James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Period="Revolutionary War"
sorted by: date (descending)

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 10 June 1783

To Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Many years later after recovering the letter, JM wrote “Madison, Jas.” above the date line. The words italicized in the present copy were written in the JM-Jefferson Code No. 2.

Philada. 10 June 1783

My dear Sir

Congress have recd. two letters from Mr. Laurens dated London[,] one the fiveteenth of March the other fiveth of April.1 In the former he persists in the jealousy expressed in his letter of the thirtieth of December of the British Councils.2 He says that Shelburne had boasted of his success in gaining the provisional treaty without the concurrence of France and of the good effects he expected to draw from that advantage. Mr. Ls remark was that admitting the fact which he did not altho’ it might disgrace and even prove fatal to the American Ministers, it could have no such effects on the United States.3 His second letter expresses more confidence in the D. of Portland and Mr. Fox. These ministers have4 withdrawn the subject of commerce with the U. S. from Parliamt. and mean to open negociations for a Treaty with their ministers in Europe.5 Mr. Fox asked Mr. L. whether these had powers for that purpose: his answer was that he believed so, that he had seen a revocation of Mr. Adams’ commission noticed in the Gazettes but that he considered the paragraph as spurious. From this it would seem that Mr A had never communicated this diminution of his powers to his colleagues.6 These letters leave us in the suspence in which they found us as to the definitive Treaty. Mr. L. thinks that no such event could have been relied on under Shelburnes administration.7 He was on the 5th. of Apl. setting out for Paris with Mr. David Hartley successor to Mr. Oswald, from whence he sd. proceed to America unless a definitive Treaty was near being concluded.8 Notwithstand the daily arrivals from every quarter we get not a line on the subject from our Ministers at Versailles.9

Mr. Dumas has inclosed to Congs. sundry papers from which it a[p]pears that the Dutch indulge a violent animosity against the French court for abandoning their interests and the liberty of navigation by a premature concluding of the preliminaries. Complaints on this head are made through Dumas to Mr. Adam[s] with enquiries whether the American ministers had powers to concert engagements with the United Provinces,10 his M C Majy, and his Cat Majy11 for maintaining the rights asserted by the neutral confederation12 or if the two last decline with United Provinces alone the answer of Mr A is not included but references to it import that it was satisfactory and that negociations were to be opened accordingly It is certain notwithstanding that no powers equal to such a transaction were ever given generally to the ministers13 and that as far as they were given they were superceded by the commission to Mr Dana14 This correspondence commenced in Jany. & is brought down to late in March and yet no intimation whatever concerning it has been received from the ministers themselves

Congress have lately sent instructions to the Ministers in Eur[ope] to contend in the final treaty for such amendment of the article relating to British debts as will suspend payment for [three] years after the war and expressly exclude interest during the war15

Mr. Livingston has taken his final leave of the department [of] Foreign affairs, He wd. have remained if such an augmentation [of] his Salary had been made as wd. have secured him agst. future expence. But besides the disinclination of several members to augment salaries, there was no prospect of a competent number of States for an appropriation of money until he must have lost the option of the Chancellorship of N.Y.16 No successor has been yet nominated, altho’ the day for a choice has passed. I am utterly at a loss to guess on whom the choice will ultima[tely] fall. A L will be started if the defaction of a respectable competitor shd. be likely to force votes upon him17 No such has yet been made a subject of conversation in my presence18

The general arrangement of the foreign System has been suspended by the thinness of Congs. in part,19 and partly by the desire of further information from Europe.20 I fear much the delay will be exceedingly protracted. Nothing but final resignation of the Ministers abroad21 & the arrival of Foreign Ministers here, will effectually stimulate Congs. into activity & decision on the subject.22 How far & at what time the first cause will operate is precarious. The secd. seems less so. Mr. Van Berkel has sent directions for proper provisions for his reception in the next month.23 A Sweedish Gentleman recommended by Dr. Franklin as a Philosopher, and by the Ct. de Vergennes as an intended Minister has been here for some time.24 From the temper of Spain, a mission from that Court also is not improbable.25

The Treaty of Commerce with G. B. is another business suspended by the same cause. The Assembly have instructed us to reserve to Congs. a revisal after it shall have been settled in Europe.26 This will give force to the doctrine of caution hitherto maintained by us.27 The time of my setting out for Virga continues to be uncertain, but cannot now be very distant. The prospect of seeing you, I need not assure you, enters much into the pleasure I promise myself from the visit. Mrs. House & Mrs. Trist char[ge] me with their very sincere & respectful compliments to you & beg that they may be remembered very affectionately to Miss Patsy.28

I am Dear Sir your sincere friend

J. Madison Jr.

1Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 303–5, 360–61. These dispatches, addressed to Robert R. Livingston, were received by Congress on 10 June, five days after he had ceased to be secretary for foreign affairs (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 66).

2JM probably should have referred to Henry Laurens’ letter of 24 December 1782. Its contents support JM’s remark, and no dispatch of “the thirtieth” from Laurens has been found. He began his letter of 9 January 1783 to Livingston by writing, “I had the honor of addressing you on the 15th and 24th ultimo” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 138–40, 164–65, 200). See also Pendleton to JM, 10 May 1783, and n. 5.

3In his dispatch of 15 March, Laurens stated that he had “come to London about eighteen days ago, in order to avail myself of opportunities for urging a definitive treaty between Great Britain and the United States, as well as the necessity for removing the British troops from New York.” JM virtually quotes two sentences of Laurens’ second paragraph concerning the satisfaction derived by the Earl of Shelburne from enticing the American peace commissioners, in spite of their instructions, to negotiate a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain without consulting Vergennes (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 303–4). For the belief of many members of Congress that thereby the commissioners had alienated France at a time when the United States desperately needed further financial aid from King Louis XVI, 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, 328–30; 331, n. 4; 332, n. 9; 335; 358–65; 382–84; 394–95; 462, n. 2. JM probably still mistrusted Laurens as being pro-British (ibid., VI, 355; 356, n. 10).

4JM inadvertently wrote “have” immediately after enciphering the word. The ministry of the Earl of Shelburne, which had resigned on 24 February, was succeeded on 1 April 1783 by that of the Duke of Portland, leading an uneasy coalition of adherents of Charles James Fox and Lord North (ibid., VI, 504, n. 3; Delegates to Harrison, 27 May, and n. 4; JM to Randolph, 8 Sept. 1783, and n. 4).

5Laurens wrote that, “being pressed” by “different members” of the House of Commons, he framed on 22 March “a supposed American bill for regulating commerce with Great Britain, and suggested that it had been received by a courier. This I held up as a mirror to some of the most active men in that House.” Since then, Laurens added, “their own bill, which was to have been finished on the 23d, has slept with very little interruption, and is now to all appearances dead” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 360). See also 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 , V, 476; JM to Jefferson, 13 May, and n. 7; JM to Randolph, 20 May, and nn. 4, 5, 14; 17 June 1783, n. 6.

6In a dispatch of 14 April to Livingston, Adams commented that the American peace commissioners, lacking powers to make a “durable” commercial treaty, would seek to conclude “a temporary arrangement” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 373). The instructions authorizing such an “arrangement,” which Congress adopted on 1 May before receiving Adams’ dispatch, reached Franklin on 6 September, three days after the signing of the definitive peace treaty (JM Notes, 6 May 1783, and n. 3; L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, III, 141–42, 142, n. 2).

For the adoption by Congress on 12 July 1781 of JM’s motion to revoke the commission and instructions issued on 27 and 29 September 1779 to Adams empowering him to negotiate a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, see JM to Jefferson, 6 May 1783, and nn. 5, 6. In his autobiography Adams attributed this “revocation” to Vergennes’ “Intrigues with Congress,” using La Luzerne and Barbé-Marbois as his “Instruments” (L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, IV, 252–53). Because of Laurens’ very late arrival to participate in the peace negotiations, Adams may not have thought to inform him of the “revocation.” It is probable that Adams communicated the information orally to Franklin and Jay; certainly he had not hesitated to do so in writing to correspondents whom he was not likely soon to see (Page Smith, John Adams [2 vols.; Garden City, N.Y., 1962], I, 504–5). Benjamin Vaughan, a British agent, when told by Adams on 12 January 1783 of the “revocation,” remarked that the information was “entirely new” and “very important” (L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, III, 104–5, 105, n. 1). See also 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, 132, n. 1; 331, n. 4.

7JM reverts to the letter of 15 March in which Laurens had blamed Shelburne for delaying the conclusion of the definitive treaty and the withdrawal of British troops from New York City. In the letter of 5 April, Laurens expressed confidence that the Duke of Portland and Charles James Fox were disposed to effect those ends “with liberality” and “without delay” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 304, 361, 366).

8Laurens arrived in Paris on 16 April, and David Hartley eight days later. Hartley’s commission for negotiating a peace treaty and a treaty of commerce was not signed until 14 May 1783 (ibid., VI, 366, 385–86, 428–29, 435–36, 442; L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, III, 112, n. 1). For Richard Oswald, 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 , V, 154, n. 2. Laurens, who was in Great Britain at the time of the signing of the definitive treaty of peace in Paris, did not reach the United States until 3 August 1784 (ibid., VI, 427, n. 15; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 640–41, 693).

David Hartley (1732–1813), graduate of Oxford University (1750), member of the House of Commons (1774–1780, 1782–1784), and close friend of Franklin, was a Rockingham Whig who had supported the American cause and endeavored to abolish the slave trade. He wrote numerous political tracts, edited some of his father’s philosophical writings, published Letters on the American War (London, 1778, 1779), and, later in life, devised methods of reducing the hazard of fire in buildings and on ships.

9The slowness of communication between Paris and Philadelphia was frustrating both to Congress and the peace commissioners. On 15 April Franklin wrote Livingston, “It is now near three months since any of us have heard from America.” On 28 May Livingston commented in a letter to the peace commissioners: “We have been much embarrassed by your silence, not having had a line from you since the provisional articles took effect, nor being at all acquainted with the progress of the definitive treaty; though the earliest information on this subject becomes very important” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 377, 453). See also Delegates to Harrison, 27 May 1783, and n. 4.

10Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June, and nn. 1, 3. In his letter of 28 January 1783 to John Adams, Charles G. F. Dumas commented that government officials of the United Provinces regarded the French desertion of them in the negotiations of a preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain as an “immense and unpardonable fault” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 232, 233–34). For Dumas, 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 , V, 136, n. 16.

11Louis XVI of France and Charles III of Spain, respectively.

12League of Armed Neutrality.

13Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June, and n. 4. See also JM to Randolph, 20 May 1783, and nn. 10, 11.

15JM underlined the ciphers for “expressly.” The bracketed syllables and words in this and later paragraphs of the letter denote excisions in the manuscript as a result of overly close trimming along the right edge of the text. For the “instructions,” 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, 440, n. 2; JM Notes, 30 May 1783, and n. 3.

16JM Notes, 15 May, and n. 1; 4 June 1783, and nn. 3, 4. For Livingston’s position as chancellor of New York State and its effect upon his continuance as secretary for foreign affairs, 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 , V, 337, n. 2; 353, n. 8. In a letter of 19 March 1783, Governor George Clinton had warned Livingston that there was “a prevailing opinion in the Senate” of the New York General Assembly that the office of chancellor had become “vacant” as a result of his prolonged absences (Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds., Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York … [10 vols.; Albany and New York, 1899–1914], VIII, 91; also 61, 110).

17A L” is Arthur Lee. JM used the word “defaction” in the sense of “lack of.” 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, 224, n. 7; JM Notes, 10 June 1783, and n. 12.

18Although JM almost surely intended to encode “my,” requiring 830 as its cipher, he wrote 820, signifying “particular.”

19JM Notes, 23 May, and n. 7; 9 June 1783, and n. 1.

20On 17 and 18 June Congress received three dispatches from Francis Dana, dated 31 January, 14 and 24 February; one of 27 March from Dumas; one of 15 April from Franklin; and one of 29 October 1782 from William Carmichael (NA: PCC, No. 186, III, 67, 68).

21For Dana’s arrival in Boston on 12 December 1783 from his unsuccessful mission as minister-designate to the court of St. Petersburg, 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, 427, n. 14. For the return of Laurens to the United States, see n. 8. Committing American interests at Madrid to the charge of Carmichael, John Jay, minister-designate at the court of Charles III, had left that city early in the summer of 1782 to serve as one of the American peace commissioners at Paris. Following an unsuccessful effort with Adams and Franklin to negotiate a commercial treaty with Great Britain, Jay left Paris on 16 May, sailed from Dover on 1 June, and disembarked at New York City on 24 July 1784, approximately a year after he had written Congress signifying his wish to resign. On 7 May 1784 Congress had elected him secretary for foreign affairs (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 , V, 20; 22, n. 10; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 389, 576, 801, 816).

Notwithstanding Franklin’s repeated requests, beginning late in 1782, to relinquish his position as minister plenipotentiary at the court of Versailles, Congress delayed until 7 March 1785 before acceding to them. He left Paris on 12 July and reached Philadelphia on 14 September of that year (ibid., VI, 585, 746–47; 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, 342, n. 12; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 25–26, 44, n. 5, 219, and n. 4).

22JM Notes, 23 May 1783, and n. 7.

23Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June 1783, and n. 1. JM also referred to Dumas’ dispatch of 5 March, read in Congress on 2 June, reporting that Pieter Johan van Berckel (1724–1800), burgomaster of Rotterdam and “minister-plenipotentiary from their high mightinesses the States-General of the United Netherlands,” wished made available for him a house to rent and a coach and horses to buy. Arriving at Chester on 9 October, two days later he reached Philadelphia and was received by Congress at Princeton on 31 October (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 66; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 271, 272, 713–14, 715, 716; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 780; Pa. Packet, 11 Oct. 1783).

24Papers 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 , V, 167–68; 168, n. 3; VI, 335; 338, n. 21; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 613–14. The “Gentleman” was probably the Baron de Kermelin, about whom Franklin had written to Livingston on 7 November 1782 (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 861–62). By 24 June 1784 the baron had arrived in Philadelphia “from his Swedish Majesty with letters of Credence which he is at liberty to use, provided the United States send a Minister to that Court” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 559). The source of JM’s knowledge of Vergennes’ opinion has not been determined, but it may have been in a dispatch from Vergennes to La Luzerne.

25JM to Jefferson, 6 May 1783, and n. 8. JM’s sanguine view of Spain’s more friendly attitude toward the United States probably reflected his reading of Carmichael’s dispatches. Congress had not heard from him since 6 May. In a dispatch of 7 May 1783, Livingston commented to Carmichael: “No people in the world are more governed by their feelings than the Americans, of which the late war was a striking proof, and those feelings have been long sported with in Spain. Yet men of reflection see the propriety of overlooking the past and forming in future a durable connexion. We are necessary to each other, and our mutual friendship must conduce to the happiness of both” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 408). The court of Madrid in 1784 empowered Don Diego de Gardoqui to proceed to the United States in the capacity of encargado de negocios. He was received by Congress on 2 July 1785 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 163, n. 7).

26Instruction to Delegates, 23–24 May 1783, and n. 1. The Virginia General Assembly also expressed the desire that no treaty of commerce should be “finally concluded” with Great Britain until “the different States” as well as Congress had “had an opportunity of considering it.”

28Papers 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, 182, n. 29; JM to Jefferson, 6 May, and n. 11; Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and nn. 16, 19.

Index Entries