James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 17 December 1800

From John Dawson

City of Washington. Decr. 17. 1800.

Dear Sir,

Before this you have returnd to Orange, & I trust in good health.

We are placd in a very unpleasant situation—the accounts which have been recievd from different states place Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Burr on an equall footing.1 Kentucky and Tennessee are not in, but we have good grounds to conclude that the votes will be equall. Shoud this be the case an effort will be made to prevent an election by withholding nine states—and there is reason to fear that they will succeed—N. York—Pennsylvania Virginia—N. Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky2 may be counted on with certainty, and we hope for this state and New Jersey—but every exertion will be used with them.

You have seen the ament. to the constitution respecting the choice of President & Vice President3—it is an intricate subject, and I will thank you for your sentiments on it—the treaty with the French republic is before the Senate—I do not know the contents.4 Yrs with much esteem

J Dawson


1When all the ballots were tallied, Jefferson and Burr had each received seventy-three electoral votes, Adams, sixty-five, and Pinckney, sixty-four. The choice of president was thus thrown into the House of Representatives, where congressmen would vote by state, nine states being needed to elect. Although Federalists did not have the strength to elect a president on their own, they could muster enough states to block Republican wishes (Cunningham, The Jeffersonian Republicans, pp. 239–40).

2Someone, probably Dawson, wrote a number—from one through seven—below the name of each state in this sentence.

3On 21 Nov. 1800 John Nicholas proposed in the House of Representatives two amendments to the Constitution. The first proposed a uniform method of choosing presidential electors, by “dividing each State into a number of districts, equal to the number of Electors to be chosen in such State.” The second proposed that each state should be divided into districts for the election of congressional representatives (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 6th Cong., 2d sess., 785).

4William R. Davie arrived in the U.S. on 11 Dec. 1800 carrying the convention with France. On 16 Dec. President Adams submitted the convention to the Senate for its advice and consent (DeConde, Quasi-War, p. 288).

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