Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 21 May 1798

To James Monroe

Philadelphia May 21. 98.

Yours of Apr. 8. 14. & May 4. & 14 have been recieved in due time. I have not written to you since the 19th. Ult. because I knew you would be out on a circuit, and would recieve the letters only when they would be as old almanachs. the bill for the Provisional army has got through the lower house, the regulars reduced to 10,000. and the volunteers unlimited. it was carried by a majority of 11. the land-tax is now on the carpet to raise 2. millions of dollars, yet I think they must at least double it as the expences of the provisional army were not provided for in it, and will require of itself 4. millions a year. I presume therefore the tax on lands, houses & negroes will be a dollar a head on the population of each state. there are alien bills, sedition bills &c. also before both houses. the severity of their aspect determines a great number of French to go off. a ship load sails on Monday next; among them Volney. if no new business is brought on I think they may get through the tax-bill in 3. weeks. You will have seen among numerous addresses & answers one from Lancaster in this state, and it’s answer, the latter travelling out of the topics of the address altogether to mention you in a most injurious manner. your feelings have no doubt been much irritated by it, as in truth it had all the characters necessary to produce irritation. what notice you should take of it is difficult to say. but there is one step in which two or three with whom I have spoken concur with me, that feeble as the hand is from which this shaft is thrown, yet with a great mass of our citizens, strangers to the leading traits of the character from which it came, it will have considerable effect; & that in order to replace yourself on the high ground you are entitled to, it is absolutely necessary you should re-appear on the public theatre, & take an independant stand from which you can be seen & known to your fellow-citizens. the H. of Repr. appears the only place which can answer this end, as the proceedings of the other house are too obscure. Cabell has said he would give way to you whenever you should chuse to come in. and I really think it would be expedient for yourself as well as the public that you should not wait till another election but come to the next session. no interval should be admitted between this last attack of enmity and your re-appearance with the approving voice of your constituents & your taking a commanding attitude. I have not before been anxious for your return to public life, lest it should interfere with a proper pursuit of your private interests. but the next session will not at all interfere with your courts because it must end Mar. 4. and I verily believe the next election will give us such a majority in the H. of R. as to enable the republican party to shorten the alternate unlimited session, as it is evident that to shorten the sessions is to lessen the evils & burthens of the government on our country. the present session has already cost 200,000 D. besides the wounds it has inflicted on the prosperity of the union. I have no doubt Cabell can be induced to retire immediately, & that a writ may be issued at once. the very idea of this will strike the public mind & raise it’s confidence in you. if this be done I should think it best you should take no notice at all of the answer to Lancaster. because were you to shew a personal hostility against the answerer, it would deaden the effect of every thing you should say or do in your public place hereafter. all would be ascribed to an enmity to mr A. and you know with what facility such insinuations enter the minds of men. I have not seen Dawson since this answer has appeared, & therefore have not yet learnt his sentiments on it. my respectful salutations to mrs Monroe, & to yourself affectionately Adieu.

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers); addressed: “Colo. James Monroe Charlottesville”; by TJ below seal: “always examine the seal before you open my letters”; endorsed by Monroe. PrC (DLC).

Among them volney: the Benjamin Franklin, with Volney among its passengers, did not leave until 7 June. Owned by Francis Breuil, an American citizen, the vessel carried a safe-conduct request from the secretary of state and traveled to Bordeaux under a flag of truce. Volney, the subject of acerbic comments by the Federalist press, had feared that passage of an alien act might result in his arrest and the seizure of his papers. Moreau St. Méry confirmed after Volney’s departure that Volney and Victor Collot, who did not return to France until 1800, were high on a list of people whom Adams wished to see deported (Gilbert Chinard, Volney et l’Amérique d’après des documents inédits et sa correspondance avec Jefferson, The Johns Hopkins Studies in Romance Literatures and Languages, 1 [Baltimore, 1923], 99–100; Frances Sergeant Childs, French Refugee Life in the United States, 1790–1800: An American Chapter of the French Revolution [Baltimore, 1940], 189–90; Kenneth Roberts and Anna M. Roberts, eds. and trans., Moreau de St. Méry’s American Journey [1793–1798] [Garden City, N.Y., 1947], 253; George W. Kyte, “A Spy on the Western Waters: The Military Intelligence Mission of General Collot in 1796,” MVHR description begins Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 1914–64 description ends , 34 [1947], 441; Porcupine’s Gazette, 31 May, 7 June 1798).

In his 14 May response to an address of support from lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Adams alluded to the French government’s dismay over his message to Congress of 16 May 1797. Referring to the attention the French gave Monroe on 30 Dec. 1796, when the recalled minister and the Directory exchanged praiseful addresses of farewell, the president noted the umbrage he felt at “the honour done, the publicity and solemnity given to the audience of leave to a disgraced minister, recalled in displeasure, for misconduct.” Adams considered the occasion to have been “a studied insult to the government of my country,” a provocation greater than anything he had expressed in his message. Timothy Pickering, a month before Adams sent that message to Congress, had labeled Monroe’s address on leaving Paris “unpardonable” (Porcupine’s Gazette, 16 May 1798; Ammon, Monroe description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, New York, 1971 description ends , 155–6, 167–8, 171, 606n).

Mr A.: John Adams.

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