Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 4 March 1800

To James Madison

Mar. 4. 1800.

I have never written to you since my arrival here for reasons which were explained. your’s of Dec. 29. Jan. 4. 9. 12. 18. & Feb. 14. have therefore remained unacknoleged. I have at different times inclosed to you such papers as seemed interesting. to-day I forward Bingham’s amendment to the election bill formerly inclosed you, mr Pinkney’s proposed amendmt. to the constn, & the1 report of the Ways & Means. B.’s amendmt. was lost by the usual majority of 2 to 1. a very different one will be proposed containing the true sense of the Minority, viz that the two houses, voting by heads, shall decide such questions as the constitution authorises to be raised. this may probably be taken up in the other house under better auspices. for tho’ the federalists have a great majority there, yet they are of a more moderate temper than for some time past. the Senate however seem determined to yeild to nothing which shall give the other house greater weight in the decision on elections than they have.—mr Pinckney’s motion has been supported, and is likely to have some votes, which were not expected. I rather believe he will withdraw it, and propose the same thing in the form of a bill; it being the opinion of some that such a regulation is not against the present constitution. in this form it will stand a better chance to pass, as a majority only in both houses will be necessary. by putting off building the 74s. & stopping enlistments the loan will be reduced to 3½ millions. but I think it cannot be obtained. for though no new bankruptcies have happened here for some weeks, or in New York yet they continue to happen in Baltimore, & the whole commercial race are lying on their oars, and gathering in their affairs, not knowing what new failures may put their resources to the proof. in this state of things they cannot lend money. some foreigners have taken asylum among us, with a good deal of money, who may perhaps chuse that deposit. Robbins’s affair has been under agitation for some days. Livingston made an able speech of 2½ hours yesterday. the advocates of the measure feel it’s pressure heavily; & tho’ they may be able to repel L’s motion of censure, I do not believe they can carry Bayard’s of approbation.—the landing of our envoys at Lisbon, will risk a very dangerous consequence, inasmuch as the news of Truxton’s aggression will perhaps arrive at Paris before our commissioners will. had they gone directly there they might have been two months ahead of that news. we are entirely without further information from Paris. by letters from Bourdeaux of Dec. 7. tobo. was then from 25. to 27. D. per per yet did Marshal maintain on the non-intercourse bill, that it’s price at other markets had never been affected by that law. while the navigating and provision states who are the majority can keep open all the markets, or at least sufficient ones for their objects, the cries of the tobacco makers, who are the minority, and not at all in favor, will hardly be listened to. it is truly the fable of the cat pulling the nuts out of the fire with the monkey’s paw; and it shews that G. Mason’s proposition in the convention was wise, that on laws regulating commerce two thirds of the votes should be requisite to pass them. however it would have been trampled under foot by a triumphant majority.

Mar. 8. My letter has lain by me till now, waiting mr Trist’s departure. the question has been decided to-day on Livingston’s motion respecting Robbins. 35 for it, about 60. against it. Livingston, Nicholas & Gallatin distinguished themselves on one side & J. Marshall greatly on the other. still it is believed they will not push Bayard’s motion of approbation. we have this day also decided in Senate on the motion for overhauling the editor of the Aurora. it was carried as usual by about 2. to 1. H. Marshall voting of course with them, as did & frequently does Anderson of Tennissee, who is perfectly at market. it happens that the other party are so strong that they do not think either him or Marshall worth buying.—as the conveyance is confidential, I can say something on a subject which to those who do not know my real dispositions respecting it, might seem indelicate. the Feds begin to be very seriously alarmed about their election next fall. their speeches in private, as well as their public & private demeanor to me indicate it strongly. this seems to be the prospect. keep out Pensylva, Jersey & N. York, & the rest of the states are about equally divided; and in this estimate it is supposed that N. Carolina & Maryland added together are equally divided. then the event depends on the 3. middle states beforementd. As to them, Pensylva passes no law for an election at the present session. they confide that the next election gives a decided majority in the two houses when joined together. Mc.kain therefore intends to call the legislature to meet immediately after the new election to appoint electors themselves. still you will be sensible there may arise a difficulty between the two houses about voting by heads or by houses.—the republican members here from Jersey are entirely confident that their two houses, joined together, have a majority of republicans; their council being republican by 6. or 8. votes, & the lower house federal by only 1. or 2. and they have no doubt the approaching election will be in favor of the republicans. they appoint electors by the two houses voting together.—in N. York all depends on the success of the city election which is of 12. members, & of course makes a difference of 24. which is sufficient to make the two houses, joined together, republican in their vote. Govr. Clinton, Genl. Gates, & some other old revolutionary characters have been put on the republican ticket. Burr, Livingston &c. entertain no doubt on the event of that election. still these are the ideas of the republicans only in these three states, & we must make great allowance for their sanguine views. upon the whole I consider it as rather more doubtful than the last election; in which I was not decieved in more than a vote or two. if Pensylvania votes, then either Jersey or New York giving a republican vote, decides the election. if Pensylva does not vote, then New York determines the election. in any event we may say that if the city election of N. York is in favor of the Republican ticket, the issue will be republican; if the federal ticket for the city of N. York prevails, the probabilities will be in favor of a federal issue, because it would then require a republican vote both from Jersey & Pensva to preponderate against New York, on which we could not count with any confidence. the election of New York being in April it becomes an early & interesting object.—it is probable the landing of our envoys in Lisbon will add a month to our session: because all that the Eastern men are anxious about is to get away before the possibility of a treaty’s coming in upon us.—you must consider the money you have in mr Barnes’s hands as wholly at your disposal. I have no note here of the amount of our nail account; but it is small and will be quite as convenient to me to recieve after I go home. present my respectful salutations to mrs Madison and be assured of my constant & affectionate esteem.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of first page: “Mr. Madison”; endorsed by Madison. PrC (DLC).

William Bingham’s amendment to the bill on the mode of deciding disputed elections of president and vice president proposed altering the first section from a choice by ballot to a selection by joint lottery in Congress. The Senate defeated the amendment in a vote of 24 to 4 on 3 Mch. (Amendment, Proposed by Mr. Bingham, to the Bill, Prescribing the Mode of Deciding Disputed Elections of President and Vice President of the United States [Philadelphia, 1800; 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. 38706]; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:65–6; TJ to Monroe, 16 Feb. 1800). Amendmt. to the constn: Charles Pinckney on 3 Feb. proposed an amendment that prohibited federal judges from holding any other appointment while continuing in office (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:41–2). For the amendment proposed by Wilson Cary Nicholas expressing the true sense of the minority, see TJ to Madison, 25 Mch.

The report of the ways & means committee of 21 Feb. considered, among other possible cost reductions, the question of whether Congress should proceed with the expense of $600,000 to construct six 74-gun ships, as Congress had called for a year earlier, or postpone the plan, as Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert recommended to the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Robert Goodloe Harper. The committee decided in favor of postponement and recommended a resolution authorizing the president to borrow 3½ millions (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:582; Report of the Committee of Ways and Means, on the subject of a Loan, for the service of the Year 1800. 21st February 1800 [Philadelphia, 1800; 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. 38861], 3, 5, 23–4; 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 , 1:621).

Robbins’s affair: for the arrest and trial of Jonathan Robbins (Thomas Nash), see TJ to James Callender, 6 Sept. 1799. Edward Livingston on 20 Feb. introduced into the House resolutions criticizing President Adams for executive interference in what was properly a judicial matter. After Livingston’s long speech on 3 Mch. the House on the 8th voted 61 to 35 against his motion, which chastised the judge of the District Court of South Carolina, Thomas Bee, for sacrificing the constitutional independence of the judicial power and exposing the “administration thereof to suspicion and reproach.” Countering Livingston’s motion, James A. Bayard of Delaware on 5 Mch. offered approbation of the president’s action (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:532–3, 583, 595, 619; Mr. Livingston’s Motion [Philadelphia, 1800; 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. 38791]; see also TJ’s Notes on Marshall’s Speech, 7 Mch.).

During a 1–2 Feb. 1800 naval battle in the West Indies, Thomas Truxton’s aggression led the U.S. frigate Constellation in a five-hour engagement against the more heavily armed French frigate La Vengeance. Although the French frigate escaped when the mainmast of the Constellation collapsed, the French suffered around 150 men killed or wounded to the American loss of 18 dead and 21 wounded (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Naval Affairs, 1:71–3; Palmer, Stoddert’s War description begins Michael A. Palmer, Stoddert’s War, Naval Operations during the Quasi-War with France, 1798–1801, Columbia, S.C., 1987 description ends , 185–7; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

John Marshall spoke in favor of the nonintercourse bill during the long debate in Congress on 20 Feb. (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:531).

In La Fontaine’s fable of the cat, Book 9, Fable 17, “Le Singe et Le Chat,” a cat steals chestnuts from the fire for a monkey. Frightened by a parlor maid’s footsteps, the cat runs away without gathering any chestnuts for himself (Jean de La Fontaine, Oeuvres Complètes [Paris, 1965], 146).

George Mason favored Charles Pinckney’s August 1787 proposition in the convention that laws regulating commerce should be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses in order to safeguard against any of the five distinct commercial regions gaining undue influence. Madison, claiming that the southern states were a minority, opposed it (Max Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, 4 vols. [New Haven, 1911–37], 2:449–52).

Neither the speech of John Nicholas nor that of Albert Gallatin of 6 Mch., both lengthy, has been found although the notes for Gallatin’s speech exist at NHi: Gallatin Papers (“Observations on Robbins’s Case,” [7 Feb.-7 Mch. 1800]; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:595–6). See also Ruth Wedgwood, “The Revolutionary Martyrdom of Jonathan Robbins,” Yale Law Journal, 100 (1990): 335–9.

For William Duane, editor of the Aurora, and the charges against him in the Senate, see Thomas Cooper to TJ, 23 Mch., and Duane to TJ, 24 Mch. Humphrey Marshall and Joseph Anderson sided with the Federalists (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States… Compiled 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 , 10:93, 96).

For the money in Barnes’s hands, see Madison to TJ, 18 Jan.

1TJ here canceled “Treasury.”

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