Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 2 September 1793

From James Madison

Sepr. 2d. 1793

Dear Sir

I dropped you a few lines this morning by the servant going to George Town with your horse. I had not time, without detaining him to say more than that I had your two favors of the 11th. Ult: by Mr. D. R. and of the 18th. by post. The former was communicated to Monroe, as shall be the latter in case of opportunity. The conduct of Genèt as developed in these, and in his proceedings as exhibited in the newspapers, is as unaccountable as it is distressing. The effect is beginning to be strongly felt here in the surprize and disgust of those who are attached to the French cause, and viewed this minister as the instrument for cementing instead of alienating the two Republics. These sensations are powerfully reinforced by the general and habitual veneration for the President. The Anglican party is busy as you may suppose in making the worst of every thing, and in turning the public feelings against France, and thence, in favor of England. The only antidote for their poison, is to distinguish between the nation and its Agent, between principles and events; and to impress the well meaning with the fact that the enemies of France and of Liberty are at work to lead them from their honorable connection with these, into the arms and ultimately into the Government of G. B. If the genuine sense of the people could be collected on the several points comprehended in the occasion, the calamity would be greatly alleviated if not absolutely controuled. But this is scarcely possible. The Country is too much uninformed, and too inert to speak for itself; and the language of the towns which are generally directed by an adverse interest will insidiously inflame the evil. It is however of such1 infinite importance to our own Government as well as to that of France, that the real sentiments of the people here should be understood, that something ought to be attempted on that head. I inclose a copy of a train of ideas sketched on the first rumour of the war between the Ex. and Genet, and particularly suggested by the Richmond Resolutions, as a groundwork for those who might take the lead in county meetings. It was intended that they should be modified in every particular according to the state of information and the particular temper of the place. A copy has been sent to Caroline with a hope that Mr. P. might find it not improper to step forward. Another is gone to the District Court at Staunton in the hands of Monroe, who carried a letter from me on the subject to A. Stuart; and a third will be for consideration at the District Ct. at Charlottesville. If these examples should be set, there may be a chance of like proceedings elsewhere: and in themselves they will be respectable specimens of the principles and sensations of the Agricultural,2 which is the commanding part of the Society. I am not sanguine however that the effort will succeed. If it does not, the State Legislatures, and the federal also if possible, must be induced to take up the matter in its true point of view. Monroe and myself read with attention your despatch by D.R. and had much conversation on what passed between you and the P. It appeared to both of us that a real anxiety was marked to retain you in office, that over and above other motives, it was felt that your presence and implied sanction might be a necessary shield against certain criticisms from certain quarters; that the departure of the only counsellor possessing the confidence of the Republicans would be a signal for new and perhaps very disagreeable attacks; that in this point of view the respectful and conciliatory language of the P. is worthy of particular attention; and that it affords a better hope than has existed of your being able to command attention, and to moderate the predominant tone. We agreed in opinion also that whilst this end is pursued, it would be wise to make as few concessions as possible that might embarrass the free pursuit of measures which may be dictated by Republican principles and required by the public good. In a word we think you ought to make the most of the value we perceive to be placed on your participation in the Ex: Counsels. I am extremely glad to find that you are to remain another quarter. The season will be more apropos in several respects; and it will prevent any co-operation which a successor might be disposed to make towards a final breach with France. I have little hope that you will have one whose policy will have the same healing tendency with yours. I foresee, I think, that it will be either King, if Johnson is put at the Treasy: or E. Rutlege, if Walcot should be put there. I am glad the President rightly infers my determination from antecedent circumstances, so as to free me from imputations in his mind connected with the present state of things. Monroe is particularly solicitous that you should take the view of your present position and opportunities above suggested. He sees so forcibly the difficulty of keeping the feelings of the people as to Genèt distinct from those due to his Constituents, that he can hardly prevail on himself absolutely, and openly, to abandon him. I concur with him that it ought to be done no further than is forced upon us, that in general silence is better than open denunciation and crimination; and that it is not unfair to admit the apologetic influence of the errors in our own Government which may have inflamed the passions which now discolor every object to his eye: such as the refusal in the outset of the Government to favor the commerce of F. more than that of G. B. the unfortunate appointment of G. M.3 to the former: the language of the proclamation—the attempts of Pacificus to explain away and dissolve the Treaty, the notoriety of the Author, and the appearance of its being an informal manifestation of the views of the Ex. &c.

I paid a short visit to Mr. W. N.4 as I proposed. He talks like a sound Republican, and sincere friend to the French cause in every respect. I collected from him that E. R. had admitted to him that he drew the Procln: that he had been attacked on it at Chatham by Mr. Jos: Jones, that he reprobated the comment of Pac—f—s—&c. W. N. observed that H.5 had taken the Ex. in by gaining phrases of which he could make the use he has done. The circumstances which derogate from full confidence in W. N. are 1st. his being embarked in a variety of projects which call for money, and keep him in intercourse with the merchants of Richd. 2d. his communication and intimacy with Marshal of whose disinterestedness as well as understanding he has the highest opinion. It is said, that Marshal who is at the head of the great purchase from Fairfax, has lately obtained pecuniary aids from the Bank or people connected with it. I think it certain that he must have felt, in the moment of the purchase an absolute dependence on the monied interest, which will explain him to every one that reflects, in the active character he is assuming. I have been obliged to write this in great haste, the bearer impatiently waiting the whole time.6

I hope you have received the five Nos. of Hel—v—d—s. I must resume the task I suppose, in relation to the Treaty—and Gratitude. I feel however so much awkwardness under the new posture of things, that I shall deliberate whether a considerable postponement at least may not be adviseable. I found also on my return a House full of particular friends who will stay some weeks and receive and return visits from which I can not decently exclude myself. If I should perceive it impossible or improper to continue the publication so as to avail myself the channel used to the press, I shall suspend it till I see and talk with you on the whole matter. Adieu—

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; consisting of one sheet folded to form four pages; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Sep. 1793 and so recorded in SJL.

Madison prepared the enclosed train of ideas reiterating support for French-American friendship in collaboration with James Monroe to serve as model resolves for Virginia Republicans wishing to counter the 17 Aug. 1793 Richmond resolutions and similar manifestos approved at other Federalist meetings (George Wythe to TJ and Edmund Randolph, 17 Aug. 1793, and note). They had completed the resolutions by 27 Aug. 1793, when Madison informed TJ that he had sent a copy to John Taylor in Caroline County, urging him to see if Mr. P.—Edmund Pendleton—might find it not improper to step forward. But because Madison was unable to decipher the encrypted portions of TJ’s letter of 3 Aug., he and Monroe did not learn until 30 Aug., when the account in TJ’s second letter of 11 Aug. arrived, that the Washington administration had decided to demand the recall of French minister Edmond Charles Genet and that TJ was urging his political allies to abandon him—a delay that put Republican efforts to neutralize Federalist initiatives in Virginia at a disadvantage. With this news in hand, Madison and Monroe moved on 1 Sep. to influence events in Staunton, whither Monroe carried a version of their resolutions and a letter from Madison to Archibald Stuart. Resolutions adopted by Republican-dominated meetings in Staunton (with Stuart serving as secretary) on 3 Sep., in Caroline County at a meeting chaired by Pendleton on 10 Sep., and in Charlottesville on 10 Oct., all followed the lead of the Madison-Monroe prototype, though in the first two meetings the resolves coupled criticism of the French diplomat’s interference in American politics with a censure of Federalist attempts to capitalize on it for the purpose of weakening French-American friendship. No surviving evidence links Madison and Monroe to these changes, but Monroe’s extreme reluctance to disavow Genet absolutely, and openly, may account for the silence of the Albermarle resolutions on that score. In any event, the effort by Madison and Monroe to inspire like proceedings elsewhere enjoyed only mixed success in Virginia, where victories in some locales were balanced by standoffs (as in Petersburg and Fredericksburg) and Federalist triumphs in others, and virtually none in other states, where Republican leaders had weaker contacts than their Federalist rivals and the suspension of newspaper publication in Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic hindered dissemination of the resolutions (Madison to TJ, 27 Aug. 1793, and note; Monroe to TJ, 3 Sep. 1793, and note; Thomas Griffin Peachy to TJ, 3 Sep. 1793, and note; Memorandum to George Washington, 22 Sep. 1793; Monroe to TJ, 14 Oct. 1793, and note; Editorial Note in Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 22 vols. description ends , xv, 76–9n; Madison to Archibald Stuart, 1 Sep. 1793, same, 87–8; broadside of the Staunton resolutions, 3 Sep. 1793, Evans, description begins Charles Evans, Clifford K. Shipton, and Roger P. Bristol, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of all Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from … 1639 … to … 1820, Chicago and Worcester, Mass., 1903–59, 14 vols. description ends No. 26204; Mays, Pendleton description begins David J. Mays, ed., The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734–1803, Charlottesville, 1967, 2 vols. description ends , ii, 608–13; Nicholas Lewis to George Washington, 24 Oct. 1793, enclosing Albemarle County resolutions of 10 Oct. 1793, in DLC: Washington Papers; Harry Ammon, “The Genet Mission and the Development of American Political Parties,” JAH description begins Journal of American History, 1964– description ends , lii [1966], 725–41; Ammon, Genet Mission description begins Harry Ammon, The Genet Mission, New York, 1973 description ends , 132–46; Richard R. Beeman, The Old Dominion and the New Nation [Lexington, Ky., 1972], 126–34).

John Marshall was the prime mover, though an unnamed partner, in the great purchase in February 1793 of more than 200,000 acres of land in Virginia’s Northern Neck from the Reverend Denny Martin Fairfax, the heir of Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax. Marshall had hoped to pay for his share of the purchase with profits realized from the sale of bank stock he had contracted to buy from Arthur Lee, but it was not until 1806 that he and other partners overcame formidable legal and financial obstacles to complete the purchase (Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, Chapel Hill, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , ii, 138–9, 140–56, 254–8).

1Preceding three words interlined in place of “of.”

2Madison here canceled “interest.”

3At a later date Madison expanded the abbreviation to “Gour. Morris.”

4At a later date Madison expanded the abbreviation to “W. C. Nicholas.”

5At a later date Madison expanded the abbreviation to “Hamilton.”

6Remainder of text written lengthwise in the margin between the fourth and first pages.

Index Entries