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To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, 19 July 1783

From Robert R. Livingston

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover missing. Docketed by JM over the date line, “Livingston R. R,” and in the right margin at the close of the letter, “Rob. Livingston July 19. 1783.” The draft copy, among the Robert R. Livingston Papers in the New-York Historical Society, frequently varies in text from that received by JM.

Cler Mount1 19th. July [1]783

Dear Sir

I have this moment been informed that the definitive treaty is concluded,2 & in consequence of it give you this trouble. I believe I mentioned to you before I left Philadelphia3 that if Congress should make no appointment of a secretary before the arrival of the treaty it would give me great pleasure to be permitted to sign it in that character & thus conclude my political careir.4 How far I may with propriety indulge the hope that Congress will admit me to this honor, I know not, & therefore I confide this wish only to you, satisfied that if you should find it improper you will discourage it without permitting it to be urged to my disadvantage. If you should believe that Congress will not find it improper[,] as the grand treaty which sets the seal to our independance should not want the usual forms, & as several little matters may be necessary in consequence thereof, perhaps they may be induced to recite that their removal & their want of a full representation having prevented their supplying the plac[e] of the late Secretary for foreign affairs5 that it would be agreeable to them that he resume the direction of the department till the ratification of the definitive treaty. I should write to Coll. Hamilton with whom I have had some conversation on this subject, but that I presume he must by this time be upon his return6 if however he should be still with you as I have the fullest confidence in his friendship I pray you to shew him this, as well as to Mr. Izard Mr. Rutledge7 or any other Gent. who have honoured me with their esteem.

I congratulate you upon your escape from Philadelphia, nothing less than an armed force could ever have drawn you from that Capua8 I wish to know what will be your future destination & whether I may hope to see you contribute to restore the lost splendor of my native place?9 or whether you are so inamoured with the pure air of the country as to continue Villagers? I will not declare my wishes on this subject least my partialities should betray my want of judgment.

Some letters have passed between Gen. Carleton on the subject of several infractions of the treaty that deserve the attention of Congress & should be attended to in the instructions to ou[r] ministers.10 The Govr. is gone with Genl Washington to the northward, or I should have send you copie[s] of them they may be obtained thro’ our delega[tes.]11

The servant that delivers this will wait your orders & return with your answer, as the business I have sent him upon will be finished when he delivers this.12 I am Dr. Sir

with g[reat] respect & esteem Your Most Ob hum: servt

R R Livingston

1Livingston’s manorial estate near the Hudson River and Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

2Livingston had been misinformed (JM to Jefferson, 17 July 1783, n. 2; Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 414, 415, n. 3, 419).

3Livingston had terminated his service as secretary for foreign affairs on 5 June (JM Notes, 4 June, and n. 5; JM to Jefferson, 10 June 1783, and n. 16).

4Neither on 13 December 1783 nor on 14 January 1784, when Congress received and ratified, respectively, the definitive treaty of peace, was there a secretary for foreign affairs (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 812; XXVI, 22–31; JM Notes, 4 June 1783, n. 3). The “instrument of ratification” and the proclamation announcing the ratification were signed by Thomas Mifflin, president of Congress, and Charles Thomson, secretary (Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts, II, 151–57; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 755–57). Livingston’s national public career was far from being concluded. See, for example, JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVII, 663.

5Livingston.

6Alexander Hamilton left Congress at the close of July and was in New York City by 2 August. On 23 July, while still in Princeton, he informed Livingston by letter: “It happens My Dear Sir that both Mr. Maddison and myself are here. We have talked over the subject of your letter to him, and need not assure you how happy we should both be to promote your wish; but the representation continues so thin, that we should have little hope that any thing which is out of the ordinary course and has somewhat of novelty in it could go through. We therefore have concluded it would be to no purpose to make the experiment in the present state of things; but shall sound towards a more full representation; though we fear the strictness of the ideas of many Gentlemen will be a bar to the success of the measure. You shall hear from me further on the subject. Mr Maddison does not write himself as this letter contains both our ideas but he presents his compliments and the assurances of his esteem” (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 414).

Writing to Livingston from Albany on 13 August 1783, Hamilton added: “The subject you wrote to Maddison and myself about we have since attended to; but we found that nothing could be done in it. Such a thing would always be difficult there; and unluckily it is to be feared that a certain influence has of late increased not friendly to that line of thinking and acting which we call proper” (ibid., III, 431). Although Hamilton did not reveal the nature of the “certain influence,” he may have touched on it on 25 July 1783, when he wrote to John Jay, “The road to popularity in each state is to inspire jealousies of the power of Congress” (ibid., III, 416–17).

7In his draft copy Livingston wrote “the Gentl. of your late family” instead of Izard and Rutledge. Livingston of course assumed that JM had moved from Mrs. House’s boardinghouse to Princeton.

8In the draft of his letter Livingston interlineated “Capua” above a deleted “Circian Isle.” Ancient Capua, proverbial for its luxury and gladiators, was sixteen miles north of Naples.

9Livingston, having been born in New York City, evidently hoped that Congress would choose to move there, following its evacuation by the British armed forces. Congress did convene in New York but not until 11 January 1785 (Edmund Cody Burnett, The Continental Congress [N.Y., 1941], p. 618).

10General Sir Guy Carleton, in spite of repeated protests from Governor George Clinton of New York, continued to control a larger area, including Long Island, in the southern part of that state “than is necessary for the Convenience, and Security of his Britannic Majesty’s Troops, and Stores.” By mid-July, although Carleton had released to their owners some estates on Staten Island and Long Island, he still, in Clinton’s opinion, occupied too much land and, contrary to Article VII of the preliminary articles of peace, had not returned “Archives, Records, Deeds and Papers” (Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds., Public Papers of George Clinton, VIII, 184–86, 203–4, 207–10, 211–16; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVI, 447–48, 499–501; XXVII, 9, 10, 26–28). See also Delegates to Harrison, 23 Aug. 1783, and n. 2.

11Washington, accompanied by Clinton, left Newburgh on 18 July. They traveled as far north as Forts Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and as far west as Fort Schuyler on the Mohawk River. Washington again reached his headquarters in Newburgh on 5 August 1783 (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 65–67, 71, n. 8). Besides Hamilton, James Duane was the only delegate from New York attending Congress. On 7 August, about a week after Hamilton’s departure, Ezra L’Hommedieu joined Duane as the New York delegation (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 492).

12Livingston omitted the closing passage of his draft copy, reading: “I had some thing to say to you on the subject of my arrears but I suppose the time improper when it is otherwise I know you will lend me every necessary assistance in procuring the discharge of them.” In his letter of 23 July, cited in n. 6, above, Hamilton assured Livingston that, whenever effective delegations from nine or more states should attend Congress, “I will not forget the money commission you gave me.” On this subject, Hamilton commented further to Livingston in a letter of 13 August 1783, “I left in charge with several of my friends who have promised their attention to it, the business of an extra-allowance” (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 415, 432). For the basis of his claim for an “extra-allowance,” see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 420, n. 4.

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