Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 31 March 1794

From James Madison

Philada. Mar. 31. 1794.

Dear Sir

I have written of late by almost every mail, that is, three times a week. From your letter to Monroe I fear the small pox has stopped them at Richmond. I shall continue however to inclose you the newspapers as often as they are worth it. It is impossible to say what will be the issue of the proposition discussed in those of today. I forgot to mention in my last that the question whether the ways and means should be referred to the Secy. of T. as heretofore, or to a Committee lately came on and decided the sense of the House to be regenerated on that point. The fiscal party, perceiving their danger, offered a sort of compromise which took in Mercer and with him sundry others in principle against them. Notwithstanding the success of the stratagem, the point was carried by 49 against 46. If the question had divided the House fairly there would have been a majority of ten or a dozen at least.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Apr. 1794 and so recorded in SJL.

Dunlap & Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser of this date printed congressional debate on Jonathan Dayton’s 27 Mch. 1794 proposition that debts owed by American to British citizens be sequestered and held as a pledge to indemnify those who had suffered from spoliations on American commerce by Great Britain in violation of the law of nations. The House of Representatives’ decision on 26 Mch. 1794 to appoint a fifteen-member committee on ways and means, including Madison, represented a decisive break from the precedent of referring to the judgment of the Secretary of the Treasury the question of how to raise revenue, a shift in legislative-executive relations that greatly vexed Alexander Hamilton. The sort of compromise evidently would have involved creating the committee but instructing it to call on Hamilton for advice (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , iv, 531–3; White, Federalists, 73).

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