Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Branch Giles, 15 December 1795

From William Branch Giles

Philadelphia December 15th. 1795

Dear Sir

I take pleasure in forwarding you the accompanying newspaper, because whilst it announces the arrival of the treaty after the exchange of ratifications; it also contains the antidote to its execution. The speech of the Brittish King will I think silence the war-hoop which has resounded through the U.S. for some time past; and if the treaty can once be brought before the house of Representatives upon its intrinsic contents, a great majority will probably appear against it. The only difficulty will be, to convince the house of its constitutional right to exercise its discression respecting the instrument itself.

I also send herewith the rough draft of the answer as reported by the select committee to the Presidents speech. It has been this day under discussion. A motion was made to strike out the words ‘probably unequalled’ in the 4th. page. This motion was opposed by the treaty party but after very few observations was carried 43 to 39. This motion was considered by some as unimportant and was not deemed any evidence of the real state of the majority. A motion was then made to strike out the word undiminished in the same section. The discussion was entered upon with great reluctance by the favorers of the motion, but was managed with peculiar calmness and moderation on their part. After a very short discussion it was found that a great majority would probably appear in favor of the motion for strikeing out. But the majority from a delicacy towards the President which I think much to their honor; consented that the committee of whole house should rise without takeing the question at all, and the answer should be recommitted to a select committee with the addition of two members for the purpose of modifying the whole clause. This course was pursued and the committee have agreed to a modification calculated to relieve the president’s feelings as much as would consist with propriety, perhaps somewhat more: but it will probably be generally acquiesed in tomorrow without debate.

The select committee originally consisted of Mr. Madison, Mr. Sedgewick and Mr. Sitgreves. It can hardly be necessary therefore for me to inform you, that this whole Section was Theodore’s last effort at the sublime and beautiful.

The Senate have this day negatived the nomination of Mr. Rutledge as chief justice of the U.S. I have written this letter in very great haste, the marks of which are very visible.

Be pleased to make my best respects to the ladies of your family and believe me to be your most affectionate friend &c.

Wm B.Giles

Mr. Randolph’s vindication is promised to us on friday next, on monday it shall be forwarded.

RC (DLC); above postscript: “Mr. Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 Dec. 1795 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: [Made the 14th of December, 1795.] Report From the Committee appointed to prepare and report an address to the President of the United States, in answer to his speech to both Houses of Congress [Philadelphia, 1795]. See 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. 31368. Other enclosure described below.

Accompanying newspaper: possibly the Gazette of the United States, 15 Dec. 1795, containing extracts of George III’s 30 Oct. 1795 speech to Parliament briefly announcing royal ratification of the Jay Treaty but otherwise concentrating on the war with France.

On 14 Dec. 1795, in response to a motion offered by Giles, the House of Representatives agreed to print for the use of its members the draft answer, submitted to the House that day by James Madison, to the President’s 8 Dec. 1795 address to Congress. On this day the House debated the resultant publication (see enclosure listed above), deleting the first two words of a reference to the “probably unequalled spectacle of national happiness” the country currently enjoyed, but letting stand in the same paragraph a statement about the “undiminished confidence of your fellow citizens” enjoyed by the President. On the following day, however, having in the meantime referred the draft to another committee, the House approved a final version of its answer to the President’s speech that omitted this language about popular confidence in him (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–, 24 vols. description ends xvi, 166–7n; 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 , v, 134–5, 144–9).

The Senate this day rejected the President’s nomination of John Rutledge as chief justice of the Supreme Court, a vote based on Rutledge’s public opposition to the Jay Treaty and rumors about his mental instability (DHSC description begins Maeva Marcus and others, eds., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States 1789–1800, New York, 1985–2007, 8 vols. description ends , i, pt. 1, p. 17, 94–100). Rutledge had held an interim appointment to this office since July 1795.

Randolph’s vindication is promised: a notice in this day’s Philadelphia Aurora announced that Randolph’s pamphlet would be available at Samuel Smith’s printing shop on Friday, 18 Dec. 1795.

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