James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 5 April 1798

From John Dawson

Philadelphia. April 5. 1798.

Dear Sir!

I have recievd your favour of the 26th. ultimo,1 & now enclose you an insurance2 & a letter for Mrs. Madison, to whom I beg you to present me with much respect.

You have seen that on the 19th. of the last month the president sent to us a message, & that in consequence of a request from our house his instructions, & all the despatches from our commissioners were sent to us confidentially3—for three days we have been debating, with shut doors, on the propriety of making them public, & were today at 9 ock, & when there was certainly a large majority of our house against it, informd that the Senate had resolvd to publish the despatches.4

They will therefore come out & I will forward to you a copy, only observing at this time, that the quarter from whence their publicity comes creates a doubt that they are not very favourable to peace, in their estimation. I hope we shall not go to war on account of an intemperate Speech from a President, or the dishonest conduct of a minister of foreign relations.5

We have nothing late from Europe—our commissioners were in Paris on the 4. February. With much esteem Your friend & Sert

J Dawson.


1Letter not found.

2The enclosed “insurance” was possibly a receipt for a premium JM paid for the insurance policy on the house the Madisons owned in Philadelphia (policy no. 2035 of the “Philadelphia Contributionship for the Ensurance of Houses, &c. from Loss by Fire,” 25 Mar. 1797 [PPIn]).

3A resolution was proposed on 30 Mar. by John Allen of Connecticut that the president send to the House of Representatives the dispatches from the U.S. envoys to France. The matter was debated, amended to include the diplomatic instructions, and passed, 65–27, on 2 Apr. The next day, Adams sent the papers confidentially to both houses of Congress (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., 1357–75).

4On 5 Apr. the Senate ordered five hundred copies of the dispatches published for the use of the Senate (ibid. 536–37).

5During the unofficial negotiations in October 1797 between the U.S. commissioners and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, French minister of foreign affairs, emissaries of the latter attempted to extort a bribe and extract a loan from the Americans as a preliminary to any diplomatic talks. When the Americans refused to consider either, they were denied official diplomatic status (DeConde, Quasi-War, pp. 46–51).

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