Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 30 January 1799

To James Madison

Jan. 30. 99.

My last to you was of the 16th. since which yours of the 12th. is recieved and it’s contents disposed of properly. these met such approbation as to have occasioned an extraordinary impression of that day’s paper. Logan’s bill is passed. the lower house, by a majority of 20. passed yesterday a bill continuing the suspension of intercourse with France, with a new clause enabling the President to admit intercourse with the rebellious negroes under Toussaint, who has an agent here, & has thrown off dependance on France. the H. of R. have also voted 6. 74s. & 6. 18s. in part of the additional navy: say 552. guns, which in England would cost 5000. D. a gun, & here 10,000. consequently more than the whole 5. millions for which a loan is now opened at 8. per cent. the maintenance is estimated at £1000. lawful a gun annually. a bill has been this day brought into the Senate for authorising the P. in case of a declaration of war or danger of invasion by any European power, to raise an eventual army of 30. regiments, infantry, cavalry & artillery, in addition to the additional army, the provisional army, & the corps of volunteers, which last he is authorised to brigade, officer, exercise, & pay during the time of exercise. and all this notwithstanding Gerry’s correspondence recently read & demonstrating the aversion of France to consider us as enemies. all depends on her patient standing the measures of the present session, & the surrounding her islands with our cruisers & capturing her armed vessels on her own coasts. if this is borne a while, the public1 opinion is most manifestly veering in the middle states, & was even before the publication of Gerry’s correspdce. in New York, Jersey & Pensylvania every one attests this, & Genl. Sumpter, just arrived, assures me the republicans in S.C. have gained 50. per cent in numbers since their election which was in the moment of the XYZ. fever. I believe there is no doubt the republican Governor would be elected here now, & still less for next October. the gentlemen of N.C. seem to be satisfied that their new delegation will furnish but 3. perhaps only 2. antirepublicans. if so we shall be gainers on the whole. but it is on the progress of public opinion we are to depend for rectifying the proceedings of the next congress. the only question is whether this will not carry things beyond the reach of rectification. petitions & remonstrances against the alien & sedition law are coming from various parts of N.Y. Jersey & Pensva.; some of them very well drawn. I am in hopes Virginia will stand so countenanced by those states as to repress the wishes of the government to coerce her, which they might venture on if they supposed she would be left alone. firmness on our part, but a passive firmness is the true course. any thing rash or threatening might check the favorable dispositions of these middle states & rally them again round the measures which are ruining us.—Buonaparte appears to have settled Egypt peaceably & with the consent of the inhabitants, & seems to be looking towards the E. Indies where a most formidable cooperation has been prepared for demolishing the British power. I wish the affairs of Ireland were as hopeful, and the peace with the North of Europe.—nothing new here as to the price of tobo. the river not having yet admitted the bringing any to this market. Spain being entirely open to ours, & depending on it for her supplies during the cutting off of her intercourse with her own colonies by the superiority of the British at sea, is much in our favor.—I forgot to add that the bill for the eventual army authorises the President to borrow 2. millions more. present my best respects to mrs Madison. health & affectionate salutations to yourself. Adieu.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers, Rives Collection); addressed: “James Madison junr. near Orange court house”; franked and stamped. PrC (DLC).

On 30 Jan. Senator James Gunn introduced the bill authorizing the president under certain circumstances and for a limited period of time to raise an eventual army of 24 regiments of infantry and 3 of cavalry, a regiment and battalion of riflemen, and a battalion of artillerists and engineers. The president was also empowered to borrow $2 million to implement the legislation. On a printed copy TJ noted changes made to the bill by the Senate and on the docket sheet recorded the progress of the bill from its introduction to its passage by the Senate on 18 Feb. (“A Bill, Giving eventual authority to the President of the United States to augment the Army” in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 5th Cong., 3d sess.; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:576). On 1 Mch. the House passed the bill by a 54 to 41 vote (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 3:509–10). For a delineation of the various armies as established by acts of Congress in 1798 and 1799, see Kohn, Eagle and Sword description begins Richard H. Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America 1783–1802, New York, 1975 description ends , 229, and TJ to Madison, 5 Feb. 1799.

Petitions & remonstrances against the alien & sedition law: on 30 Jan. Franklin Davenport presented and read an address and remonstrance to the Senate from a meeting held in Essex County, New Jersey (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 2:575). It was enclosed in a letter from Jabez Parkhurst, clerk of the meeting, to TJ, dated 26 Jan. (RC in DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 5th Cong., 3d sess.; addressed: “The Honble. Thomas Jefferson Esqr., Vice President of the United States & President of the Senate Philadelphia”; franked). The Essex County citizens called for the repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts on the grounds of unconstitutionality and bad policy and argued that unless the country was in actual danger of a foreign invasion a standing army would be “dangerous to the rights and liberties of the people,” load the people with taxes, and create an asylum for idle dissipation supported by “the laboring part of the Community” (MS in same; dated 17 Jan. 1799; in Parkhurst’s hand, and signed by him and Amos Harrison, chairman of the meeting). The Essex remonstrance and petitions from Suffolk County, New York; Northampton, York, Dauphin, and Washington counties in Pennsylvania; and Amelia County, Virginia—all against the Alien and Sedition Acts and some also protesting the “introduction of an oppressive system of taxation” for the maintenance of a standing army and “expensive navy”—were presented and read before the House of Representatives between 25 and 31 Jan. and sent to a committee of the whole. The Aurora printed several of these petitions as well as others from the counties of Mifflin, Chester, and Cumberland in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Aurora, 10, 16, 22, 23, 30 Jan. 1799; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 3:445, 452, 456–8).

1TJ here canceled “spirit.”

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