James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 15 April 1787

From John Dawson

Fredericksburg April 15, 87

Dear Sir

I am honourd with your letter of the 1 Int. and must request you to receive this, not as a piece of cold formality, nor simply as a return for yours but as a testimony of a much dearer principle; a principle of honest friendship—our acquaintance I esteem too high ever to forget it—I wish it continued. I wish it cultivated. I flatter myself the desire may be mutual and with pleasure did I receive your promise of doing it by a familiar correspondence.

From a persuasion that a large majority of the citizens of this state are warmly opposed to the payment of British debts I am apprehensive that the act of congress will be but cooly receivd, tho I presume in their letter they will give reasons of sufficient weight to convince the disinterested.1 I assure you that matters here wear a very disagreable aspect. The people of caroline, have, I am informd, enterd into an association and are determind to purchase no property sold by execution. The extreme scarcity of hard money is the reason urged, and indeed there is too much weight in it.2 Three days since I attended a Sheriffs sale in this county when very likely negroes, such as before the war, woud have brought eighty pounds, were sold for thirty. In most of the counties petitions to the next assembly will be handed about, for the payment of debts either in property, or by installments, and shoud both be refusd, and the scarcity of money continue, I know not what may be the consequence, as I am informd that in some of the low counties they talk boldly of following the example of the insurgents in Massachusetts and preventing the courts proceeding to business.

Much depends on the convention in May—the attention of almost every person is fixd on that body—and shoud the issue not be successful, wh[ich] I am very sorry to find you suspect, I fear there will be an end to the General confederacy. You have I presume heard that Genl Washington has consented to attend—about that time I expect to have the pleasure of seeing you in Philadelphia. As my object is to gain information of many political points, which I presume will be investigated in the ablest manner, and wh[ich] will be very useful to me in the next assembly, I must renew a request I before made, that if it can be done with propriety, you will permit me to hear the debates—if it can not, I am sure you will give me any information in your power and I shall ever thank you, if you will, in case you arrive before me, engage a room in the house you put up at, convenient to yours.

Our friend Monroe is elected for this county contrary to the expectations of almost every body. Mr. Pages conduct during the last assembly, and his opposition to the tobacco bill lost him his election.3 Old Mr. Harrison, I am informed is also elected. Mr. Marshall and young L. Lee are acquisitions to the house but the loss of R. B Lee a disadvantage. Mr. Smith, I hear will probably be left out.

Mr. W. Stanard, a friend of mine, is in want of a school-master to teach 4 or 6 small boys Latin and Greek.4 He will give £50 pr an: furnish a horse and board him in his family. If, Sir, you know any person who you think woud answer, and who is willing to come to Virginia on those terms, will you be kind enough to engage and direct him to me in this place. With much esteem I am Your Friend & hm: Sert

J Dawson


1Dawson was referring to the resolutions of 21 Mar. 1787 urging that the states repeal all statutes in conflict with provisions of the 1783 peace treaty (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 124–25).

2Contrast with Dawson’s appraisal of the situation an essay by “Aristides” in a Richmond newspaper: “A scarcity of money, is indeed a very general complaint, but when was it otherways? Such of us as are old, must remember that this and the dearness of the necessaries of life have been constant popular cries in this and every state in the union from our childhood forward” (Va. Independent Chronicle description begins Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond: Augustine Davis, 1786–90). Beginning on 13 May 1789 entitled, Virginia Independent Chronicle, and General Advertiser. description ends , 4 Apr. 1787).

3On 6 Dec. 1786 the Virginia General Assembly approved a bill making tobacco receivable in taxes, a move JM reluctantly supported. Mann Page, Dawson’s fellow delegate from Spotsylvania County, had opposed the bill as did other influential Virginians. Page lost his seat to James Monroe in the spring election of 1787 (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1786, pp. 58, 87; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 25, 27). See also JM to James Madison, Sr., 24 Nov. 1786, and JM to George Washington, 7 Dec. 1786.

4William Stanard (ca. 1752–1807) of Roxbury, Spotsylvania County, had married Elizabeth Carter of Blenheim. Albemarle County. Their rapidly growing family would in time number twenty-three children. Stanard was a justice for Spotsylvania and later sheriff (Richmond Va. Argus, 23 Oct. 1807; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 318; McGill, ed., Beverley Family of Virginia, p. 729).

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