Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 14 December 1797

To Thomas Mann Randolph

Philadelphia. Dec. 14. 97.

Th: Jefferson to T M Randolph

I arrived here on the 8th. day of my journey from Belmont, having suffered much with the severity of the weather, and taken moreover a violent cold which still indisposes me. Not so much however as to prevent my attendance on business, and it is going off. The Senate had as yet only a single bill before them, so that I found myself in place in time for business. They have since received and passed a law from the Representatives for suspending the stamp act till July. A law is also on the carpet for continuing the currency of foreign coin. The same motive which occasioned the postponement of the Stamp act, to wit, the approach of the elections, will occasion a postponement also of the land tax. Flour here is 9. to 10. dollars; wheat 1 1/2dollar. I have a letter from the first merchant at Cowes informing me that in consequence of the bad weather during harvest, the quality as well as quantity of their wheat will be low: that wheat had risen from 6/6 sterl. to 8/ and 9/ and probably would get up to 10/ sterl. the bushel: and that we may count on 8/6 at least through the whole season. You will see the extract in Bache’s paper, wherein I had it inserted for the information of both the merchant and farmer, and it may not be amiss to let our neighbors of both descriptions know that the extract is genuine, from me, and to be relied on. We have nothing late from Europe more than is in the newspapers. Colo. Monroe’s pamphlet has not yet appeared but soon will. A great explosion in commerce is hourly expected. Great fall of prices in labor and at the markets has already taken place. The market here is now lower than it has been for four years past. It is expected that every thing will soon be down at old prices. My love to my dear Martha, and kiss the little ones for me. Adieu affectionately.

RC (DLC); endorsed by Randolph as received 1 Jan. 1798. PrC (CSmH); faded, with salutation and dateline overwritten by TJ: “TMR Dec. 16. 97” and recorded in SJL under that date.

The single bill before the Senate when TJ arrived was that introduced by North Carolina Senator Timothy Bloodworth on 8 Dec. 1797, calling for Congress to consent to acts passed by his state which provided for a health officer and harbormaster at Wilmington. The bill was never reported out of committee, but in April 1798 a similar one was passed by the House and sent to the Senate where it was rejected on 16 Apr. (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , II, 414, 469, 473).

The bill for suspending the stamp act until 1 July 1798, which was sent by the House to the Senate on 13 Dec. 1797, was passed by the Senate the next day (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 414–5). For the history of the legislation, see TJ to Madison, 29 June 1797.

On 21 Dec. 1797, the House passed and sent the Senate a bill for continuing the currency of foreign coin by suspending the second section of the act of 1793 which required that foreign coins, except for Spanish milled dollars, cease to be used as legal tender three years after the United States Mint commenced the coinage of gold and silver. After Theodore Sedgwick and the committee considering the bill on 2 Jan. 1798 recommended the suspension for gold coins only, a debate and vote ensued that threatened passage of any bill. After an amendment by Humphrey Marshall of Pennsylvania on 17 Jan. proposing the repeal of the 1793 act altogether was defeated, the bill calling for the coverage of both gold and silver foreign coins passed by a 17 to 9 vote. Six days later, the House agreed to several minor amendments introduced by the Senate (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 416–8, 423–6; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , iii, 146; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , i, 301; TJ to Madison, 3 Jan. 1798).

First merchant at Cowes: a letter from Thomas Auldjo to TJ of 19 Sep. 1797, which according to SJL was received from Cowes on 13 Dec. 1797, has not been found. An extract of it which was printed in Bache’s Aurora on 15 Dec. 1797, under the heading “Extract of a letter from a merchant of distinction in England to his friend in this city, dated 19 Sep. 1797,” appeared as follows: “Our harvest is now nearly over in the Southern counties of England, but the weather has been so unfavourable that a great deal of wheat is much injured, and the whole has been so badly saved, that the quality must prove very indifferent, our prices have consequently risen very much, and old wheat, which about 5 weeks ago was at one dollar and twenty five cents (counting in your money) to one dollar and thirty six cents per bushel now sells as high as two dollars and eleven cents, and may get up to two dollars and twenty two cents (say 10/ sterling). It is impossible to say whether prices will continue so high during the winter and spring, but I think you may fairly expect to get 8/6, say one dollar and eighty nine cents per bushel for all the wheat that may come in good order from your side of the water.”

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