Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 31 January 1783

To James Madison

Baltimore Jan. 31. 1783.

Dear Sir

A gentleman returning from this place to Philadelphia gives me an opportunity of sending you a line. We reached Newport the evening of the day on which we left you. There we were misled by an assurance that the lower ferry could not be crossed. We therefore directed our course for the Bald friar’s: and thence to another ferry 6 miles above. Between these two we lost two days, in the most execrable situation in point of accomodation and society which can be conceived. In short braving all weather and plunging thro’ thick and thin we arrived here last night being the fifth from Philadelphia. I saw Monsr. de Villa-brun last night and augur him to be agreeable enough. I learnt (not from him but others) that to embark their sick &c. will keep us three days. Having nothing particular to communicate I will give you an anecdote1 which possibly you may not have heard and which is related to me by Major Franks who had it from Doctr. Franklin2 himself. I use the only cypher I can now get at using the paginal numbers in order and not as concerted. Mr. Z. while at Paris had often pressed the Doctor to communicate to him his several negociations with the court of France which the Doctor avoided as decently as he could. At length he received from Mr. Z. a very intemperate letter. He folded it up and put it into a pigeon hole. A second, third and so on to a fifth or sixth he received and disposed of in the same way. Finding no answer could be obtained by letter Mr. Z. paid him a personal visit and gave a loose to all the warmth of which he is susceptible. The Doctor replied I can no more answer this conversation of yours than the several impatient letters you have written me (taking them down from the pigeon hole). Call on me when you are cool and goodly humoured and I will justify myself to you. They never saw each other afterwards. As I find no A. in the book erase the B in the first A.B. so that 1.1 may denote A. instead of AB.

I met here the inclosed paper which be so good as to return with my compliments to Miss Kitty. I apprehend she had not got a copy of it, and I retain it in my memory. Be pleased to present me very affectionately to the ladies and gentlemen whose pleasing society I lately had at Mrs. House’s and believe me to be Your assured friend,

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed; partly in cipher. Enclosure not found. Since this letter represents the first appearance in this edition of a letter involving code, a statement concerning method has been given in the foreword to this volume.

We reached Newport: TJ had left Philadelphia on Sunday morning, 26 Jan. (Account Book, that date; Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 25). He stopped in Newport, Del., the first night; his traveling companion was David Franks (Major Franks), who was to proceed to France as TJ’s secretary (see TJ to Franks, printed at end of Mch. 1783). Mr. Z has been variously identified as John Adams (Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed.,The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,“Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends iii, 299), Arthur Lee (Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 45, note 2), and Ralph Izard (Brant, Madison, ii, 266–7); the last attribution is doubtless the correct one. Miss Kitty: Catherine Floyd, daughter of William Floyd, a veteran member of the New York delegation to Congress; Madison hoped to marry her, but was disappointed (same, ch. xviii). Mrs. House’s: A rooming house at 5th and Market streets, Philadelphia (Philadelphia Directory for 1785), conducted by Mrs. Mary House. Here Madison roomed, as did Floyd and his daughters. Among the ladies whose pleasing society TJ enjoyed at Mrs. House’s was Eliza Trist, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship; she was the daughter of Mrs. House and the wife of Nicholas Trist (Brant, Madison, ii, 16–17).

1This and subsequent words in italics were written in cipher and partly decoded interlineally by Madison, employing the code designated in TJ Editorial Files as Code No. 1. This code was based on Thomas Nugent’s New Pocket Dictionary of the French and English Languages, London, 1774. This, together with the fact that TJ and Madison followed pagination in sequence rather than “as concerted,” made it possible for the editors to correct Madison’s decoding in the present and other letters (see TJ to Madison, 14 Feb. 1783, note 2, for an important error made by TJ or Madison) in which Code No. 1 was employed. In one or two instances approximations only have been achieved, since no copy of this edition of Nugent’s Dictionary has been found through the Union Catalogs at DLC or elsewhere. The reading established through the editors’ partial reconstruction of Code No. 1 has been followed rather than that given by Madison; see note 2.

2The cipher for “Franklin” was, under Code No. 1, “352.4” (frank) and “483.30” (line), which Madison decoded literally as “Frank Line.” In this and other instances the editors have employed the form that TJ would normally have chosen.

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