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To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Mann Randolph, 22 November 1795

From Thomas Mann Randolph

Extract of a letter dated Richmd. Nov. 22. 1795.

Mann1 Page’s motion for a resolution approving the conduct of the minority in the national senate was warmly agitated three whole days, Wednesday, Thursd. and Friday. It was much less ably defended than opposed. John Marshal it was once apprehended would make a great number of converts by an argument which cannot be considered in any other light than an uncandid artifice to prevent what would be a virtual censure of the President’s conduct. He maintained that the treaty in all it’s commercial parts was still under the power of the H. of R. He contended that it was more in the spirit of the constitution for it to be rendered nugatory after it received the sanction of the P. and S. by the H. of R. refusing it their support, than for it’s existence to be prevented, for it to be stifled in embryo by their declaring upon application from the P. to know their sentiments before he had given it his signature, that they would withhold that support. He compared the relation of the Executive to the Legislative department to that between the states and the Congress under the old confederation. The old Congress might have given up the right of laying discriminating duties in favor of any nation by treaty: it would never have thought of taking before hand the assent of each state thereto. Yet no one would have pretended to deny the power of the states to lay such. This doctrine, I believe, is all that is original in his argument. The sophisms of Camillus, and the nice distinctions of the Examiner made up the rest. It is clear that it was brought forward for the purpose of gaining over the unwary and the wavering. It has never been admitted by the writers in favor of the treaty to the Northward. It’s author was disappointed however. Upon a division the vote stood 100. to 50. After the question Charles Lee brought forward a motion of compliment to the P. It was of most uncommon length, which was undoubtedly intended to puzzle: and the word ‘wisdom’ in expressing the confidence of the house in the P. was so artfully introduced that if the fraudulent design had not been detected in time, the vote of the house, as to it’s effect upon the P. would have been entirely done away. A resolution so worded as to acquit the P. of all evil intention, but at the same time silently censuring his error, was passed by a majority of 33. 89 to 56.

Some of the warmest of the victorious party talk of bringing forward a motion for a vote of applause to S. T. Mason. But the more moderate say their triumph is sufficient, and it is supposed this will be dropped.’

Tr (DLC: Rives Papers); consists of extract in TJ’s hand from a letter acknowledged in TJ to Randolph, 25 Nov. 1795. PrC (DLC). The missing RC is recorded in SJL as received from Richmond on 24 Nov. 1795. Enclosed in TJ to James Madison, 26 Nov. 1795.

Mann Page’s motion for a resolution approving the votes of Senators Henry Tazewell and Stevens Thomson Mason against the ratification of the Jay Treaty was introduced in the House of Delegates on 17 Nov. 1795 and debated in the committee of the whole on the 18, 19, and 20 Nov. before being passed by a two-to-one margin. The opposition unsuccessfully sought to amend the resolution to state that, while the General Assembly had “full confidence in the public servants in each branch of the general government,” the powers granted to “the continental government, and to the state governments, are and should remain separate and distinct, so that neither exercise what is granted to the other,” and that “without a full discussion and investigation” of the treaty which is “unnecessary in the House of Delegates, and ought to be avoided,” the state legislators “cannot be prepared to express any mature opinion upon the conduct of the Senators from Virginia touching that subject” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Nov.-Dec. 1795, p. 19, 23, 24, 27).

Camillus: see note to TJ to Madison, 3 Aug. 1795. The examiner: Representative William Loughton Smith, who defended the Jay Treaty under the pseudonym of “A Citizen of South-Carolina” in A Candid Examination of the Objections to the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between the United States and Great-Britain, as Stated in the Report of the Committee, Appointed by the Citizens of the United States, in Charleston, South-Carolina (Charleston, 1795). TJ acquired a reprint that was published, shortly after Washington signed the treaty, under the title of The Eyes Opened, or the Carolinians Convinced, by an Honourable and Eloquent Representative in the Congress of the United States, in the Following Well Received and Candid Examination of the Objections to His Excellency Governor Jay’s Late Treaty with Great-Britain; and Which has been Ratified by President Washington, at the City of Philadelphia (New York, 1795), to which was appended the original title page and a postscript. TJ initially ascribed the work to William Cobbett (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 3181).

The motion of compliment to the P. proposed in the House of Delegates on 21 Nov. 1795 stated that “the motives which influenced the President of the United States to ratify the treaty lately negociated with Great-Britain, meet the entire approbation of this House; and that the President of the United States for his great abilities, wisdom and integrity, merits and possesses the undiminished confidence of his country.” It was amended to read: “That this House do entertain the highest sense of the integrity and patriotism of the President of the United States; and that while they approve the vote of the Senators of this state in the Congress of the United States, relative to the treaty with Great Britain, they in no wise mean to censure the motives which influenced him in his conduct thereupon” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Nov.-Dec. 1795, p. 28).

1Before this sentence, TJ first wrote and then canceled “The H. of Delegates.”

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