James Madison Papers
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Circular Letter from John Dawson, 20 March 1798

Circular Letter from John Dawson

Philadelphia, March 20, 1798.

Dear Sir,

After fourteen days delay, on yesterday the President sent to us the inclosed important, intemperate, and unconstitutional Message,1 which is referred to a Committee of the whole on the State of the Union.

Circumstances prove clearly to my mind, that the fixed policy of our Administration will involve us in the war on the part of Great-Britain—an event which I very much dread, but which I fear we shall not be able to avert.

On a former occasion, the expression of their sentiments by the people produced a good effect, and I submit to your wisdom the propriety of obtaining them, in your county and district, on the present. War is a dreadful thing, and we ought to prevent it by every exertion in our power! With esteem, Your friend and servant,

J Dawson

N. B. I presume you have the message, & Mr. Jefferson sends you by this mail Pains letter.2

RC (DLC). A printed circular letter, with signature and postscript in Dawson’s hand.

1Dawson enclosed John Adams’s Message concerning the Dispatches from the Envoys Extraordinary of the United States to the French Republic. March 19, 1798 (Philadelphia, 1798; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 34810). The message stated that the U.S. envoys’ dispatches, received 5 Mar., had been “examined and maturely considered.” Adams announced the failure of the mission, adding that the envoys’ “exertions, for the adjustment of the differences between the two nations, have been sincere and unremitted.” Nor, he wrote, had anything been omitted on his part that would have “insured or contributed to success.” Under these circumstances, the president urged Congress to pass measures for the protection of commerce (including the arming of merchantmen), for the national defense, and for the provision of “such efficient Revenue, as will be necessary to defray extraordinary expenses.”

2Thomas Paine, Letter to the People of France, and the French Armies, on the Event of the 18th Fructidor—Sep. 4—and Its Consequences (New York, 1798; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 34292).

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