James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 11 August 1783

To Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover missing. After recovering the letter, JM docketed it, “Madison Jas Aug: 11. 1783.” Probably also at that time he heavily excised in ink all of his first paragraph except its opening two and closing two sentences. To the partial decipherments of the thirteen obliterated lines by Irving Brant in his biography of Madison (II, 286, 450, n. 7) and Julian P. Boyd in Papers of Jefferson (VI, 333, 335 nn.) the present editors have been able to add little.

Philada. Aug: 11th. 1783.

My dear Sir

At the date of my letter in April1 I expected to have had the pleasure by this time of being with you in Virginia. My disappointment has proceeded from several dilatory circumstances on which I had not calculated. One of them was the uncertain state into which the object I was then pursuing had been brought by one of those incidents to which such affairs are liable.2 The result has rendered the time [of] my return to Virga. less material, as the necessity of my visiting the State of N.Jy: no longer exists.3 It would be improper by this communication to send particular explanations,4 and perhaps needless to [trou]ble you with them at any time. An   agst   is in general an impediment of   to them.   character will   &c.   which every   the   of being demanded of them. Toward the capricious[?]   for a profession of indifference at what has happened, I   do not   forward and have faith in a day of some more propitious turn of fortune5 My journey to Virga. tho’ still somewhat contingent in point of time cannot now be very long postponed. I need not I trust renew my assurances that it will not finally stop on this side of Monticello.6

The reserve of our foreign Ministers still leaves us the sport of misinformations concerning the def: Treaty. We all thought a little time ago that it had certainly arrived at N. York. This opinion however has become extinct, and we are thrown back on the newspaper evidence which as usual is full of contradictions.7 The probability seems to be that the delay arises from discussions with the Dutch.8 Mr. Dana has been sorely disappointed in the event of his announcing himself to the Court of Russia. His written communications obtain verbal answers only & these hold up the Mediation to which the Empress with the Emperor of G——y have been invited as a bar to any overt transaction with the U.S. and even suggest the necessity of new powers from the latter of a date subsequent to the acknowledgement of their sovereignty by G. B. Having not seen the letters from Mr. Dana myself, I give this idea of them at second hand, remarking at the same time that it has been taken from such passages only as were not in Cypher: the latter being not yet translated.9 Congs. remain at Princeton utterly undecided both as to their ultimate seat and their intermediate residence. Very little business of moment has been yet done at the new Metropolis, except a ratification of the Treaty with Sweeden.10 In particular nothing has been [d]one as to a foreign establishment.11 With regard to an internal peace [es]tablishment, though it has been treated with less inattention, it has undergone little discussion.12 The Commander [in] cheif has been invited to Princeton with a view to obtain his advice and sanction to the military branches of it, and is every day expected [t]here.13 The Budget of Congs. is likely to have the fate of many of their other propositions to the States. Delaware is the only one among those which have bestowed a consideration on it that has acceded in toto. Several Legislatures have adjourned without giving even that mark of their [co]ndescension.14 In the Southern States a jealousy of Congressional usur[p]ations is likely to be the bane of the system:15 in the Eastern an aversion to the half-pay provided for by it.16 New Jersey & Maryland have adopted the impost, the other funds recommended being passed for one year only by one of these States, and postponed by the other.17 Pa. has hitherto been friendly to liberal and fœderal ideas and will continue so, unless the late jar with Congs. sd. give a wrong biass of which there is some danger.18 Massts. has in the election of delegates for the ensuing year stigmatized the concurrence of those now in place, in the provision for half-pay, by substituting a new representation; and has sent a Memorial to Congs. which I am told is pregnant with the most penurious ideas not only on that subject but on several others which concern the national honor & dignity.19 This picture of our affairs is not a flattering one; but we have been witnesses of so many cases in which evils & errors have been the parents of their own remedy, that we can not but view it with the consolations of hope.20 Remind Miss Patsy21 of my affection for her & be assured that I am Dr Sir

Yr. Sincere friend.

J. Madison Jr.

122 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; 482, n. 7).

3JM’s reference to New Jersey reinforces the supposition that Catherine Floyd had not accompanied her father in May to their home on Long Island but had traveled no farther than New Brunswick, where she stayed with friends or relatives (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, 498, n. 2). It is possible that she had spent some time at her home but had arranged with JM to meet him in August or September in New Jersey. Her father, William Floyd, a delegate from New York, did not return to Congress.

4Within the context of the society in which he lived, JM meant that committing to paper a matter of personal delicacy, particularly since it involved a lady, would not be in good taste. See Jefferson to JM, 31 Aug. 1783.

5So few of the deleted words can be recovered with any confidence that the three or four uncompleted sentences convey little certain meaning. The first sentence may be a further explanation of JM’s brief reference to his disappointment—that is, he had always had an aversion against dwelling on personal matters at length. The recovered words in the second sentence do not help to reveal his thought. Perhaps the first clause of the third sentence, especially if “capricious” is what he wrote, adverts to Catherine Floyd’s “profession of indifference.” The latter part of that sentence seems to have summarized his own outlook.

7Delegates to Harrison, 5 July, and nn. 3–5; 26 July; 1 Aug.; JM to Jefferson, 17 July, and n. 2; to Randolph, 28 July, and n. 12; 5 Aug. 1783. Even in the same issue of a Philadelphia newspaper there are contradictory news items under European date lines in May, giving assurance that the definitive peace treaty was or was not “nearly ready for signing” (Pa. Gazette, 6 Aug.; Pa. Packet, 7 Aug.; Pa. Journal, 9 Aug. 1783).

8Although the references cited in n. 7 generally agreed that the States-General of the Netherlands, by refusing to accept the terms dictated by the British ministry, was delaying the completion of the definitive treaties, an item in the Pennsylvania Journal of 20 August, under a London date line of 7 June 1783, charged that the definitive treaty was being “retarded” by the effort of the American peace commissioners to gain “free egress and regress” for merchant ships of the United States in all French ports, both in Europe and the West Indies. For the conclusion of the definitive treaty between Great Britain and the Netherlands, see Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June 1783, n. 3.

9Hawkins to JM, 9 Aug., and nn. 2–7. Of Dana’s three dispatches, dated 6, 11, and 14 April 1783, respectively, only 8 lines of the earliest were encoded (NA: PCC, No. 89, II, 727–42). This passage is not decoded in Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 382. JM entered the word “Russia” after “Court of” many years later upon recovering the letter. The “Emperor of G——y” was Joseph II, archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor.

11For the reasons delaying decisions concerning American foreign policies, 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, 505, and n. 2; JM to Jefferson, 6 May; 10 June, and n. 21; JM Notes, 15 May, and n. 1; 23 May, and n. 7; 10 June, and n. 12; JM to Randolph, 20 May; Jameson to JM, 24 May; Rights of Neutral Nations, 12 June 1783.

12For the appointment on 4 April of the committee, including JM, on the peace establishment, 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, 432–33; 434, nn. 9, 10; JM to Randolph, 17 June 1783, and n. 10. Besides adopting the plan for establishing public credit, Congress had done little toward formulating a peacetime domestic program, except to discuss the general problem of the western lands, to instruct Washington to take delivery of military posts from the British, and to request him to submit a plan for a peacetime army (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, 442–43; JM Notes, 9 May, and n. 2; 23 May, n. 7; 5 June, n. 1; JM to Randolph, 17 June 1783, and nn. 10–12).

Under authority vested by Article IX of the Articles of Confederation, Congress also instructed the committee “to report on the establishment of a mint” (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, 434, n. 10). To report on this subject only, Congress on 23 July named JM a member of a reconstituted committee, Thomas FitzSimons, chairman, which had been appointed originally on 23 April (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 273, and n. 3, 443). Although this committee on 5 August recommended that Robert Morris be directed to submit “an Estimate which will attend the Establishment of a mint,” Congress permitted the issue to lapse during the remainder 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 , XXIV, 487; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 88–89, and nn. 24–26; 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, 522, 528).

With the approval of Congress, following an oral report by a committee of which JM was chairman, Washington dispatched Major General Baron von Steuben on 12 July to northern New York and the Old Northwest on what turned out to be, insofar as the principal aim of his mission was concerned, an unsuccessful effort to induce General Frederick Haldimand, commander-in-chief of the British army in those areas and Canada, to evacuate the forts and other military installations within the United States (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 427, n. 2; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 214, and n. 2; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 48, 61–64, 120–21; Delegates to Harrison, 8 Sept. 1783). Washington’s own tour, already mentioned, was partially designed to ascertain how the American defenses in upstate New York could be strengthened (Harrison to Delegates, 9 Aug., n. 5; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 84–86). On 27 August 1783 Congress declined to adopt Bland’s motion for a committee of the whole to discuss what powers Congress had to create “a military peace establishment.” JM voted to postpone consideration of the issue (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 524–26).

13On 28 July Congress directed President Elias Boudinot to inform Washington “that his attendance at Congress is requested as soon as may be convenient, after his return from the northward.” Delayed by the illness of his wife, Washington left his headquarters at Newburgh on 18 August, arrived in Princeton on 23 August, and was tendered a formal reception by Congress three days later (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 492, 521–23; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 243, and n. 2; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXVII, 102–3, 111, 116–17, and n. 79; Delegates to Harrison, 23 Aug. 1783, n. 8).

14“The Budget of Congs.” was the plan for restoring public credit, adopted on 18 April (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, 471; 473, n. 7). In his circular letter of 9 May, enclosing to the executive of each state a copy of the plan, President Boudinot urged that the proposals be given “the most speedy attention” and that “If this should not find the Legislature sitting or likely so to do in a very short Time, I am expressly commanded by Congress earnestly to request it may be summoned with all possible expedition” (Instruction to President, 9 May; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 160). “Legislatures” which had “adjourned” were those of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Georgia (U.S. Library of Congress, comp., A Guide to the Microfilm Collection of Early State Records [Washington, 1950], pp. 21–207, passim; JM to Randolph, 12 Aug.; 18 Aug. 1783; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 269, and n. 4). For Delaware’s adoption of the plan on 21 June, see Jones to JM, 8 June 1783, n. 9.

16Pendleton to JM, 21 July, and n. 6; JM to Randolph, 21 July 1783, and n. 5; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 243–44.

17Of the revenue articles, the New Jersey General Assembly on 11 June agreed to the impost but limited to one year’s duration its sanction of the rest of them. Six days later that Assembly also agreed to the proposed alteration in the method of apportioning congressional requisitions. In the same month the Maryland General Assembly ratified the impost but postponed action on the other financial items until the next session (NA: PCC, No. 75, fols. 191–92, 194; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 192).

18By the “late jar,” JM referred to the failure of the Pennsylvania executive to protect Congress vigorously at the time of the mutiny (JM Notes, 21 June, and nn.; Delegates to Harrison, 24 June; JM to Randolph, 24 June 1783, and nn. 6, 7). See also Jones to JM, 8 June 1783, and n. 9.

19Pendleton to JM, 21 July, n. 6; JM to Randolph, 21 July, and n. 5; 12 Aug. 1783. The “Memorial” of the Massachusetts General Court, dated 11 July, was read in Congress on 31 July, discussed by four successive committees and finally spread on the journal on 25 September (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 483, n. 2; XXV, 571–73; 577–80, 581–85, 586–87, 606–9; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 243–44, 271–72, 294–97, 316–17; JM to Pendleton, 8 Sept.; to Randolph, 8 Sept.; Memorial of Massachusetts General Court, 19 Sept. 1783). On 20 October 1783 the Massachusetts General Court ratified the impost (NA: PCC, No. 74, fols. 197–203).

20Upon recovering this letter many years later, JM or someone at his bidding placed a bracket at the close of this sentence. There is no matching bracket at the outset of the paragraph, but JM probably meant that all the paragraph except the terminal sentence should be included in the first edition of his writings. Henry D. Gilpin so interpreted the instruction (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 560–62).

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