Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1 October 1792

To James Madison

Bladensburg. Oct. 1. 1792.

My dear Sir

In the line I scribbled to you from Georgetown to-day I omitted to inform you that I had unfortunately dropped your letter with some papers of my own in the road between Mount Vernon and Alexandria. Proper measures are taken to recover them.—I have reflected on Govr. Lee’s plan of opposing the Federal bank by setting up a state one, and find it not only inadequate, but objectionable highly, and unworthy of the Virginia assembly. I think they should not adopt such a milk and water measure, which rather recognises than prevents the planting among them a source of poison and corruption to sap their catholicism, and to annihilate that power, which is now one, by dividing it into two which shall counterbalance each other. The assembly should reason thus. The power of erecting banks and corporations was not given to the general government. It remains then with the1 state itself. For any person to recognise a foreign legislature in a case belonging to the state itself, is an act of treason against the state, and whosoever shall do any act under colour of the authority of a foreign legislature whether by signing notes, issuing or passing them, acting as director, cashier or in any other office relating to it shall be adjudged guilty of high treason and suffer death accordingly, by the judgment of the state courts. This is the only opposition worthy of our state, and the only kind which can be effectual. If N. Carolina could be brought into a like measure, it would bring the General government to respect the counter-rights of the states. The example would probably be followed by some other states. I really wish that this or nothing should be done. A bank of opposition, while it is a recognition of the one opposed, will absolutely fail in Virginia. Adieu. Yours affectionately.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; addressed: “James Madison junr. esq. Orange”; notation on address cover: “Fredg. Oct. 4. 1792 Forwarded by his mo: h, F. Maury.”

The letter dropped by TJ was one of an unknown date from Madison to Daniel Carroll (Madison, Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 17 vols. description ends xiv, 374; Washington to TJ, 7 Oct. 1792; Carroll to TJ, 13 Oct. 1792). The papers lost by TJ consisted of letters from Edward Church of 16 and 17 May 1792, from John M. Pintard of 15 May 1792, from William Short of 25 June 1792, and from Edward Telfair of 21 Aug. 1792. TJ recorded all five letters in SJL as “lost,” though he later canceled this notation for the two from Church. Texts of all five are published in this edition. See also Washington to TJ, 7 Oct. 1792; TJ to Madison, 17 Oct. 1792.

Governor Henry Lee briefly mentioned his plan for creating a Virginia state bank in a 10 Sep. 1792 letter to Madison (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 17 vols. description ends , xiv, 363). Madison may have referred to the subject in a missing letter to TJ of 16 Sep. 1792 (see note to TJ to Madison, 17 Sep. 1792). Despite TJ’s wishes, the Virginia General Assembly during its 1792 session authorized the establishment of state banks in Alexandria and Richmond (Hening, description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, Richmond, 1809–23, 13 vols. description ends xiii, 592–607).

1At this point TJ first wrote and then deleted “state legisl.”

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