James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 12 December 1799

From John Dawson

Philadelphia December 12. 1799.

Dear Sir!

I am favourd with your letter of the 4th.1 for which I thank you. On yesterday we finishd the business of ceremony with the president & appear at a loss what to take up next2—the Senate in their answer take no notice of the mission to France, altho it was modifid according to their wishes, & I am assurd that thirty odd eastern members in our house woud have voted for expunging the clause which relates to that subject, in ours—there is a disagreement among them, but common interest ensures a reconciliation; for several of the faction have declard, that if they cannot get a better they must unite in favour of Mr. A——. If he withdraws Elsworth is their man.3

The members from N. Jersey assure me, that on a joint ballot of their legislature, as it now stands, they can carry the Republican ticket & that they will gain ground at the next Election—in New York our friends are very sanguine, & speak with confidence of a decided majority after the election in April—the Manhattan law, under which they have establishd a bank of two million of dollars, with republican directors, which does more business than the other two banks, & has destroy’d their tyranny—and are supplying every house in the city with water, on very moderate terms, has producd much good, & from being very unpopular has become the reverse4—the voice of this state is known, but it is difficult to say what the legislature will do—at present there is no law respecting the choice of electors, & it is said that the Senate will not pass one authorising a general ticket; tho I think that they dare not be obstinate against the decided wish of the people, & the practice heretofore. In the two Carolinas is there not much danger, & ought not steps to be taken to meet it? You & our friends in Richmond ought to attend to this. Have you thought of any one as Vice President? C. C. Pinckney, or J. Marshal will be run by the other side—and what say you to old Governor Clinton? He is in pretty good health, & I have good reason to believe that he woud be more acceptable to New York, & New Jersey than any one else—on a former occasion Virginia & N. Carolina were unanimous for him—consult our friends on this point, & if the policy is approvd off [sic], I can make the arrangements here, in New Jersey, & New York.

By this day’s mail we have accounts of the election of our friend Colo Monroe, at which I sincerely rejoice. With much esteem Your friend & Sert

J Dawson.


1Letter not found.

2The president’s speech, delivered on 3 Dec. 1799, reported the restoration of “order and submission” in Pennsylvania in the wake of disturbances (called Fries’s Rebellion) provoked by the valuation of land and houses preparatory to the collection of a federal tax. The speech also recommended the “revision and amendment of the judiciary system.” In addition, Adams informed Congress that he had sent the new U.S. envoys to Paris with full powers to conclude a treaty with France and that he had lifted the trade embargo with certain ports in Saint-Domingue. The House’s answer was adopted without debate on 9 Dec. and presented to the president the next day (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 6th Cong., 1st sess., 188–90, 193–96, 198).

3The possibility of supporting Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth for president was bruited about among extreme Federalists until a caucus in May 1800 settled on John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the Federalist candidates for president and vice president (Robert Troup to Rufus King, 9 Mar. 1800, C. R. King, Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, 3:209; Morison, Harrison Gray Otis, 1:185).

4The charter for the Manhattan Company was granted by a New York state law of 2 Apr. 1799 that provided for the supply of “pure and wholesome water” for the city of New York. The key provision of the law, passage of which was engineered by Aaron Burr, enabled the company to establish a bank with Republican management. For a detailed account of the formation and operation of the Manhattan Company, see Beatrice G. Reubens, “Burr, Hamilton, and the Manhattan Company,” pts. 1 and 2, Political Science Quarterly, 72 (1957): 578–607, and 73 (1958): 100–125.

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