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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 7 May 1783

From Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Jefferson’s hand. Docketed by JM, “From Ths. J. to J.M. May 7, 1783.” On the docket page someone unknown wrote, “Ths. Jefferson May 7. 1783.” Using the JM-Jefferson Code No. 2, Jefferson enciphered the words which are here italicized. Interlineated on the manuscript is JM’s decoding of these ciphers. Filed with the manuscript are two pages entitled by JM “as decyphered from letter of May 7. 1783” and docketed by him, “to J Madison 7. May 1783.” Except that JM replaced all coding with the words it symbolized, he copied on those pages that part of Jefferson’s first paragraph beginning with the words “This is the view I form at present of the leaders” and also the whole of the two succeeding paragraphs. In the manuscript of the letter, he bracketed these portions, placed an asterisk beside the first bracket, repeated the asterisk in the bottom margin of Jefferson’s first page, and wrote, “see the paper decyphering what is in [ ].”

Tuckahoe1 May 7: 1783.

Dear Sir

I rec[eived] your favor of Apr. 22. and am not a little concerned at the alterations which took place in the Report on the impost &c. after I left you. the article which bound the whole together was I fear essential to get the whole passed; as that which proposed the conversion of state into federal debts was one [pa]latable ingredient at least in the pill we were to swallow.2 this proposition being then hopeful, I never consulted you whether The paiment of our Western expenditures, annexed as a condition to our passing the articles recommended, would not be acceded to by Congress; more especially when one of those articles is the cession of that very territory for the acquisition & defence of which these expenditures have been incurred.3 if I recollect rightly, Congress offered this in their first proposition for a cession.4 I beg your sentiments however on this subject by return of the first post.5 notwithstanding the unpromising form of these articles,6 I have waited a fortnight in the neighborhood of Richmond that I might see some of the members. I passed yesterday in associating & conversation with as many of them as I could the attorny7 has cooperated in this work. This is the view I form at present of the leaders. A. Lee R. H. Lee M. Page Taylar will be against them. so will Thruston and White if elected and even an Arthur Cambel[l] is thought worthy of being named with these as having some infloence in the south west quarter.8 In their favor will probable be Tylar Taz[e]well General Nelson W Nelson Nicholas & a Mr. Stewart a young man of good talents from the West9 Henry as usual is involved in mistery Should the popular tide run strongly in either direction, he will fall in with it Should it not he will have a struggl[e] between his enmity to the Lees & his enmity to every thing which may give influence to Congress10 T Mason is a meteor whose path can not be calculated11 all the powers of his mind seem at present concentrated on one singl[e] object the producing a convention to new model the Constitution12 this is a subjec[t] much agitated and seems the only one they will have to amuse themselfs with til they shall   receive your proposetions These should be hastened as I think the session will be short.13

I have seen mr. Wythe. he has none of his amendments or notes on the Confederation.14

Mr. Short has desired me to suggest his name as that of a person willing to become a legatine secretary should these offices be continud. I have apprized him of the possibility that they may not. you know my high opinion of his ableties and merits I will therefore only add that a peculiar talent for prying into facts seems to mark his character as proper for such a business He is young & little experienced in business tho well prepared for it these defects will lessen dayly should persons be proposed less proper on the whole, you would on motives of public good, knowing his willingness to serve give him a nomination & do justice to his character.15

I rejoice at the information that Miss K. and yourself concur in sentiments I rejoice as it will render you happier and will give to me a neighbor on whom I shall set high value You will be continued in your delegation16 till the end of three years from the completion of the Confederation.17 You will therefore model your measures accordingly You say nothing of the time when you shall pay your visit to Virginia. I hope you will let me know of your arrival as soon as it happens should the call be made on18 me, which was sometimes the subject of our conversation and be so timed with your visit as that you may be the bearer of it I shall with great pleasure accomodate my movements to yours so as to accompany you on your return to Philadelphia19

I set out this morning for Monticello. my affectionate compliments to the ladies & gentlemen of the house and sincere friendship to yourself. Adieu20

1The estate of Thomas Mann Randolph (1741–1793) on the James River in Goochland County, about thirteen miles west of Richmond (Frances Archer Christian and Susanne Williams Massie, eds., Homes and Gardens in Old Virginia, rev. by Ella Williams Smith et al. [3d ed.; Richmond, 1962], pp. 180–85). In 1790 Randolph’s eldest son married Jefferson’s daughter Martha (Patsy).

2Papers 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, 481; 482, nn. 9–11. Jefferson had left Philadelphia on 12 April 1783 to return to Virginia (ibid., VI, 396). By “we,” which is underlined and not encoded, Jefferson signified Virginia or, more precisely, its General Assembly. The congressional proposals for restoring public credit could not become effective until ratified by the legislature of every state.

3While Jefferson was in Philadelphia, he had shared JM’s expectation that Congress would accept the general pledge, incorporated in the proposed plan for restoring public credit, to assume every state’s unauthorized but reasonable war expenses, including the cost of Virginia’s military operations in the Old Northwest. Congress, however, excised that provision before adopting the plan on 18 April and refused later that month to reinstate it, in spite of efforts by JM and delegates from other states with similar claims (ibid., VI, 291; 296, n. 40; 310; 312–13; 315, n. 14; 316, n. 16; 317; 318, n. 2; 324, n. 7; 400–401; 403, nn. 11–13; 404, nn. 14–16, 18; 406; 440; 441, n. 6; 442–43; 445, n. 11; 468, and n. 1; 469; 470, nn. 4, 5; 471; 477; 478, n. 1; 502, and n. 3; 503, nn. 4, 5).

Attached to the offer of the Virginia General Assembly on 2 January 1781 to cede the territory north and west of the Ohio River to the United States were several provisos, including the stipulation that Congress must reimburse Virginia for “all the charges she has incurred, on account of the country, on the northwest side of the Ohio river, since the commencement of the present war” (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1780, p. 80).

4On 10 October 1780 Congress rejected the committee report which included that guarantee (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVII, 806–7; XVIII, 915–16; 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, 138, n. 2).

6Jefferson, of course, had not seen the final form of the plan for restoring public credit, since Elias Boudinot did not post it from Philadelphia to Governor Harrison until 9 May (Delegates to Harrison, 6 May, and n. 3). Jefferson’s comment reflected his reading of JM’s letter of 22 April 1783 (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, 481–83).

7Edmund Randolph. 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.

8Jefferson probably knew Arthur Lee’s views from talking with him in Philadelphia, for his brother Richard Henry Lee did not arrive in Richmond until 8 May. See JM to Jefferson, 6 May, and n. 4; Randolph to JM, 9 May 1783. For Mann Page, Jr., and John Taylor, delegates in the Virginia General Assembly from Spotsylvania and Caroline counties, respectively, 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 , IV, 137, n. 3; VI, 423, n. 8.

Charles Mynn Thruston and Alexander White of Frederick County were both re-elected (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 17). For Thruston, 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, 283, nn. 2, 3. White (1739–1804) was a British-trained lawyer who served in the House of Delegates, 1782–1786 and 1788, in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Federal Constitution, and in the United States House of Representatives from 1789 to 1793. Between 1788 and 1796 he occasionally corresponded with JM. In 1795 he was appointed by President Washington one of three commissioners to lay out the city of Washington, D.C. (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 20, 22, 28). For Arthur Campbell, 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 , IV, 126, n. 1; V, 454; 456, n. 12.

9For John Tyler, speaker of the House of Delegates, from Charles City County; Henry Tazewell, the delegate from Williamsburg; Thomas Nelson, Jr., from York County; William Nelson from James City County; George Nicholas from Albemarle County; and Archibald Stuart from Botetourt County, see Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 17, 18; 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 , I, 225, n. 5; III, 197, n. 1; IV, 30, n. 2; V, 219, n. 10; 400; 403, n. 12; VI, 417, n. 6; 500, n. 2.

Stuart (1757–1832) left the College of William and Mary in 1780 to serve under the command of his father in the Carolina campaign. He later studied law under Jefferson. He was also a delegate from Botetourt County between 1784 and 1786, from Augusta County between 1786 and 1788, and a state senator, 1797–1800 (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, 49, 52). During his long public career Stuart also participated in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Federal Constitution in 1788 and served as a judge of the General Court of his state. He was a correspondent of JM between 1787 and 1793.

10For the “enmity” of Patrick Henry toward the Lees, 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 , II, 199; 269–70; IV, 225; 306; 355–56; V, 79, n. 16; 339; 340, n. 11; 404, n. 18; 453. For Jefferson’s dislike and distrust of Henry, see Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 85 n., 144 n., 205, and nn. In the General Assembly of May 1783 Henry was present at least by the twelfth of that month, when the House of Delegates mustered its first quorum of the session. On that day Henry and his supporters succeeded by a vote of 61 to 20 in having John Tyler elected speaker over the opposition of the advocates of Richard Henry Lee for that position (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 4). See also Randolph to JM, 9 May 1783, and n. 4.

11In his retained copy of the letter, Jefferson began this sentence: “The Attorney [Edmund Randolph] thinks T.M. [Mason]” (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 267, n. 3). The youthful Stevens Thomson Mason (1760–1803), a resident of Loudoun County, a nephew of George Mason, an alumnus of the College of William and Mary, a Revolutionary veteran, and a lawyer, was at the beginning of his political career. Again a delegate from Loudoun County in 1794, he was a member of the Virginia Convention of 1788 which ratified the Federal Constitution, a state senator from 1787 to 1790, and a United States senator from 1794 to 1803. Jefferson came to number Mason among his close friends and, after 1790, as an ardent supporter in national as well as in state politics (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 18, 27, 30, 32, 34, 42). Thomson Mason set forth his views in a letter to the freeholders of Stafford County, 10 June 1783 (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 14 June 1783).

12On a separate page which has much of Jefferson’s writing deciphered, JM interlineated “[State]” between “the” and “Constitution” at some time after the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Jefferson was also eager to “new model” the Form of Government of Virginia and had devoted much thought to what the changes should be. 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, 319; 320, n. 7; 321, n. 8; 441, n. 10; Jefferson to JM, 17 June 1783; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 278, 294–306. Probably late in the spring of 1783 Stuart procured a copy of Jefferson’s draft for a new constitution (An Occasional Bulletin, Virginia Historical Society, XV [1967], 8).

13On 22 May Governor Harrison submitted to the House of Delegates a pamphlet containing an address and recommendations of Congress that the states authorize “a System for the Support of public Credit” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 33, MS in Va. State Library; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 16). The May session of the General Assembly adjourned on 28 June, thereby being of about the usual duration (ibid., pp. 93, 99). If the delegates “to amuse themselfs” prior to 22 May talked about “producing a convention,” no mention of the fact appears in their journal (ibid., pp. 3–16). See Jones to JM, 25 May 1783.

14For Chancellor George Wythe, 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 , II, 49; 51, n. 6; III, 20; 22, nn. 3, 4; 80; 81, n. 8; IV, 307, n. 5; V, 263. JM, who apparently hoped to write a history of civil affairs during the Revolution, or at least to edit primary sources relating thereto, seems to have asked Jefferson, when they were together in Philadelphia, to inquire of Wythe whether he could supply documents for the period 1775–1776 during his service in the Continental Congress (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, 232–33). See also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , II, 199; IV, 402, and n.; VI, 1071–73; Jefferson to JM, 1 June 1783, and nn. 5–7.

15For William Short and a summary of his long service overseas, beginning in 1784 as private secretary of Jefferson in France, 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 , III, 269–70, n. 2; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VII, 363, and n., 384, 521, 534; William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., XXI (1964), 516–33; Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CII (1958), 596–612.

16At some undetermined time, but hardly before late in July or early in August 1783, when Catherine Floyd withdrew from her engagement to marry him, JM canceled this paragraph with heavy, wavy lines of ink as far as “delegation.” The decipherment by the present editors agrees with that of Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 267. See also Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 284.

17Papers 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, 464, and n. 6. For JM’s response to Jefferson’s suggestion, see JM to Jefferson, 20 May; Randolph to JM, 24 May; and JM to Randolph, 3 June 1783.

18JM inadvertently wrote 108, the symbol for “commerce,” instead of 1080, signifying “on.”

19Papers 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. On 6 June the Virginia legislature elected Jefferson a delegate to Congress for the year beginning on the first Monday of November (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 39). Jefferson left Monticello on 16 October and first attended Congress, then assembled at Princeton, N.J., on 4 November 1783 (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 349 n.; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 803). He had stopped at Philadelphia on 29 October for nearly a week. During that period and also thereafter until late in November, when Jefferson and JM were fellow travelers to Annapolis, the new meeting place of Congress, they were frequently together (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 355 n., 377, 381).

20Papers 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, nn. 28, 29.

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