Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 18 February 1783

From James Madison

Philada. Feby. 18th. 1783.

Dear Sir

Your two favors of the 14th. one of them inclosing a letter to Miss Floyd were received by yesterday’s mail.

The last paper from N.Y. as the inclosed will shew you has brought us another token of the approach of peace. It is somewhat mysterious nevertheless that the preliminaries with America should be represented by Secy. Townsend as actually signed and those with France as to be signed, as also that the signing of the latter would constitute a general peace. I have never been without my apprehensions that some tricks would be tried by the British Court notwithstanding their exterior fairness of late, and these apprehensions have been rendered much more serious by the tenor1 of some letters which you have seen and particularly by the intimation of minister of France to Mr. Livingston. These considerations have made me peculiarly solicitous that your mission should be pursued as long as a possibility remained of your sharing in the object of it.

Your portrait of your am[anuensis] is I conceive drawn to the life. For all unconfidential services he is a convenient instrument.2 For anything farther ne sutor ultra crepidam.3

The turn which your case has for the present taken makes it unnecessary to answer particularly the parts of your letter which relate to the expediency of a flag and the extent of its protection. On the first point I am inclined to think that the greatest objection with Congress would have been drawn from the risk of a denial. On the second I have no precise knowledge, but the principle would seem to extend to every thing appertaining to the mission as well as to the person of the Minister. Nor can I conceive a motive to the latter indulgence which would admit of a refusal of the former.

I am impatient to hear of the plan which is to dispose of you during the suspense in which you are placed. If Philada. as I flatter myself, is to be your abode, your former quarters will await you. I am Dear Sir Yr. Affecte. friend,

J. Madison Jr.

An answer to Miss Patsy’s letter is in the same mail with this.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed at head of text by Madison after its return to him; partly in code. Enclosures (missing): Letter from Polly Floyd to Martha Jefferson, and probably a copy of Penna. Packet, 18 Feb. 1783 (see note to preceding letter).

1This and subsequent words or parts of words in italics were written in code and were decoded in part by TJ and in part by Madison, employing Code No. 1. The text as given here follows the editors’ decoding.

2TJ decoded this passage as “he be convenient instrument.” The code symbols are: 402.1 (he) 29.1 (am, is, &c) 1.1. (a) 194.33 (convenient), &c. The verb be had the symbol 89.1.

3Madison’s encoding was more abbreviated than TJ’s, since he omitted an article occasionally or permitted such an abbreviation as “am” to stand for “amanuensis.” His encoding of the Latin phrase was partial also: the full text, from Pliny, was “ne supra crepidam sutor idicaret” (the cobbler should not go beyond his last).

Index Entries