James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Recipient="Madison, James" AND Period="Confederation Period"
sorted by: date (ascending)

To James Madison from Joseph Jones, 30 October 1783

From Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover missing. Docketed by JM, “Ocr. 30. 1783.”

Spring Hill1 30th. Octr. 1783

Dr. Sr.

After two or three interruptions on the road by rainy weather I arrived here the 23d. tolerably well2 two days after Mr. Hardy and Monroe called on me in their way to Philadelphia by whom you will receive this.3 they hope to find Congress in the City by the time they get up but by your communication received by the Post this week I gave them little encouragmt. to be so happily situated.4 It gives me concern to find such indirect methods practiced to carry points, and though in the end George Town should be solely established the seat of Congress, instead of their alternate residence much as I prefer that place I shod. not be very well pleased with the manner of it being accomplished.5

Although the conduct of Congress with respect to the western Country may call forth the resentment of some of the legislature of Virginia, yet I trust there will be a sufficient number to close with the terms transmitted by Congress and thereby terminate the disagreeable and dangerous controversy so warmly supported by some of the States agt. ours on the Right to that Country. my endeavours to procure its passage shall not be wanting as I consider the ground on which the cession is now placed beneficial to the State and by proper management may prove very much so to the U States.6

From the Temper of the Eastern States with respect to the commutation, if nothing else operated with them, I entertained very slender hopes of their adopting the plan of Congress.7 the rejection of it by Massachusetts was no more than I expected as well on that account as from some other motives, that are sufficiently known to you. Have they laid Taxes to pay their quota of the national debt by any other mode than the one recommended?8 or have they in fact refused the Comr. appointed to settle the public accounts permission to proceed upon that Business?9 Notwithstanding these obstacles I still wish Virga to agree to the proposition and hope to find the legislature disposed to do so.10 I set off in a few days for Richmond. Company has hitherto prevented me since my arrival from packing[?] up the things you desired and sending them to Mr. Maury. It shall be done before I leave home.11 Mr. Jefferson must be with you as the Gentl. here inform me he had gone on the upper road.12 remember me respectfully to him and all inquiring friends, particularly to the good Lady of the House and Mrs. Trist, if she is still with you. tell her Joe says he remembers & thanks her for the sword she was so kind as to send him.13 the vessell on board which I put my things is not yet arrived I fear she was out in the storm that happened the Saturday night and sunday morning after I left you.14 very truly I am

Yr. friend

Jos: Jones

3Although the terms of Samuel Hardy and James Monroe as delegates of Virginia in Congress began on 3 November, they apparently did not attend before 26 November, when Congress was scheduled to convene at Annapolis after adjourning at Princeton on 4 November 1783 (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 39; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 797–98, 807).

4JM’s letter, presumably written about 21 October, is missing. He probably informed Jones that Congress, still meeting in Princeton, had not decided upon the date of moving from that town (JM to Randolph, 13 Oct. 1783, n. 4).

5Ibid., and nn. 3, 10, 11; Notes on Congress’ Place of Residence, 14 Oct. 1783, and nn. 5, 10. Although JM was in Philadelphia on 19 and 20 October, he probably told Jones of the congressional proceedings on the seventeenth, when he had been in Princeton. On that day Elbridge Gerry and Arthur Lee moved that “buildings be likewise erected for the use of Congress, at or near the lower falls of Potomac or Georgetown” as an alternate permanent capital. Abraham Clark and Richard Peters, arguing that the subject was of such “important consequences to the Union” that consideration should be deferred until “the first Monday in April next,” when the delegates should have procured instructions from their respective states, vainly offered a motion to that effect. Although New Hampshire was represented only by Abiel Foster, the New England states combined with the southern, from Maryland to South Carolina (Georgia being unrepresented), to overbear the unanimous opposition of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware (represented only by James Tilton). It was then decided that consideration of the Gerry-Lee motion be deferred until “Wednesday next,” that is, 22 October (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 698–99). An attempt was made on 18 October to have the deferment reconsidered but was blocked by New Jersey under the twenty-second rule of the Rules of Procedure adopted on 4 May 1781 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 480; XXV, 699).

Beyond 18 October JM was probably uninformed as to events in Congress at the time he wrote Jones. On Monday, 20 October, the action of New Jersey having automatically made reconsideration an order of the day (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 480; XXV, 702), the matter was returned to the floor but was not resolved until the next day. On the latter date both the original Gerry-Lee motion and an amendment thereto, offered as an addendum by Gerry and John Francis Mercer, and itself amended, were passed by a vote of seven states to one. The amendment provided that “until the buildings to be erected on the banks of the Delaware and Potomac shall be prepared for the reception of Congress,” sessions should “be alternately at equal periods of not more than one year, and not less than six months in Trenton and Annapolis.” A further amendment, which was uncontested, provided that Congress be adjourned on 12 November and reconvened at Annapolis two weeks later.

In the eight divisions recorded in the journal for 20 and 21 October, Abiel Foster, on the four occasions that he voted, cast an ineffective ballot in opposition to the stand taken by his New England colleagues; and in one instance Connecticut divided. Otherwise, the New England bloc stood staunchly by the united southern delegations. Overborne, the delegations of New Jersey and Pennsylvania seemed to lose heart for the contest and became steadily less effective as members absented themselves (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 706–14).

“Our public affairs are truly in a disagreable situation,” Elias Boudinot wrote to Robert R. Livingston on 23 October. Disgruntled at having the permanent capital located at Trenton, the southern members of Congress had “manoeuvred” with such Machiavellian finesse “as to take in the Eastern Members so completely, as to get them (Mr. Gerry at their head) to conform entirely to their views” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 347). Although himself opposed to the result, Foster less irritably informed the president of New Hampshire, Meshech Weare, that the successful coalition had acted because of “the uneasiness of the southern Deligates” at having a permanent capital so far north, and of the New Englanders “that no other measures would prove effectual to prevent the return of Congress to Philadelphia, for a temporary residence” (ibid., VII, 348).

7The “plan of Congress” was for restoring public credit (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, index under Continental Congress, actions on plan for restoring public credit; Pendleton to JM, 4 May, n. 8; Jones to JM, 8 June, n. 9; 14 June, and n. 7; JM to Jefferson, 11 Aug., and nn. 14, 17–19; to Randolph, 12 Aug. 1783). Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had persistently opposed both the guarantee of full pay for five years and its predecessor, the guarantee of half pay for life to continental officers serving throughout the war (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, 187; 190, n. 10; 282; 284, n. 4; 297; 299, n. 2; 300; 370; 371, n. 4; 375; 377, n. 3; JM Notes, 5 June, n. 1; Memorial of Massachusetts General Court, 19 Sept. 1783, and ed. n., n. 4; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 316–17, 387, 333–35, 334, n. 2).

8Exclusive of the income expected from imposts, Congress had asked the states for $1,500,000 during 1783. Of this total, Massachusetts’ quota was $224,427 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 259). On 20 October 1783 the Massachusetts General Court provided by law for beginning the levy of imposts specified by Congress in the plan for restoring public credit as soon as Congress should apprise Massachusetts of the enactment of similar statutes by all the other states (NA: PCC, No. 74, fols. 197–99; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 752; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 323, 363, 374). At that session the General Court adopted no other legislation to provide Congress with revenue. Massachusetts, along with most of the other states, was greatly in arrears in meeting its financial quota, both of 1782 and 1783 (NA: PCC, No. 137, III, 341, 349; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVI, 298–309, esp. 309).

9In December 1782 Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, informed a congressional committee that he had submitted to Massachusetts for approval the name of a person, whom he did not identify to the committee, to be “the Comr.” (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 59–60; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 49). There appears to be no evidence that during 1783 the governor or the Massachusetts General Court acted upon Morris’ recommendation or even acknowledged its receipt. An important complicating circumstance in the financial relations between Massachusetts and Congress was the old continental currency held by prominent citizens to an amount far exceeding the proportion allotted that state to redeem at 40 to 1. Unless Congress agreed to designate the big surplus as a partial offset against Massachusetts’ quota delinquencies, the General Court could not yield to the pressure from the holders of the obsolete currency to make it acceptable in payment of new taxes levied to provide funds for the Confederation’s treasury (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 , II, 49, n. 2; 71; V, 321–22; 323, nn. 7, 8; VI, 262, n. 6). In a long letter on 28 October 1783, Governor John Hancock complained to President Elias Boudinot about Congress’ neglect of Massachusetts’ financial requests. Hancock pointed out that Morris, who clearly was disliked in that state, had included in his analysis of the Confederation debt certain items which were vague and others which were erroneous (NA: PCC, No. 65, II, 225–28; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 349, n. 2. Oscar Handlin and Mary Flug Handlin, Commonwealth, a Study of the Role of Government in the American Economy: Massachusetts, 1774–1861 [New York, 1947], pp. 37–42).

10On 22 December 1783 the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law “to provide certain and adequate funds for the payment of this state’s quota of the debts contracted by the United States.” As in the case of the Massachusetts statute, this one provided that the imposts prescribed in it would not be levied until Congress informed the governor that “each and every of the other states in the union” had enacted similar legislation (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, pp. 62, 65, 70, 78, 81, 83; 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, 350–52). See also Randolph to JM, 18 July 1783, n. 6.

11JM to Randolph, 13 Oct. 1783, and n. 1. Although Jones may have attended earlier, his name does not appear until 8 November in the journal of the Virginia House of Delegates. A quorum had been attained for the first time on 4 November (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, pp. 7, 12).

12Leaving Monticello on 16 October with his daughter Patsy, Jefferson paid a brief visit to Isaac Zane at Marlboro in Frederick County and then proceeded north on the Great Wagon Road to Philadelphia. He passed through Winchester, Harpers Ferry, Frederick, Tawneytown, McAlistertown, Susquehanna, and Lancaster before arriving in Philadelphia on 29 October 1783 (Va. Mag. Hist. and Biog., LXXVII [1969], 302; Edward Dumbauld, Thomas Jefferson, American Tourist [Norman, Okla., 1946], p. 53).

13Jones to JM, 28 June, and n. 17; Mercer to JM, 14 Aug., and nn. 6, 7; JM to Randolph, 8 Sept. 1783, and nn. 9, 10.

14Jones referred to 18 and 19 October, but the name of “the vessell” is not known (JM to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783, n. 6).

Index Entries