Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 6 May 1798

To John Wayles Eppes

Philadelphia May 6. 98.

Dear Sir

I wrote you last on the 11th. of April, & the day after recieved yours of Apr. 4. I inclosed you at the same time the communications just then recieved from our envoys. others are lately recieved, but, as far as made known to us, they contain only a long memorial given in by them, justifying all our complaints, and repelling those of France. it takes up the subject from the time of Genet’s coming, & comes down to the last orders. offering however no new arguments. they were still in Paris as the mercantile information says the 10th. of March. the ferment excited here by the publication of the dispatches, caught all the great trading towns, and is still kept up there & here, by anonymous letters of French conspirators who are to burn the city, by newspaper declarations from Victor Hughes &c. and such other artifices. war-addresses pour in from the towns under these impressions and from the country of N. Jersey, a state which has always had peculiar politics. but the country in general seems not moved. they have abated of their admiration for the French, more or less in proportion as they1 confine their suspicions to the swindlers, or extend them to the minister, or even the directory. the event of the elections of New York, favorable generally to the whigs, shews the small effect these communications had on the people, who were called to their elections fresh from reading them. the near prospect of war, the stamp act coming into operation, the land tax now laying will produce serious & general reflection, however actual war may destroy the fruits of it. we now learn the effects of the President’s speech of November on the French legislature, which they had just got by the way of England, and concieved from it great anger. whatever chance we might have had for their not declaring war, lessens daily by the messages & answers to addresses which bid fair to carry irritation to a point beyond the possibility of bearing. indeed some of the war-members begin to avow that they are ready for declaring war themselves, & such is their majority that we begin to fear they intend it. should this not be attempted, we have only two bills of consequence to pass. the one for a provisional army of 20,000. men (the expence 6. to 8. millions of dollars a year) and the land tax, which is for 2. Millions, but must still be augmented by whatever sum the provisional army may render necessary. it is generally believed these will be got through in 2. or 3. weeks, so that the time of adjournment is pretty generally spoken of as for the last of this month. I do not yet venture to write for my horses. whenever I do, I will at the same moment write to you, in hopes of meeting yourself & Maria at Monticello. I never was more home-sick, or heart-sick. the life of this place is peculiarly hateful to me, and nothing but a sense of duty & respect to the public could keep me here a moment. I shall be disappointed, by the delay here, in my hope of going by the way of Eppington. before I can get home by the straitest road, we shall have begun our harvest. express to mr & mrs Eppes my regrets on this subject, reserving my visit for another occasion. my most friendly salutations attend them & the family. all my love to my dear Maria, and sincere affections to yourself. Adieu.

RC (ViU); at foot of first page: “J. W. Eppes.” PrC (MHi); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

Eppes’s letter to TJ of Apr. 4, which according to SJL was received on 11 not 12 Apr., has not been found.

On 4 May President Adams sent Congress new communications from France consisting primarily of a long memorial from the American envoys to Talleyrand dated 17 Jan. Written primarily by Marshall, the document attempted to reconcile the Jay Treaty with the French-American treaties of 1778 and, using the neutrality policy developed by TJ in response to Great Britain in 1793, reiterated the basis for America’s complaints against France. The Senate promptly ordered the publication of 500 copies of the communication (Message of the President of the United States, to Both Houses of Congress. May 4th, 1798 [Philadelphia, 1798]; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 3:330–81; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:485; Stinchcombe, XYZ Affair description begins William Stinchcombe, The XYZ Affair, Westport, Conn., 1980 description ends , 107–8).

Anonymous letters of French conspirators: on 30 Apr. the Philadelphia Gazette reported that three letters had been directed to the president “threatening to set fire to the city” on 9 May, the day Adams had designated as a national fast day. Philadelphians were urged to display the “utmost vigilance” to protect their lives and property and warned that “One unguarded hour may lay your city in ashes.” Two of the letters are printed in Richard N. Rosenfeld, American Aurora: A Democratic-Republican Returns (New York, 1997), 77, 96. According to the missives, a “very numerous party of Frenchmen” was planning to set the conflagration and massacre all except those friendly to their interests (same; Charles Ellis Dickson, “Jeremiads in the New American Republic: The Case of National Fasts in the John Adams Administration,” New England Quarterly, 60 [1987], 187–207).

On 28 Apr. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser cited a letter from St. Martin’s to a merchant in New York reporting that the French commissioner, Victor Hughes (Hugues), had ordered all French privateers “to capture indiscriminately, American vessels, without examining or paying the smallest respect to rolls of equipage, or protections of any kind.” During debate on the provisional army bill, South Carolina congressman Robert Goodloe Harper repeated reports that Hugues had command of 5,000 black troops ready to invade the southern states (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 8:1529, 1531, 1539–40; Bowman, Neutrality description begins Albert H. Bowman, The Struggle for Neutrality: Franco-American Diplomacy during the Federalist Era, Knoxville, 1974 description ends , 346).

1TJ here canceled “imagine.”

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