James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 6 May 1783

To Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Address on cover is no longer legible, except for “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.” Docketed by him, “Madison Jas. May 6 1783.”

On the verso of the cover Jefferson deciphered the passages written in the JM-Jefferson Code No. 2, and here italicized. This code was first used by Jefferson in his letter of 14 April 1783 to JM (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, 459). In his old age JM docketed the page, “decypher of letter May 6. 1783.”

Philada. May 6. 1783.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 21. Ult.1 written at Col: Pendleton’s2 was brought to hand by the post of last week. Col: Floyd’s family did not set out untill the day after it was received. I accompanied them as far as Brunswick, about 60 miles from this, and returned hither on friday evening.3 Mr. Jones will attend the Assembly, and proposes to begin his journey this afternoon, if the present rain should cease. Mr. Lee also means to set out for the same purpose in a few days.4

Congress have received a long and curious epistle from Mr. Adams dated in February addressed to the president not to the secretary for foreign affairs.5 He animadverts on the revocation of his commission for a treaty of commerce with Great Britain[,]6 presses the appointment of a minister to that court with such a commission[,] draws a picture of a fit character in which his own likeness is ridiculously and palpable studi[e]d[,] finaly praising and recomending Mr. Jay for the appointment provided injustice must be done to an older servant.7

Letters from the Marquis de la Fayette and Mr. Carmichael shew that the Court of Spain has become pretty tractable since the acknowledgment of our Independence by G. B. The latter has been treated with due respect, and the Court has agreed to accede to the territorial limit fixed for W. Florida in the provisional Articles. The navigation of the Mississippi remains to be settled.8

My absence from Congs. the past week disables me from giving you the exact information of their latest proceedings.9 I am told that in consequence of Mr. A—— letter the secretary of foreign affairs has been instructed to project a treaty of commerce with Great Britain which will probable bring the attention of Congress to the general department of foreign affairs10

Under the same cover with this are two letters for Miss Patsy[,] one from Mrs. Trist, and the other from Miss Floyd11 with the copy of a song. I beg that my compliments may be accepted along with them.

I am Dear Sir your sincere friend

J. Madison Jr.

1Not found.

2At Edmundsbury, the estate of Edmund Pendleton. He had been the colonel of the militia of Caroline County in 1772 (David John Mays, Edmund Pendleton, 1721–1803 [2 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1952], I, 266; T[homas] E. Campbell, Colonial Caroline: A History of Caroline County, Virginia [Richmond, 1954], p. 370).

3Papers 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, 498, and n. 2. Early in the war William Floyd had served as a colonel of militia (E[dmund] B. O’Callaghan and B[erthold] Fernow, eds., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York [15 vols.; Albany, 1853–87], XV, 287).

4Ambler to JM, 3 May, n. 4; Pendleton to JM, 4 May 1783, n. 3. Arthur Lee left Philadelphia on the afternoon of 12 May to return to Virginia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 339; JM to Randolph, 13 May 1783).

5JM Notes, 6 May 1783, and n. 3. JM was misinformed. John Adams’ letter of 5 February was addressed to Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs (NA: PCC, No. 104, IV, 347–55). See also Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 242–47; JM to Jefferson, 13 May 1783.

6The resolution of 12 July 1781, revoking Adams’ commission and instructions of 27–28 September 1779 for negotiating a treaty of commerce with Great Britain, had been drafted by JM (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, 188, and nn. 1, 2; 189, nn. 6, 16). See also JM to Jefferson, 10 June 1783.

7Although JM obviously meant “palpably” rather than “palpable,” he found no cipher for “bly” in the code. He underlined the four ciphers required to encode the word “provided.” Adams named Francis Dana second only to John Jay as the best qualified minister to be sent by Congress to “the court of Great Britain, provided that injustice must be finally done to him who was the first object of his country’s choice” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 246).

8Unnoted in the journal, Congress on 25 April had received from William Carmichael, chargé d’affaires at the court of Madrid, five dispatches, and also Lafayette’s letter of 2 March to Livingston, enclosing copies of his correspondence with José Moñino y Redondo (1728–1808), Conde de Floridablanca, prime minister of Spain and minister of foreign affairs (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 63). In his dispatch of 21 February, Carmichael reported that the court of Charles III had at last received him “formally as the chargé des affaires of the United States,” thanks largely to Lafayette’s influence and that of Armand Marc, Comte de Montmorin Saint Hérem, the French ambassador in Madrid.

Lafayette in his letter of 2 March, after describing his own activities during his stay of about a week in or near Madrid, added: “Mississippi is the great affair. I think it is in the interest of America to be well with Spain, at least for many years, and particularly on account of the French alliance; so that I very much wish success to Mr. Jay’s negociations. I have advised Mr. Carmichael to continue his conferences, and I think they will be of service.” In an audience with Charles III, Lafayette was assured: “With respect to the limits, his Catholic majesty has adopted those that are determined by the preliminaries of the 30th of November, between the United States and the court of London. The fear of raising an object of dissensions is the only objection the king has to the free navigation of the river Mississippi.” On 22 February, in the presence of the French ambassador, Lafayette induced Florida-blanca to give “his word of honor” (which later proved to be fragile) that he would not oppose “the general principle” of the boundaries “established by the treaty between the English and Americans” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 256–57, 259–61, 268–70; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution [Chicago, 1942], pp. 397–99, 405–13). See also Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 710–11, 783–85; VI, 184–87, 215–18.

9See references cited in n. 3.

10This statement makes clear that JM wrote this letter before Congress convened on 6 May. See JM Notes, 6 May 1783, and n. 3. For the final syllable of “probable,” see n. 7, above.

11Miss Martha Jefferson, Mrs. Nicholas Trist, and probably Miss Maria Floyd rather than her sister, Catherine. 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, 182, n. 28; 222, n. 16; 234–35; 235, n. 2; 255, and n. 1.

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