Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 7 May 1783

To James Madison

Tuckahoe May 7. 1783.

Dear Sir

I received your favor of Apr. 22. and am not a little concerned at the alterations which took place in the Report on the impost &c. after I left you. The article which bound the whole together I fear was essential to get the whole passed; as that which proposed the conversion of state into federal debts was one palatable ingredient at least in the pill we were to swallow. This proposition being then hopeful, I never consulted you whether the paiment of our Western expenditures, annexed as a condition to our passing the articles recommended, would not be acceded to by Congress, more especially when one of those articles is the cession of that very territory for the acquisition and defence of which these expenditures have been incurred. If I recollect rightly, Congress offered this in their first proposition for a cession. I beg your sentiments however on this subject by return of the first post. Notwithstanding the unpromising form of these articles I have waited a fortnight in the neighborhood of Richmond that I might see some of the members. I passed yesterday in1 associating and conversing with as many of them as I could. The Attorney has cooperated in this work. This is the view I form at present of the leaders. Dr. Lee, R. H. Lee M. Page, Taylor will be against them. So will Thruston and White if elected, and even an A. Campbell is thought worthy of being named with these as having some influence in the S. Western quarter. In their favour will probably be Tyler Tazewell, Genl. Nelson, W. Nelson, Nicholas and a Mr. Stewart2 a young man of good talents from the Westward. Henry as usual is involved in mystery: should the popular tide run strongly in either direction, he will fall in with it. Should it not, he will have a struggle between his enmity to the Lees, and his enmity to everything which may give influence to Congs.3 T[homson]. Mason is a meteor whose path cannot be calculated. All the powers of his mind seem at present concentrated on one single object, the producing a Convention to new model the Constitution. This is a subject much agitated, and seems the only one they will have to amuse themselves with till they shall receive your propositions. These should be hastened; as I think the session will be short.

I have seen Mr. Wythe. He has none of his amendments or notes on the Confederation.

Mr. Short has desired me to suggest his name as that of a person willing to become a legatine secretary should these offices be continued. I have apprised him of the possibility that they may not. You know my high opinion of his abilities and merits. I will therefore only add that a peculiar talent for prying into facts seems to mark his character as proper for such a business. He is young and little experienced in business tho well prepared for it. These defects will lessen daily. Should persons be proposed less proper on the whole you would on motives of public good, knowing his willingness to serve, give him a nomination and do justice to his character.4

I rejoice at the information that Miss K.5 and yourself concur in sentiments. I rejoice as it will render you happier and will give to me a neighbor on whom I shall set high value. You will be continued in your delegation6 till the end of three years from the completion7 of the Confederation. You will therefore model your measures accordingly. You say nothing of the time when you shall pay your visit to Virginia: I hope you will let me know of your arrival as soon as it happens. Should the call be made on me, which was sometimes the subject of our conversation, and be so timed with your visit as that you may be the bearer of it I shall with great pleasure accomodate my movements to yours so as to accompany you on your return to Philadelphia.

I set out this morning for Monticello. My affectionate compliments to the ladies & gentlemen of the house, and sincere friendship to yourself. Adieu.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; endorsed by Madison: “From Ths. J-son to J.M. May 5. 1783.” Dft (DLC); endorsed: “Madison James. 1783. May 7.” Partly in cipher in RC, partly decoded by Madison on a separate leaf now with RC. A fragment of Dft is missing.

The attorney: Edmund Randolph. This must have been pleasing to Madison, for when TJ’s mission to Europe was cancelled, Madison had written to Randolph: “As his services are not required, at least for the present, in Europe, it is to be most devoutly wished that they could be engaged at the present crisis at home” (8 Apr. 1783; Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 140) and TJ’s consultation with members of the legislature must have encouraged Madison to believe that TJ would soon emerge in public life once more. On the conversion of state into federal debts (see Madison to TJ 22 Apr. 1783). Should the call be made on me: That is, TJ’s election as a member of Congress, a topic “sometimes the subject of … conversation” between the two during the preceding winter; see TJ to Nash, 11 Mch. 1783. On 28 June 1783 Randolph wrote Madison: “Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the delegation not without his approbation, as I have been informed” (DLC: Madison Papers).

1This and subsequent words in italics were in cipher in RC and most of them were underscored in Dft. Because Madison obliterated part of the coded passages in RC, Dft has been employed for the coded parts. Where Dft is mutilated, however, and in one or two other places, the editors have decoded the passage themselves, employing Code No. 3. In one or two instances words underscored in Dft were not put in code in RC, and some not underlined in Dft were coded in RC.

2Archibald Stuart.

3All of the words in cipher in this sentence have been decoded by the editors, since Dft is mutilated. At this point in Dft TJ first wrote and then deleted: “The Attorney thinks T. M. [Thomson Mason].”

4The passage decoded on a separate sheet by Madison ends at this point; at the bottom of the first page of RC Madison wrote, next to a symbol subjoined to the beginning of the coded passage: “See the paper decyphering what is in [ ]s.”

5The name is left blank in Dft, but written in code in RC and decoded by the editors.

6From the beginning of this paragraph to this point, Madison heavily scored out the passage. Madison decoded interlineally only the words “I rejoice.”

7TJ first wrote “signing” and then deleted it.

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