Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 15 June 1797

To James Madison

Philadelphia June 15. 97. A.M.

My last was of the 8th. inst. I had inclosed you separately a paper giving an account of Buonaparte’s last great victory. Since that we recieve information that the preliminaries of peace were signed between France and Austria. Mr. Hammond will have arrived at Vienna too late to influence the terms. The victories lately obtained by the French on the Rhine were as splendid as Buonaparte’s. The mutiny on board the English fleet, tho allayed for the present has impressed that country with terror. King has written letters to his friends recommending a pacific conduct towards France ‘notwithstanding the continuance of her injustices.’ Volney is convinced France will not make peace with England, because it is such an opportunity for sinking her as she never had and may not have again. Buonaparte’s army would have to march 700. miles to Calais. Therefore it is imagined the armies of the Rhine will be destined for England.—The Senate yesterday rejected on it’s 2d reading their own bill for raising 4. more companies of light dragoons by a vote of 15. to 13. Their cost would have been about 120,000 D. a year. To-day the bill for manning the frigates and buying 9. vessels @ about 60,000 D. each, comes to it’s 3d. reading. Some flatter us we may throw it out. The trial will be in time to mention the issue herein. The bills for preventing our citizens from engaging in armed vessels of either party, and for prohibiting exportation of arms and ammunition have passed both houses. The fortification bill is before the Representatives still. It is thought by many that with all the mollifying clauses they can give it, it may perhaps be thrown out. They have a separate bill for manning the 3. frigates. But it’s fate is uncertain. These are probably the ultimate measures which will be adopted, if even these be adopted. The folly of the convocation of Congress at so inconvenient a season and an expence of 60,000 D. is now palpable to every body: or rather it is palpable that war was the object, since, that being out of the question, it is evident there is nothing else. However nothing less than the miraculous string of events which have taken place, towit the victories of the Rhine and Italy, peace with Austria, bankruptcy of England, mutiny in her fleet, and King’s writing letters recommending peace, could have1 cooled the fury of the British faction. Even all that will not prevent considerable efforts still in both houses to shew our teeth to France.—We had hoped to have risen this week. It is now talked of for the 24th. but it is impossible yet to affix a time. I think I cannot omit being at our court (July 3.) whether Congress rises or not. If so, I shall be with you on the Friday or Saturday preceding. I have a couple of pamphlets for you, Utrum horum, and Paine’s agrarian justice, being the only things since Erskine which have appeared worth notice. Besides Bache’s paper there are 2. others now accomodated to country circulation. Gale’s (successor of Oswald) twice a week, without advertisements at 4. Dollars. His debates in Congress are the same with Claypole’s. Also Smith proposes to issue a paper once a week, of news only, and an additional sheet while Congress shall be in session, price 4. dollars.—The best daily papers now are Bradford’s compiled by Loyd, and Markland & Cary’s. Claypole’s you know. Have you remarked the pieces signed Fabius? They are written by John Dickinson.

P.M. The bill before the Senate for equipping the 3 frigates and buying 9. vessels of not more than 20. guns has this day passed on it’s 3d. reading by 16. against 13. The fortification bill before the representatives as amended in committee of the whole passed to it’s 3d. reading by 48. against 41. Adieu affectionately with my best respects to Mrs. Madison.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); unsigned; with several emendations, the most important of which is noted below; addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange court house”; franked, stamped, and postmarked. PrC (DLC).

The paper on Napoleon Bonaparte’s last great victory, which TJ previously sent to Madison, has not been identified but may have been the Aurora of 3 June or another newspaper carrying news of the battle at Tarvis (see TJ to Madison, 8 June). On 12 June, several Philadelphia newspapers brought out special issues with reports from Paris to 28 Apr. 1797 on the signing of the preliminaries of peace at Leoben (see Paine to TJ, 14 May 1797), and the victories of the French on the Rhine (Philadelphia Aurora, 12, 13 June 1797; Philadelphia Gazette, 12, 13, 14 June 1797; Scott and Rothaus, Historical Dictionary description begins Samuel F. Scott and Barry Rothaus, eds., Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1789–1799, Westport, Conn., 1985, 2 vols. description ends , 465–6, 681–2, 773–4). According to the Philadelphia Gazette of 13 June, the victories were “unparalleled in the history of warlike operations.”

King has written letters to his friends: Webster’s Minerva of 12 June carried an extract of “A letter from a character of high respectability in an official station in England,” dated 28 Apr., which the Aurora reprinted three days later with the correspondent identified as Rufus King, United States minister to Great Britain. He observed that the immense increase in taxes had “extended the wish for peace” throughout Great Britain. The United States, he advised, “must adhere to the pacific policy” that had kept the country out of war. King wrote in the same vein to Alexander Hamilton, 2 Apr., Oliver Wolcott, 14 Apr., and Timothy Pickering, 19 Apr. (Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961—, 7 vols. description ends , XXI, 8; Gibbs, Memoirs description begins George Gibbs, ed., Memoirs of the Administration of Washington and John Adams, edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury, New York, 1846, 2 vols. description ends , I, 550–1; King, Life description begins Charles R. King, ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King: Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, New York, 1894–1900, 6 vols. description ends , II, 172–5).

On this day the Senate passed the bill for the protection of trade which provided for the manning of the three newly constructed frigates and the purchase of nine vessels. The House of Representatives passed the measure nine days later but with amendments, including those which eliminated the nine vessels, forbade the president to use the frigates as convoys, and allowed the executive to increase the strength of revenue cutters. The Senate refused to accept several of these, and a House-Senate conference committee failed to reach a compromise. On 28 June the Senate reaffirmed its rejection of the amendment which limited the president in his use of frigates to protect trade, but withdrew opposition to the others (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 368–72, 379; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , iii, 44–51, 54–7). When a motion was then made to amend one of the endorsed amendments, TJ raised a point of order requesting the sense of the Senate: “Is it in order in the present case, for the Senate to recede from their disagreement to an amendment of the H of R and agree to the same with an amendt.?” The Senate voted affirmatively on the question but then rejected the proposed change to the amendment (Rough Journal in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 5th Cong., 1st sess.). For TJ’s handling of this question, see PW description begins Wilbur S. Howell, ed., Jefferson’s Parliamentary Writings, Princeton, 1988, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 10–11. The bill was renamed “An Act providing a Naval Armament,” as desired by the House, and on 29 June that body accepted the bill as agreed to by the Senate. Adams gave his approval on 1 July (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , iii, 57–8; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , I, 523–5).

I have a couple of pamphlets for you: Dennis O’Bryen, Utrum Horum? The government; or, the country? (Dublin, 1796); and Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, Opposed to Agrarian Law, and to Agrarian Monopoly … (Philadelphia, 1797). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 2834 and 3187, respectively.

The first of fifteen pieces signed Fabius appeared in Samuel H. Smith’s The New World on 10 Apr. 1797 and was shortly thereafter reprinted in Bache’s Aurora. Fearing that President Adams’s unprecedented call of Congress into session would lead to war with France, Dickinson urged the country to remember the foundation of America’s friendship with that country and their mutual love of liberty. Later in the year these essays were published as a pamphlet along with Dickinson’s nine pieces in 1788 using the same pseudonym (The Letters of Fabius, in 1788, on the Federal Constitution; and in 1797, on the Present Situation of Public Affairs [Wilmington, Del., 1797], 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. 32042; Philadelphia Aurora, 21 Apr. 1797).

1TJ here canceled five or six illegible words.

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