James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Charles Thomson, 15 September 1786

From Charles Thomson

Office of Secretary of Congress
Sept 15th. 1786.

Sir

I have the honor to transmit to You herewith enclosed a copy of the proceeding of Congress in the appointment of a court for hearing and determining a matter in question between the States of South-Carolina and Georgia,1 by which You will be duly informed and notified that You are a Member of the court, and that it is summoned to meet at the city of New York on the third Monday in June next. As this court is constituted in the manner pointed out in the 9th. of the Articles of Confederation by nominating, striking out & by lot, and as the said Article declares that, “the persons whose names shall be drawn, or any five of them shall be Commissioners or Judges to hear and finally determine the Controversy, so always as a major part of the Judges, who shall hear the cause, shall agree in the determination” Congress rely on Your acceptance and attendance of which You will be pleased to transmit notice to this Office as soon as convenient. I have the honor to be Sir Your most Obedient & most humble servt.

Cha Thomson

RC (DLC). Marked by Thomson as a “(Circular)” at top of first page. Enclosure in a clerk’s hand. Bottom left-hand corner of enclosure was clipped to obtain signature on verso. The contents of the enclosure, which are extracts from the Journal, are printed in JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 622–23, 642, 650, 651–52, 654.

1A boundary dispute between South Carolina and Georgia, for both claimed “the lands lying between a line to be drawn from the head of St. Mary’s, to the head of the Altamaha rivers, the Mississippi river and Florida” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 627). On 13 May 1785 South Carolina had presented a petition to Congress requesting a federal court to settle the dispute, but the two states were unable to agree on persons to be appointed judges, so they referred the matter to Congress (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVIII, 361 n.; XXXI, 642). JM was one of nine arbiters selected on 13 Sept. 1785, but only two men actually became involved—Alexander Contee Hanson and Robert Goldsborough, Jr. Indeed, the two states finally settled the dispute in April 1787 without further federal intervention. JM may have made the four pages of notes from Alexander Hewatt’s An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia (2 vols.; London, 1779) in preparation for this task. JM’s notes on “Huet’s History” cover boundaries, treaties, and commercial data prior to 1775 (Ms [DLC]).

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