Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 4 April 1796

From James Madison

Philada. April 4. 1796

Dear Sir

I have received yours of the 6th. Ult.; also your letters for Monroe, Mazzei and Van Staphorsts; and shall have a good conveyance for them in two or three days. I am in some doubt however whether it may not be best to detain those for Mazzei and V. untill you can add the information I am now able to furnish you from Dohrman. He has at length closed the business of Mazzei in a just and honorable manner, by allowing the N.Y. damages on the bills of 20 PerCt. and the N.Y. rate of interest of 7 PerCt. This mode of settlement after deducting the partial payments for which he has receipts, leaves a balance of 3087 dollars, which has been just paid into my hands, and will be disposed of as you shall direct. You will of course lose no time in writing to me on the subject.

I have not yet heard from Bringhurst on the subject of Sharpless. He has no doubt written to you, according to his promise. I have seen Mr. Howell, who says there would be no difficulty in allowing you the credit you desire, if his son should take the place of Lowns.

I was not unaware of the considerations you suggest with regard to the post roads; but do not consider my proposition as involving any dangerous consequences. It is limited to the choice of roads where that is presented, and to the opening them, in other cases, so far only as may be necessary for the transportation of the mail. This I think fairly within the object of the Constn. It had, in fact, become essential that something should be done, and something would have been attempted, on a worse principle. If the route shall be once fixt for the post road, the local authorities will probably undertake the improvement &c. of the roads; and individuals will go to work in providing the proper accomodations on them for general use.

The Newspapers will inform you that the call for the Treaty papers was carried by 62 against 37. You will find the answer of the President herewith inclosed. The absolute refusal was as unexpected, as the tone and tenor of the message are improper and indelicate. If you do not at once perceive the drift of the appeal to the Genl. Convention and its journal, recollect one of Camillus’s last numbers, and read the latter part of Murray’s speech. There is little doubt in my mind that the message came from N.Y. where it was seen that an experiment was to be made at the hazard of the P. to save the faction against the Reps. of the people. The effect of this reprehensible measure on the majority is not likely to correspond with the calculations of its authors. I think there will be sufficient firmness to face it with resolutions declaring the Const:l. powers of the House as to Treaties, and that in applying for papers, they are not obliged to state their reasons to the Executive. In order to preserve this firmness however, it is necessary to avoid as much as possible an overt rencontre with the Executive. The day after the message was received the bill guarantying the loan for the federal City, was carried thro’ the H. of Reps. by a swimming majority.

I have letters from Monroe of the 12 and 20 Jany. The Truce with Austria was demanded by the latter, and was not likely to be renewed. A continuance of the war with England was counted on. The French Govt. was in regular and vigorous operation, and gaining daily more and more of the public confidence. A forced loan was going on for 25 Mil: Sterlg., 12 Mil. of which was receivable in assignats at 100 for one; the balance in Specie and produce. It is said that the British armament for the West Indies had suffered a third Coup de Vent, after leaving the channel, a third time.

According to my memory and that of others, the Journal of the Convention was by a vote deposited with the P. to be kept sacred untill called for by some competent authority. How can this be reconciled with the use he has made of it! Examine my notes if you please at the close of the business, and let me know what is said on the subject. You will perceive that the quotation is nothing to the purpose. Most of the majority would decide as the Convention did—because they think there may be some Treaties as a Mere Treaty of peace that would not require the Legislative power—a ratification by law also expresses a different idea from that entertained by the House of its agency. Adieu.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; at foot of text: “Mr. Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Apr. 1796 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Message from the President of the United States, Assigning the Reasons which Forbid his Compliance with the Resolution of the Twenty-Fourth Instant, Requesting “A Copy of the Instructions, Correspondence and other Documents, Relative to the Treaty Lately Concluded Between the United States and Great-Britain” [Philadelphia, 1796]. 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. 31417.

Your letters for Monroe, Mazzei and Van Staphorsts: TJ to Monroe, 21 Mch. 1796, was enclosed in TJ’s letter to Madison of the same date. To judge from SJL, TJ’s letter to Philip Mazzei was probably a duplicate of that of 31 Jan. 1796 and his letter to Van Staphorst & Hubbard a duplicate of either that of 31 Jan. (not found) or 28 Feb. 1796. It is unclear whether TJ forwarded these letters to Madison with the Monroe letter on 21 Mch. 1796, or at an earlier date, but Madison found a conveyance for all three missives with his letter to Monroe of 7 Apr. 1796 (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– , 26 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 4 vols. description ends xvi, 303).

He has no doubt written to you: for the letter from John Bringhurst to TJ, see enclosure listed at Madison to TJ, 11 Apr. 1796.

One of Camillus’s last numbers: in No. 38, the last of the essays defending Jay’s Treaty signed “Camillus,” Alexander Hamilton argued that although the records of the debates of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia were secret, all delegates understood that the Constitution conferred exclusive treaty-making power on the president and the Senate, a position that he argued was supported by publicized dissents on that subject at the time by George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, and Edmund Randolph. Hamilton appealed to all members of the Convention for confirmation of his assertion, particularly Madison and Abraham Baldwin, the only ones serving at that time in the House of Representatives. The speech by the Maryland Federalist William Vans Murray on 23 Mch., which also contended that the power to make treaties was confined to the executive and the Senate, called upon Madison to expound on the convention’s understanding of this issue and suggested that he “should almost feel at liberty to open the Journals of the Convention” in order to resolve the matter (Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xviii, 476–7n, xx, 22-5; 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, 700–1). For the president’s message and the response of the House, see note to Giles to TJ, 31 Mch. 1796. Hamilton’s limited role in influencing Washington’s response to the House is discussed in Freeman, Washington, description begins Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, New York, 1948–57, 7 vols.; 7th volume by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth description ends vii, 354–5; see also Hamilton to Washington, 7 Mch. 1796, in Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xx, 64–9n.

The letters from Monroe of the 12 and 20 Jany. are printed 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– , 26 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 4 vols. description ends xvi, 184–8, 195–8.

For TJ’s use of Madison’s notes, see Madison to TJ, 8 Nov. 1795.

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