Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1 June [1797]

To James Madison

Philadelphia June 1. [1797]

I wrote you on the 18th. of May. The address of the Senate was soon after that. The first draught was responsive to the speech and higher toned. Mr. Henry arrived the day it was reported. The addressers had not as yet their strength around them. They listened therefore to his objections, recommitted the paper added him and Tazewell to the committee, and it was reported with considerable alterations. But one great attack was made on it, which was to strike out the clause approving every thing heretofore done by the Executive. The clause was retained by a majority of four. They recieved a new accession of members, held a Caucus, took up all the points recommended in the speech, except the raising money, agreed the lists of every committee, and on Monday passed the resolutions and appointed the committees by an uniform vote of 17 to 11. (Mr. Henry was accidentally absent, Ross not then come.) Yesterday they took up the nomination of J. Q. Adams to Berlin which had been objected to as extending our diplomatic establishment. It was approved by 18 to 11. (Mr. Tatnall accidentally absent.) From these proceedings we are able to see that 18. on the one side and 10 on the other, with two wavering votes will decide every question. Schuyler is too ill to come this session, and Gunn is not yet come. Pinckney (the Genl.) John Marshall and Dana are nominated envoys extraordinary to France. Charles Lee consulted a member from Virginia to know whether Marshall would be agreeable. He named you as more likely to give satisfaction. The answer was ‘nobody of Mr. Mad’s way of thinking will be appointed.’

The Representatives have not yet got through their address. An amendment of Mr. Nicholas’s which you will have seen in the papers was lost by a division of 46. to 52. A clause by Mr. Dayton expressing a wish that France might be put on an equal footing with other nations was inserted by 52. against 47.1 This vote is most worthy of notice, because the moderation and justice of the proposition being unquestionable, it shews that there are 47. decided to go all lengths, to prevent accomodation. No other members are expected. The absent are two from Massachusets (not elected) one2 from Tennissee (not elected) Benson from S.C. who never attends3 and Burgess of N. Carolina. They have received a new orator from the district of Mr. Ames. He is the son of the Secretary of the Senate. They have an accession from S.C. also, that state being exactly divided in the H. of Repr. I learn the following facts which give me great concern. When the British treaty arrived at Charleston, a meeting as you know was called, a committee of 15. appointed of whom Genl. Pinckney was one. He did not attend. They waited for him, sent for him: he treated the mission with great hauteur, and disapproved of their meddling. In the course of subsequent altercations he declared that his brother T. Pinckney approved of every article of the treaty under the existing circumstances. And since that time the politics of Charleston have been assuming a different hue. Young Rutledge joining Smith and Harper is an ominous fact as to that whole interest.

Tobacco is at 9. Dollars here, flour very dull of sale. A great stagnation in Commerce generally. During the present uncertain state of things in England the merchants seem disposed to lie on their oars. It is impossible to conjecture the rising of Congress: as it will depend on the system they decide on, whether of preparation for war, or inaction.—In the vote of 46. to 52. Morgan, Machir, and Evans were of the majority, and Clay kept his seat, refusing to vote with either. In that of 47 to 52. Evans was the only one of our delegation who voted against putting France on an equal footing with other nations.—P.M. So far I had written in the morning. I now take up my pen to add that the address having been reported to the house, it was moved to disagree to so much of the amendment as went to the putting France on an equal footing with other nations; and Morgan and Machir turning tail (in consequence as is said of having been closeted last night by Charles Lee) the vote was 49. to 50. So the principle was saved by a single vote. They then moved to insert that compensation for spoliations shall be a sine qua non, and this will be decided tomorrow.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers, Rives Collection); partially dated; unsigned; with several emendations, the most important of which are noted below; addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange Ct. House.” PrC (DLC); with three alterations in ink (see note 1 below).

New accession of members: Elijah Paine of Vermont, Humphrey Marshall of Kentucky, and James Ross of Pennsylvania, all Federalists, took their Senate seats on 24, 26, and 29 May respectively (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 365–6). In a letter to Ralph Izard of 29 May, South Carolina representative William L. Smith reported on the Senate Caucus at which the Federalists agreed to the lists of every committee from which the minority Republicans were excluded to show that the Federalists had no confidence in them. When Theodore Sedgwick introduced resolutions on 29 May to set up committees to consider the proposals in the president’s speech, the appointment of John Henry of Maryland, who had recently voted with the Republicans, was the only Federalist concession. The appointment may have been an attempt to influence Henry, whom Smith characterized as “a weak man” who was being corrupted by lodging at the Francis hotel with TJ and other Republicans (Ulrich B. Phillips, ed., “South Carolina Federalist Correspondence, 1789–1797,” AHR description begins American Historical Review, 1895- description ends , xiv [1909], 786–9; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales, 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , II, 363, 366). Ross not then come: as noted above, Ross took his seat the day the committees were appointed and voted with the Federalists (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 366).

On 20 May President Adams submitted the nomination of his son to serve as United States minister to Prussia. The Senate began debating the appointment on 23 May and a week later a resolution was introduced against the nomination, declaring it was “unnecessary to establish a permanent Minister at the Court of Prussia.” On 31 May the Senate rejected the resolution and confirmed the nomination (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , i, 240–42).

For the nomination of the envoys extraordinary to France, see Senate Resolution on Appointment of Charles C. Pinckney, [5 June 1797].

Isaac Parker and Stephen Bullock, both Federalists, were elected to the two seats from Massachusetts in the state elections in May 1797. Bullock took his seat on 9 June but the result of Parker’s race was still unclear and he did not attend the session. Andrew Jackson, who was elected as the representative at large from Tennessee in October 1796, attended the last session of the Fourth Congress but not this one. Upon his election to the United States Senate in September, Jackson was succeeded in the House by William C. C. Claiborne, who produced his credentials and took his seat on 23 Nov. (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989 Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , iii, 27; Philadelphia Aurora, 16 June 1797; Jackson, Papers, 1, 98, 150). The new orator from the district of Fisher Ames was Harrison Gray Otis, son of Samuel A. Otis. South Carolina was exactly divided in the house of representatives with John Rutledge, Jr., in most cases, joining Federalists William L. Smith and Robert Goodloe Harper, while Lemuel Benton, William Smith (of Spartan district) and Thomas Sumter voted with the Republicans (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989 Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

1Altered from “48” here, again in the following sentence, and in the final paragraph; altered in ink on PrC.

2Preceding word interlined in place of “two.”

3Preceding three words interlined.

Index Entries