James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to George Washington, 9 January 1785

To George Washington

Richmond Jany. 9th. 1785

Dear Sir

I have now the pleasure of confirming the expectations hinted in my last concerning the result of the measures which have been favoured with your patronage. The Bill for opening the Potowmac has passed precisely on the model transmitted from Maryland, the last conditional clause in the latter being rendered absolute by a clause in the former which engages this State for fifty shares in the Company. Before the receipt of your despatches, some progress had been made in a bill for James River founded on different principle.1 After the receipt of them, the bill was exchanged for one on the Potowmac principle which has passed into a law with the same rapidity & unanimity which attended the other. The circumstancial variations with respect to James River are. 1. that the Sum to be aimed at in the first instance is 100,000 Dollars, only. 2. the shares are fixed at 200 Dollars and the number of public shares at 500. 3. the tolls are reduced to one half of those granted on Potowmac. 4. in case the falls at this place, where alone tolls are to be paid shall be first opened, the Company are permitted to receive them immediately and to continue to do so until the lapse of ten years, within which period all the works are to be compleated under the same penalties as are specified in the case of the other River. 5. a pre-emption is reserved to the public on all sales and transfers of shares. We endeavoured to preserve an equal eye in this business to the interest of the two Rivers, and to regulate the dates in the two bills in such a manner as to allow the members of each Company to participate in the transactions of the other. The excessive hurry however and the length of the bills may have produced inaccuracies in these as well as in other respects.2

The Assembly have likewise taken several kindred measures in the form of Resolutions, of which copies are herewith inclosed.3 No. 3 was meant to carry into effect an idea suggested in your letter to the late Governour & explained in conversations with which several members were honoured during your visit to Richmond. It had passed before the rece[i]pt of your report from Annapolis. I observed in my last that the subject of it ought to have made a part of your negociation with Maryland, and mentioned the circumstances which prevented it. I regret the omission the more, as the task devolved on Gentlemen to a notification of whose appointment and object, no answer I am informed has yet been vouchsafed to the Governour by Maryland, and whose commission it may be presumed is not altogether palatable to that State. Taking a more candid supposition, that the Silence of the latter is the effect of some miscarriage, the delay or the necessity of a separate representation to Pennsylvania, are inconveniences still to be regretted. As this goes by Col: Grayson4 who means to pay his respects to Mount Vernon on his way to Trenton, I forbear to anticipate farther, communications which he can more fully make, and beg leave to subscribe myself with all possible respect and regard Sir Your Obedient & most humble Servt.

J. Madison Jr.

RC (ICU). Docketed by Washington, “respectg the Acts for opening the Navigation of Potom[ack] & James Rivers.” Enclosures missing.

1The James River bill “founded on a different principle” was JM’s own draft of 18 Dec. 1784, which had to be scrapped when Washington’s letter and enclosures of 28 Dec. arrived in Richmond.

2Impatient members of the General Assembly wanted to go home and thus “the excessive hurry” to end the session caused the new Potomac and James river bills to reach the floor on 1 Jan. and become law four days later (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, pp. 101, 109, 110).

3The missing enclosures were relayed by Washington to his Fairfax County associates, John Fitzgerald and William Harthshorne, on 18 Jan. 1785. Washington’s letterbook shows that he included in his letter to the Alexandria merchants “Mr. Madisons letter enclosg. No. 1. Similar Resolutions respectg. Roads &c. No. 2. Surveying James River, & Country between that & the Western Waters. No. 3. Respecting the Jurisdiction &c. of Potomac.” “No. 1” was JM’s resolution of 1 Jan. 1785 authorizing surveys for a western road from Fort Cumberland “to the navigable part of the river Yohogania.” “No. 2” was the James River survey authorization JM also introduced on 1 Jan., and “No. 3” carried out the “idea suggested” in Washington’s letter to Governor Harrison on 10 Oct. 1784 regarding the participation of Pennsylvania in the canal-building endeavors, which JM had introduced on 28 Dec. 1784 before Washington’s “report from Annapolis” arrived in Richmond (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, pp. 91, 101, 102; DLC: Washington Letter Book).

4William Grayson (1736–1790) had been elected a delegate to Congress in June 1784 but continued to serve in the House of Delegates until the Oct. 1784 session ended. He was headed for his new duties in Trenton but decided to bypass Mount Vernon although JM’s letter and the enclosures were left in safe hands. The bundle reached Washington on 17 Jan. (Weston Bristow, “William Grayson: A Study in Virginia Biography of the Eighteenth Century,” Richmond College Historical Papers, II [1917], 75, 85, 117; 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 , XXVIII, 32, 37).

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