Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, 9 May 1798

To Thomas Mann Randolph

Philadelphia May 9. 98.

Th:J. To Tmr.

My last to you was of the 3d. instant. yours of the 29th. April is now recieved. Champlain came perfectly safe: and I am in hopes you will have found Escarbot as I know it is in the library, and I think in one of the 3. presses fronting the door: I mean those near the commode, but the North East range of them. you will see in Bache an Alien bill worthy of the 8th. or 9th. century. it will pass the Senate probably by a majority of 3. to 1. but not the H. of R. they are preparing a reasonable one. the bill for the Provisional army, will be very hard run. if our members were here it would be easily rejected. the tax on lands houses & negroes goes on. there will be no questions on that but of modification. there is a rumour from Baltimore of peace between France & England on terms entirely dictated by the former. but nobody knows how it came, nor pays the least attention to it. the famous dispatches checked the addresses for peace as we expected, but did not produce any for war from the country in general, except New Jersey, a state entirely agitated from this city. the body of the people are still firm for peace. so they remain even in this city. the young men who addressed the President mounted the black (understood to be English) cockade. numbers of the people the next day appeared with the tricolor (or French) cockade, the same thing happened yesterday evening, being the fast day. a fray ensued & the light horse was called in. I write in the morning and therefore do not yet know the details. but it seems designed to drive the people into violence. this is becoming fast a scene of tumult & confusion. my tenderest love to my ever dear Martha & the little ones. cordial affections & Adieu to yourself.

RC (DLC); written partly or entirely on 10 May (see note below), recorded in SJL under 9 May but after entry for Madison under 10 May; endorsed by Randolph as received 5 June 1798.

For the Senate’s Alien bill printed in the Philadelphia Aurora on 8 May, see TJ to Madison, 3 May.

On 7 May up to 1,200 young men of Philadelphia marched before thousands of spectators from City Tavern to the president’s house and presented Adams, dressed for the occasion in full military attire, with an address offering their support in the defense of the country against the French threat. At the urging of William Cobbett, they wore black cockades to define themselves as “Americans” and to distinguish themselves from the “pro-French” sympathizing Republicans who wore tricolored cockades (Porcupine’s Gazette, 4, 7, 8 May 1798; Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 7, 10 May 1798, in Stewart Mitchell, ed., New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788–1801 [Boston, 1947], 169, 171).

TJ’s reference to yesterday evening, being the fast day indicates that this part of the letter was written on 10 May, the day following the observance. For an account of the Fray that broke out on the 9th and the disturbances preceding it, see Albrecht Koschnik, “Political Conflict and Public Contest: Rituals of National Celebration in Philadelphia, 1788–1815,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 118 (1994), 236–9.

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