Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 22 January 1797

From James Madison

Philada. Jany. 22. 1797.

Dear Sir

I have received yours of Jany. 8th. You will find by the papers that the communication on French affairs, has been at length made. Being ordered to be printed without being read, I have no direct knowledge of its character. Some of the Senate where it has been read in part, represent it as well fitted to convert into an incurable gangrine, the wound which the friendship between the two Republics has suffered. Adding this on our side to the spirit manifested in the language and the proceedings on the other, an awful scene appears to be opening upon us. The only chance to escape it lies in the President-Elect. You know the degree in which I appreciate it. I am extremely apprehensive that he may have been drawn into a sanction to this last step of the Executive, by a complimentary initiation into the business which is soon to devolve on him. This is however apprehension merely; no circumstance being known from Which the fact can be inferred. We hear nothing from Monroe or from Pinkney. It has got into the newspapers that an Envoy Extraordy. was to go to France, and that I was to be the person. I have no reason to suppose a shadow of truth in the former part of the story; and the latter is pure fiction. Doctr. Logan has put into my hands a copy of his Agricultural experiments for you which I will forward. A vote has passed in favor of a direct tax. The event is notwithstanding doubtful. The Eastern members, after creating the necessity for it, increasing the odium of it, and reproaching their Southern brethren with backwardness in supporting the Govt. are now sneaking out of the difficulty, and endeavoring whilst they get what they wish, to enjoy the popularity of having opposed it.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Feb. 1797 and so recorded in SJL.

President Washington presented his long-awaited Communication on French Affairs to Congress on 19 Jan. 1797. While his message was brief and conciliatory, he enclosed other documents, the first being a long letter from Timothy Pickering to Charles C. Pinckney of 16 Jan. 1797, which Madison described as “corrosive.” The Pickering letter, with accompanying documentation, reviewed relations between the United States and France since 1793 and served as an answer to the numerous complaints cited by Pierre Auguste Adet in his letter to Pickering of 15 Nov. 1796 (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , vi, 1914, 2713–69; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, i, 559–747; Madison to TJ, 5 Feb. 1797).

The New York Minerva of 19 Jan. 1797 reported that a letter from Philadelphia carried the news that Madison was appointed a special envoy to France and was soon to depart. The rumor spread to France where a Paris newspaper reported that Madison had arrived in the city on 2 Apr. 1797 (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison, Indianapolis, 1941–61, 6 vols. description ends , ii, 450–1; Philadelphia Aurora, 15 June 1797). For John Adams’s conversation with TJ on the desirability of gaining Madison’s assent to participation in a mission to the French Republic, see Notes on Conversations with John Adams and George Washington, [after 13 Oct. 1797].

Agricultural experiments: George Logan, Fourteen Agricultural Experiments, to Ascertain the best Rotation of Crops: Addressed to the “Philadelphia Agricultural Society” (Philadelphia, 1797). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 717.

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