 , 9:2619–26, 2643–4, 2703–4; Philadelphia Aurora, 14, 15 Jan. 1799). For support of the assertion that Logan was the author of the memorial, see Samuel Eliot Morison, The Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis, 2 vols. (Boston, 1913), 1:170–1. The Logan Act, which made it a criminal offense for a private citizen of the United States to carry on diplomatic negotiations with a foreign power, passed the House by a 58 to 36 vote on 17 Jan. and the Senate by an 18 to 2 vote eight days later (JHR, description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends 3:439–40; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:573; 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 , 1:613).
Paper of this morning: in one sentence on 16 Jan. the Philadelphia Aurora promised that the correspondence relating to negotiations with France would be published shortly. The next day a longer piece in the same newspaper indicated that a Philadelphia gentleman had received a copy of Gerry’s correspondence as it appeared in Paris and that it was “of the most consolatory nature” to the United States. William Duane argued that the public had a right to read the communications to enable them to judge whether the expensive measures being passed to augment the standing army and establish a navy were necessary.
For the legislation authorizing the loan of 5. millions, see TJ to Madison, 14 June 1798. On 12 Jan. 1799 Wolcott issued a notice that subscriptions for the loan would be opened at the Bank of the United States in Philadelphia on 28 Feb., with the stock to be issued bearing an interest of 8 percent per annum (Philadelphia Gazette, 14 Jan. 1799).
The direct tax act passed by Congress on 9 July 1798 provided procedures for assessing the value of land, houses, and slaves and specified that the list for houses provide information on the measure & number of windows. The discontent that the provision aroused made it difficult to obtain lists in several parts of the country because many feared the information was intended to implement a window tax. On 18 Jan. Wolcott wrote to the House committee that “popular objections” were proving to be “very embarrassing to the assessors, particularly in Pennsylvania.” An act amending the 1798 statute to eliminate the requirement for information on windows was signed by the president on 28 Feb. (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 , 1:586, 626; National State Papers: Adams description begins Martin P. Claussen, ed., National State Papers of the United States, 1789–1817. Part II: Texts of Documents. Administration of John Adams, 1797–1801, Wilmington, 1980, 24 vols. description ends , 11:206–12).
Bankrupt bill: defeated on its third reading by a 44–47 vote, the bill, which had also been considered during previous sessions, would have established a uniform system of bankruptcy throughout the United States (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 , 9:2441–2, 2465–9, 2656, 2676–7).
Thomas Macdonald and Henry Pye Rich were the British commissioners on the bilateral panel established under the Jay treaty to arbitrate the debt claims of British merchants against American citizens. Thomas Fitzsimons, who had been an ardent supporter of Alexander Hamilton’s financial policies in the House of Representatives, and Samuel Sitgreaves were the commissioners for the United States, Adams having appointed Sitgreaves in December 1798 in the place of James Innes, who had died early in August. According to the treaty a fifth commissioner was to be selected by the other four, and in May 1797, after the panel deadlocked between Englishman John Guillemard and American Fisher Ames, Guillemard had been chosen by lot. By the time Sitgreaves joined the board it was deeply divided over questions that were nominally procedural but affected the disposition of important claims. Guillemard consistently sided with the British commissioners, and Fitzsimons and Sitgreaves, advised by Timothy Pickering and Attorney General Charles Lee, began to boycott commission meetings. One of those protests, accompanied by a statement of grievance from the U.S. commissioners, took place in January 1799. The board split for good, the majority of the claims unsettled, in July of that year (John Bassett Moore, ed., International Adjudications: Ancient and Modern, History and Documents, 6 vols. [New York, 1929–33] 3:18, 95–7; Perkins, First Rapprochement description begins Bradford Perkins, The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795–1805, Philadelphia, 1955; Berkeley, 1967 description ends , 117–19; 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, 3 vols. description ends , 1:296–7; ANB, description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends 8:67–8).
In early January Philadelphia newspapers carried conflicting news from Vienna, Constantinople, and London of the destruction of Bonaparte’s army in Egypt. On 8 and 14 Jan. the Philadelphia Gazette printed accounts from Vienna that Bonaparte had been taken prisoner and his army reduced to a few thousand men. The reports turned out to be unfounded (Philadelphia Aurora, 2, 4 Jan.; Gazette of the United States, 2, 4 Jan.; Philadelphia Gazette, 8, 9, 14, 18 Jan.; Scott and Rothaus, Historical Dictionary description begins Samuel F. Scott and Barry Rothaus, eds., Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1789–1799, Westport, Conn., 1985, 2 vols. description ends , 1:348–9).