Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 17 May 1798

To James Madison

May 17. 98.

My last to you was of the 10th. since that I have recieved yours of the 5 th. I immediately sent a note to Carey to forward his paper to your brother as you desired. the first vote of any importance on the alien bill was taken yesterday. it was on agreeing to the 1st. section, which was carried by 12. to 7. if all the Senators in town had been present it would have been 17.1 to 7. the Provisional army gets along. the Rep. have reduced the 20. to 10. M. they have struck out the clauses for calling out & exercising 20,000. militia at a time. the 1st. Volunteer clause has been carried by a great majority. but endeavors will be made to render it less destructive & less injurious to the militia. I shall inclose you a copy of the land-tax bill. in the first moments of the tumults here, mentioned in my last, the cockade assumed by one party was mistaken to be the tricolor. it was the old blue and red adopted in some places in an early part of the revolution war. however it is laid aside. but the black is still frequent. I am a little apprehensive Burr will have miscalculated on Granger’s election in Connecticut. however it is not yet known here. it was expected Hillhouse would have been elected their Lt. Govr. but Treadwell is chosen. we know nothing more certain yet of the New York elections. Hamilton declined his appointment as Senator, & Jay has named North, a quondam Aid of Steuben. all sorts of artifices have been descended to, to agitate the popular mind. the President recieved 3 anonymous letters (written probably by some of the war-men) announcing plots to burn the city on the fast-day. he thought them worth being made known. and great preparations were proposed, by way of caution and some were yielded to by the Governor. many weak people packed their most valuable moveables to be ready for transportation. however the day past without justifying the alarms. other idle stories have been since circulated, and the popular mind has not been proof against them. the addresses & answers go on. some parts of2 Maryland & of this state are following the example of N. Jersey.the addresses are probably written here; those which come purely from the country are merely against the French. those written here are pointed with acrimony to party. you will observe one answer in which, a most unjustifiable mention has been made of Monroe, without the least occasion leading to it from the address. it is now openly avowed by some of the Eastern men that Congress ought not to separate. and their reasons are drawn from circumstances which will exist through the year. I was in hopes that all efforts to render the sessions of Congress permanent were abandoned: but a clear profit of 3. or 4. Dollars a day is sufficient to reconcile some to their absence from home. a French3 privateer has lately taken 3. American vessels from N. York & Philada, bound to England we do not know their loading, but it has alarmed the merchants much, wheat & flour are scarcely bought at all. tobacco, old, of the best quality, has long been 14. D. my respects to mrs Madison & to the family. affectionate Adieux to yourself.

P.M. the Provisional army bill has this day passed to it’s 3d. reading. the volunteer corps remains a part of it.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers, Rives Collection); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange courthouse”; franked. PrC (DLC); lacks postscript. Enclosure not found, but see note below.

TJ’s note to James Carey is not recorded in SJL and has not been found. Also missing is a missive from TJ to Carey of 13 July 1798, with the entry in SJL indicating that it was for Archibald Stuart’s subscription to Carey’s United States Recorder.

Land-tax bill: on 6 Apr. the House of Representatives instructed the ways and means committee to report on the need for further revenues. Committee chairman Robert Goodloe Harper submitted the report on 1 and 2 May recommending that two million dollars in additional revenues be raised by a direct tax “to be laid, by uniform assessment, on lands, houses and slaves,” the tax to be apportioned among the several states according to the number of inhabitants at the last census (Report of the Committee of Ways and Means, Instructed on the Sixth Ultimo, to Enquire Whether Any and What Additional Revenues, will be Wanted for the Public Service [Philadelphia, 1798]; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 3:280, 282). On 7 May the committee was ordered to bring in bills to implement the resolutions. Eight days later, Harper presented a bill for a direct tax. It was probably a copy of this bill, printed for the use of the House, that TJ enclosed to Madison. After debating the bill for some weeks, the House, by a 45 to 39 vote on 30 May, struck out the controversial thirteenth section of the bill that classified houses and valued them on a different scale from lands and, according to one calculation, placed three-fourths of the proposed tax on them. President Adams signed the act that provided the structure for the valuation of lands and houses and the enumeration of slaves on 9 July and the act for laying and collecting the direct tax five days later. The amount to be raised by the tax remained at two million dollars, the figure given in the original report (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 3:289, 295; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled 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 , 8:1837–55, 1893–6, 1898–9, 1917–25, 2049–61; 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 , 1:580–91, 597–604).

1TJ first wrote “16” before altering the number to read as above.

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Word interlined.

Index Entries