James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Abraham Clark, 23 November 1786

From Abraham Clark

New York Novr. 23d. 1786

Dear Sir,

You desired me to inform you of the sentiments of the Legislature of New Jersey respecting the Western Country:1 this I have waited some time to do with Certainty but am not able to do it fully. I am not in the Legislature and much a Stranger to their present System of Politicks, but as yet believe they are generally of the same Sentiments with my self, which you are fully Acquainted with so far as relates to the Mississipi. I every day expect Instructions which I am told will be to my Wishes on that head.

After seeing you in Philada. I had an interview with some of the principal members of the Assembly of Pennsa. who appeared no ways friendly to the late Resolution of Congress2 and purposed at the meeting of the present Assembly to attempt Obtaining instructions, to their Delegates on that head; there are two members just Arrived from Philada. Messrs. Meredith & Bingham; the present members in their delegation are the same as last year except Mr. Bingham in the place of Colo. Bayard whose time of service had expired, this looks as if their Conduct the last year met with Approbation.3

With great Sattisfaction I saw your name in the Delegation from Virginia, and till within a few minutes expected to see you here in a short time, till Colo. Grayson informed me he thought you would not come soon.

There are now Seven States in Town tho’ Six only can attend, as Mr. Nash from N. Carolina is confined by Sickness. I am, Sir Your Obedt. Hume. Servt.

Abra: Clark

P. S. Mr. Schurman is here with me.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1JM discussed the Mississippi navigation problem with Clark when they both attended the Annapolis convention. JM was asked to sound out Clark to determine whether he might use his influence to wean the New Jersey delegation away from the New England position (Monroe to JM, 12 Sept. 1786). The New Jersey delegates had voted with the northern states on the crucial balloting of 28 Aug. 1786, when every state above the Susquehanna appeared ready to make concessions to Spain on the Mississippi issue and every southern state (except divided Georgia) was adamant (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 566–70). Clark had an interest in western lands and was inclined to support the western plea for unrestricted use of the Mississippi. Speculators in the Ohio Valley tracts were alarmed by the threatened loss of river transportation as noted by William Samuel Johnson: “Price of W. Lands Depends up[o]n Missi. if stop. Check emign. & ruin Sale” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 952).

2The resolution of 29 Aug. repealing that part of Jay’s instructions which stipulated the right of the U.S. to their territorial boundaries and to the free navigation of the Mississippi as part of any treaty with Spain. It was passed by the vote of seven northern states against the five southern (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 595–96).

3“Their Conduct the last year” was the support Pennsylvania delegates rendered to the New England position on the Mississippi. The Pennsylvania delegation was composed chiefly of merchants and lawyers who were sympathetic to the shipping and commercial interests of their northern neighbors (JM to James Madison, Sr., 1 Apr. 1787 and n. 3).

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