Thomas Jefferson Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Recipient="Madison, James" AND Period="Adams Presidency"
sorted by: author

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 3 January 1799

To James Madison

Philadelphia Jan. 3. 99.

I have suffered the post hour to come so nearly over on me that I must huddle over what I have more than appears in the public papers. I arrived here on Christmas day, not a single bill or other article of business having yet been brought into Senate. the P’s speech, so unlike himself in point of moderation, is supposed to have been written by the military conclave, & particularly Hamilton. when the Senate gratuitously hint Logan to him, you see him in his reply come out in his genuine colours. the debates on that subject & Logan’s declaration you will see in the papers. the republican spirit is supposed to be gaining ground in this state & Massachusets. the taxgatherer has already excited discontent. Gerry’s correspondence with Taleyrand, promised by the Presidt. at the opening of the session is still kept back. it is known to shew France in a very conciliatory attitude, and to contradict some executive assertions. therefore it is supposed they will get their war measures well taken before they will produce this damper. Vans Murray writes them that the French government is sincere in their overtures for reconciliation & have agreed, if these fail, to admit the mediation offered by the Dutch govmt. in the mean time the raising the army is to go on, & it is said they propose to build twelve 74s. insurance is now higher in all the commercial towns against British than French capture. the impresment of seamen from one of our armed vessels by a British man of war has occasioned mr Pickering to bristle up it is said. but this cannot proceed to any effect. the capture by the French of the Retaliation (an armed vessel we had taken from them) will probably be played off to the best advantage. Lyon is re-elected. his majority is great. reports vary from 600. to 900. Logan was elected into the Pensylva. legislature against F. A. Mulenburg by 1256. to 769. Livermore has been reelected in N. Hampshire by a majority of 1. in the lower & 2. in the upper house. Genl. Knox has become bankrupt for 400,000 D. & has resigned his military commission. he took in Genl. Lincoln for 150,000 D. which breaks him. Colo. Jackson also sunk with him.—it seems generally admitted that several cases of the yellow fever still exist in the city, and the apprehension is that it will re-appear early in the spring.—you promised me a copy of Mc.Gee’s bill of prices. be so good as to send it on to me here. tell mrs Madison her friend Made. d’Yrujo is as well as one can be so near to a formidable crisis. present my friendly respects to her and accept yourself my sincere & affectionate salutations. Adieu.

I omitted to mention that a petition has been presented to the President signed by several thousand persons in Vermont, praying a remitment of Lyon’s fine. he asked the bearer of the petition if Lyon himself had petitioned, and being answered in the negative, said, ‘penitence must precede pardon.’

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange court house”; franked, stamped, and postmarked. PrC (DLC).

Military conclave: on 10 Nov. Washington arrived in Philadelphia and during his month’s stay he attended meetings with his major generals, Hamilton and Charles C. Pinckney, Secretary of War James McHenry, and other cabinet officers. When Adams delivered his annual message to Congress on 8 Dec. the former president, Hamilton, and Pinckney were sitting alongside the speaker of the House. In response to a letter from Adams in October, Oliver Wolcott had submitted ideas and a draft (evidently from Hamilton) for the message. Adams used the draft, but in altering the wording on conditions for negotiations with France, protested Hamiltonian Federalists, the president opened the door to “French diplomatic intrigues” (Freeman, Washington description begins Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, New York, 1948–57, 7 vols.; 7th volume by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth description ends , 7:549–50, 552–6; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 25:209–10; Gibbs, Memoirs description begins George Gibbs, ed., Memoirs of the Administration of Washington and John Adams, edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury, New York, 1846, 2 vols. description ends , 2:168–75, 180,185–7; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:559–60; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled 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 , 9:2420).

On 3 Jan. 1799 the Philadelphia Aurora printed Logan’s declaration, an address to the citizens of the United States in which George Logan defended his mission to France, noting that he undertook it as a private citizen in an effort to restore harmony between the two republics. Logan reiterated that he “did not go to France” at the request or direction of any other person or political party and that the two certificates of citizenship which he carried with him (see Certificate for George Logan, 4 June 1798) were addressed to no one in particular and were not used to procure interviews with French public officials.

Taxgatherer has already excited discontent: on 29 Dec. 1798 the Gazette of the United States carried news that assessors in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, had been threatened. Two days later, the Philadelphia Aurora noted that farmers were questioning the extravagance of the administration in supporting a house tax, a land tax, and an additional salt tax at a time when the threat of war with the French Republic had “ceased.”

In July 1798 Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, the Dutch minister to France, approached Talleyrand and Elbridge Gerry with an offer by the Batavian Republic to serve as mediator in the dispute between the United States and France. On 23 Aug. William Vans Murray advised Pickering that a local newspaper carried as “‘authentic’ intelligence” Talleyrand’s acceptance of the Dutch proposal “provided the measures already taken to conciliate the U.S. did not succeed.” Murray thought the French government was probably behind the publication to “give an appearance of a conciliatory disposition in the eyes of America & Europe” (Murray to Pickering, 23 Aug. 1798, in MHi: Pickering Papers; ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends Foreign Relations, 2:224; Bowman, Neutrality description begins Albert H. Bowman, The Struggle for Neutrality: Franco-American Diplomacy during the Federalist Era, Knoxville, 1974 description ends , 343–4; Peter P. Hill, William Vans Murray, Federalist Diplomat: The Shaping of Peace with France, 1797–1801 [Syracuse, N.Y., 1971], 120–1).

On 16 Nov. 1798 Captain John Loring of the Royal Navy impressed 55 seamen from the Baltimore, one of the U.S. Navy’s armed vessels near Havana. When the American commander, Isaac Phillips, protested that he did not have enough seamen left to sail the vessel properly, all but five men were returned. On 31 Dec. Pickering wrote Robert Liston a letter of protest against the “outrage.” On the same day Harrison Gray Otis brought a resolution before the House of Representatives requesting the president to provide information on the incident so that Congress could take action to show the country’s determination “to protect their flag against any country whatever” (King, Life description begins Charles R. King, ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, New York, 1894–1900, 6 vols. description ends , 2:505–8; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled 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 , 9:2546; DeConde, Quasi-War description begins Alexander DeConde, The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797–1801, New York, 1966 description ends , 202–3; Michael A. Palmer, Stoddert’s War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War with France, 1798–1801 [Columbia, S.C., 1987], 61–6).

The retaliation, commanded by William Bainbridge and formerly a French vessel captured by the Delaware off the coast of New Jersey in July 1798, was taken by the French frigate L’Insurgent in November 1798 (DeConde, Quasi-War description begins Alexander DeConde, The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797–1801, New York, 1966 description ends , 127–8; NDQW, description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi War between the United States and France, Washington, 1935–38, 7 vols. description ends Nov. 1798–Mch. 1799, 40–3. For the release of the vessel, see TJ to Monroe, 11 Feb. 1799.

Samuel Livermore was narrowly reelected to the New Hampshire legislature. Having no viable candidate, the Republicans in the lower house gave him their votes (Lynn Warren Turner, The Ninth State: New Hampshire’s Formative Years [Chapel Hill, 1983], 162–3).

Unable to continue borrowing to pay off notes as they became due, Henry Knox faced a financial crisis and was summoned to Boston by his creditors in October 1798. Since his friends and fellow Revolutionary War generals Benjamin Lincoln, customs collector at Boston, and Henry Jackson had endorsed many of his notes, they were also financially embarrassed, but not to the extent indicated by TJ and others. In Boston it was rumored that Lincoln was responsible for about half of the $100,000 owed by Knox. In reality Lincoln paid about $25,000. A final settlement was not reached until 1806 (David Mattern, Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution [Columbia, S.C., 1995], 210–12). Knox resigned his military commission when Hamilton and Pinckney were ranked above him in the leadership of the new army (Kohn, Eagle and Sword description begins Richard H. Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America 1783–1802, New York, 1975 description ends , 243; Henry Tazewell to TJ, 12 July 1798).

The petition from Vermont, printed in the Philadelphia Aurora on 14 Jan. 1799, was delivered by John C. Ogden (see note to Stevens Thomson Mason to TJ, 23 Nov. 1798).

Index Entries