James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to James Madison, Sr., 6 January 1785

To James Madison, Sr.

Richmond Jany. 6th. 1785 Thursday

This day has put an end to our tedious Session. The principal Acts which have passed since my last, are 1. An Act remitting 1/2 of the Tax for the year 1785 within which was to have been collected that tax, and the tax of 1784 postponed into it.1 2. An Act amending the tax on law proceedings &c.2 3. An Act for clearing the navigation of Potowmac River. 4 An Act for clearing the navigation of James River. The former has passed in concurrence with a like Act of Maryland and establishes a Company for the purpose. The latter establishes a like Compy. for the like purpose. 5. An Act vesting in Genl. Washington a very handsome share in each of the Undertakings, in a form which was thought most likely to make the compliment admissible by his delicacy. The Genl. Assesst. has been put off till the next Session & is to be published in the mean time. Mr. Porter has a number of printed copies for our County. The inclosed Act for incorporating the Episcopal Church is the result of much altercation on the subject. In its original form it was wholly inadmissible. In its present form into which it has been trimmed, I assented to it with reluctance at the time, and with disatisfaction on a review of it. There has been some error in the case too, for it was unquestionably voted in the House that two laymen should be deputed from each Parish to the Convention spoken of. I had taken it for granted also that the Clergy were hereafter to be elected by the Vestries, and was much surprised on examining the Act since it was printed to find that the mode in which vacant parishes are to be filled, is left to be provided for by the Convention.3 I consider the passage of this Act however as having been so far useful as to have parried for the present the Genl. Assesst. which would otherwise have certainly been saddled upon us: & If it be unpopular among the laity it will be soon repealed, and will be a standing lesson to them of the danger of referring religious matters to the legislature. I have some business to regulate here which I have put off till the end of the Session, and have some thoughts of spending a week or two in the library of my friend the Attorney Genl. I do not wish my horses therefore to be here till Wednesday Sevennight.4 I do not know also but I may enter into a bargain here which will require the aid of the Money in the hands of my brother A. and of the payment to be made by Mr. Cowherd at Christmas.5 Apprize him of this that he may be ready to answer a call upon him. The inclosed letter from Judge Dandridge6 founded on a mistake will inform you that your bond has passed into his hands. With my regards to the family I am Yr. Dutiful son

J. Madison Jr

Whoever brings down my horses must bring a Portmanteau.

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM. The usual salutation for the senior Madison, “Honored Sir,” was omitted. JM later added “Thursday” to the date.

1William Ronald’s committee which examined the public accounts reported on 28 Dec. 1784 that the state needed only £141,389 to meet its obligations. The next day Treasurer Jacquelin Ambler reported that £199,923 had been collected on the 1783 taxes and that the collections for the year 1784 were £22,542 ahead of disbursements. Cheered by this welcome news, the House quickly considered a tax cut before the day was over (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, p. 94). The bill passed its third reading on 30 Dec. 1784.

2The “act to explain and amend the act to levy certain taxes in aid of the public revenue” made alterations on the stamp act JM had helped draft at the May 1784 session (Resolution for Schedule of Tax Rates on Documents, 2 June 1784). The revision was presented by Archibald Stuart on 1 Jan. 1785 and carried to the Senate by John Breckinridge on 4 Jan. 1785 (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, p. 104). The 1785 revision added the Kentucky district court orders to the fee schedule and forbade the issuance of legal proceedings “unless the taxes hereby … imposed thereon be first paid down” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 438–41).

3As JM explained to Jefferson in his letter of 9 Jan. 1785, the delegates thought they were providing for much local autonomy by the parish vestry boards. The ambiguously worded act vested in the annual Protestant Episcopal convention authority “to regulate … all the religious concerns of that church” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 532–37). The controversial act was repealed early in 1787 (ibid., XII, 266–67).

4JM first wrote “Saturday sevennight,” and later deleted it for “Wednesday.”

5JM’s brother Ambrose and Francis Cowherd of Orange County. Cowherd bought 281 acres from the elder Madison on 19 Aug. 1784 and a portion of the £400 purchase money must have been due 25 Dec. 1784.

6Bartholemew Dandridge, a judge of the Virginia General Court until his death on 18 Apr. 1785 (Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, I, 220).

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