James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 1 November 1795

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia Novr.1 1. 1795.

My dear friend

I have forborne to write to you since my resignation, that you might be able to affirm, that in the ground, which I shall take in my appeal to the people, you have borne no part. For among the objects, which the President and his party have in view, one is to destroy the republican force in the U. S. A conspiracy, more deeply laid and systematically pursued, has not yet occurred; and in every newspaper from New-York and Boston I read hints, bottomed upon that letter. I have no doubt, that the whole scheme will recoil upon their heads. But it has required time to prepare the means. This is now done; and the press is at work. I cannot in the compass of a letter give you details. But every nerve has been strained to combine your name in a business, to which you were the most absolute stranger. I mean the insurrection,2 and a general revolution of government. I feel happy at my emancipation from an attachment to a man, who has practised upon me the profound hypocricy of Tiberius,3 and the injustice of an assassin. If he does not repent it, it must be, because he is invulnerable by even the most pointed facts. In the course of this week, I expect to commence my journey. Wearied as I am in contemplating the vexatious subject, I will not dilate upon it; as my pamphlet4 will shortly reach you. Yrs. mo. sincerely

E. R.


1Randolph first wrote “Octr.” and then altered the date.

2Randolph was referring to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. In Fauchet’s divulged dispatch of 31 Oct. 1794 that was instrumental in Randolph’s downfall, the French minister had written that the whiskey rebels had reason to suppose that they might receive support from “some distinguished characters in the east,” including JM (Reardon, Edmund Randolph, p. 375).

3In 1794 Randolph had defended Washington’s conduct during the Whiskey Rebellion in some essays written under the pseudonym of “Germanicus,” the loyal and virtuous nephew and adopted son of the Roman emperor Tiberius. Germanicus had refused to allow the Roman army to proclaim him emperor in preference to Tiberius in 14 A.D., and it was widely believed that Tiberius was responsible for the death of Germanicus by poisoning in 19 A.D. For a recent review of Washington’s relationship with Randolph, see Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, “George Washington and the Reputation of Edmund Randolph,” Journal of American History, 73 (1986): 15–34.

4[Edmund Randolph], A Vindication of Mr. Randolph’s Resignation (Philadelphia, 1795; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 29384). Samuel Harrison Smith published this pamphlet; the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser first advertised it on 19 Dec.

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