James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Recipient="Madison, James"
sorted by: date (ascending)

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 11 December 1783

From Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover addressed to “James Madison junr. esq. Orange. to the care of mr Jas. Maury Fredericksburg.” Docketed by JM, “Ths. Jefferson Dec 11. 1783.”

Annapolis Dec. 11. 1783.

Dear Sir

Your determination to avail yourself of the fine weather proved I fear a very unfortunate one. I pitied your probable situation in the tempestuous season which immediately succeeded your departure.1 it is now above a fortnight since we should have met, and six states only appear. we have some hopes of Rhodeisland coming in to-day, but when two more will be added seems as insusceptible of calculation as when the next earthquake will happen.2 we have at length received the Definitive treaty with a joint letter from all our Commissioners. not a tittle is changed in the treaty but the preamble & some small things which were of course.3 the Commissioners write that the riot of Philadelphia & departure of Congress thence made the most serious impressions in Europe, and have excited great doubts of the stability of our confederacy, and in what we shall end. the accounts were greatly exaggerated, & it is suspected that Gr. Br. wished to sign no treaty.4

You have seen G. M. I hope & had much conversation with him. what are his sentiments as to the amendment of our constitution? what amendments would he approve? is he determined to sleep on, or will he rouse & be active? I wish to hear from you on this subject, & at all times on any others which occupy your thoughts.5 I see Bradford advertizes Smith’s history of N. York. as I mean to write for one for myself, and think I heard you say you had it not, I shall add one for you.6 our news from the good family we left is not agreeable. mrs. Trist is much agitated by the doubts and difficulties which hang over her & impede her reunion with mr. Trist. they are without lodgers except those we left there, & the ladies we left there propose soon to depart. we hear some circumstances of rudeness in mr. S. inconsistent with the inoffensiveness of character we had given him credit for.7 I wish you much happiness and am with the sincerest esteem Dr. Sir

Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I have taken the liberty of putting under cover to you a book for my nephew Peter Carr who is at mr. Maury’s in your neighborhood.8

2A “number of members” insufficient “to proceed to business” met in Annapolis on 26 November, the day scheduled by Congress to convene there after adjourning at Princeton on 4 November. William Ellery and David Howell of Rhode Island having arrived, effective delegations were present on 13 December from seven states, not counting New Hampshire and South Carolina, for they each had only one delegate in attendance (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 807, 809–10). On 29 December the number of delegations dropped to six. Only five were on hand at the close of 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 814–42, passim).

3On 13 December Congress received an official copy of the definitive treaty of peace, signed by the commissioners of Great Britain and the United States at Paris on 3 September 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 812). Article X of the document stipulated that “solemn Ratifications” should “be exchanged between the contracting Parties in the Space of Six Months” (Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts, II, 155–56). Article IX of the Articles of Confederation manifestly connoted that the ratification of a peace treaty required the assent of at least nine states (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 220). On 26 and 27 December 1783, with the deadline only about two months in the future, with only seven states effectively represented in Congress, with little prospect of adding two more, and with a belief prevalent that Great Britain would be glad “to postpone the conclusion of the treaty,” the delegates debated but failed to adopt a motion “that 7 states were competent to the ratification” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 836–37; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 392–93, 395–96, 399, and n. 3, 403–4, 405–6). Jefferson meant, of course, that the terms of the preliminary and the definitive treaties of peace were in all important respects identical.

4John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay enclosed the definitive treaty in their dispatch of 10 September 1783 to President Elias Boudinot. The commissioners mentioned, among the news items from the United States which had “diminished the admiration” of Europeans for “the people of America,” and possibly helped to account for Great Britain’s delay in concluding the treaty, “the exaggerated accounts of divisions among our people and want of authority of Congress,” the harsh treatment of Loyalists, “the situation of the army, the reluctance of the people to pay taxes, and the circumstances under which Congress removed from Philadelphia” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 687–91). See also Delegates to Harrison, 1 Nov. 1783 (1st letter), and n. 10.

5In his letter to Jefferson on 10 December (q.v.), JM had partially answered these questions about George Mason. Fifty-eight years of age in 1783, Mason had declined two years before to continue as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, stating that “They drove me out of the Assembly with a thorough Conviction that it was not in my Power to do any Manner of Good” (Robert A. Rutland, ed., The Papers of George Mason [3 vols.; Chapel Hill, N.C., 1970], II, 768). Between 1785 and 1788, however, in spite of frequent periods of illness, he resumed his public career. During those years he shared in the Mount Vernon Conference, the Annapolis Convention, four sessions of the House of Delegates, the Federal Constitutional Convention, and the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States (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. 24, 26; Kate M. Rowland, Life of George Mason, II, 1, 23, 81–297, passim).

6Thomas Bradford, proprietor of a bookstore on Front Street in Philadelphia, announced in the 10 December issue of his Pennsylvania Journal, and the Weekly Advertiser that he had for sale, among the volumes “imported in the last vessels from London,” “Smiths History of New-York.” The reference is to William Smith, The History of the Province of New-York, from the First Discovery … (London, 1757; 2d ed.; London 1776). 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, 103, entry No. 256; JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb.; Jefferson to JM, 20 Feb. 1784.

7In a letter written to Jefferson about 8 December, Mrs. Eliza House Trist, the daughter of Mrs. Mary House, remarked: “Mama pines exceedingly; she has sustaind a heavy loss. It is not likely she will ever have so agreeable a family again for I have not the most distant hope that Congress will ever return to this city. Mr. Harrison and Lady (he is a banished tory from N York) and old Smith who is grown intollarable are all that at present encircles our board. I realy am obliged to be silent and bite my tongue fear of Quarreling I wou’d rather live among Hornets than be obliged to live with Mr. Smith” (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, 375). See also Randolph to JM, 18 July; Mercer to JM, 14 Aug., and nn. 6, 7; JM to Randolph, 8 Sept. 1783.

8Peter Carr (1770–1815), the eldest son of Jefferson’s widowed sister Martha, whose husband, Dabney Carr, had died in 1773, was attending the school of Walker Maury at Orange, not far from Montpelier (William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XV [1906–7], 117; 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, 317, n. 10). Jefferson enclosed for Peter a copy of the works of Homer. At least seven weeks before the present letter finally reached JM after a “very tedious conveyance,” Maury’s pupils had “dispersed” as a result of his decision to move his school to “the Capital” in Williamsburg (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 10 Jan., 20 Mar. 1784). Thereafter Peter’s formal education was suspended until the spring of 1785 when, upon JM’s recommendation, he enrolled again under Maury’s tutelage at Williamsburg (JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb. 1784; 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, 166–67, 415–16, 470; VII, 234, 408; VIII, 101; Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, p. 160; Elizabeth Dabney Coleman, “Peter Carr of Carr’s-Brook [1770–1815],” Papers of the Albemarle County Historical Society, IV, 5–23).

On the date of the present letter, Jefferson also wrote to Peter Carr, recommending that he “find means to attract the notice and acquaintance of” JM. “His judgment is so sound and his heart so good,” Jefferson continued, “that I would wish you to respect every advice he would be so kind as to give you, equally as if it came from me” (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, 380). When in 1784 Jefferson accepted the post of minister plenipotentiary to France, he asked JM to serve as Peter’s guardian (ibid., VII, 233–34).

Index Entries