James Madison Papers

Motion in Congress, [11 September] 1780

Motion in Congress

Printed text (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 818–19). Motion seconded by Samuel Adams.

[11 September 1780]

Ordered, That the Committee of Foreign Affairs cause to be printed at the expence of the United States 1200 copies of a correct translation of a memorial published by the Court of France, entitled “Observations sur le memoire justificatif de la cour de Londres;”1 and distribute the same to such public bodies throughout the states, and in such proportions as they shall judge expedient.2

1This brochure of eighty-four pages was published in Paris in 1780. Its anonymous author was Joseph Mathias Gérard de Rayneval. John Adams wrote from Paris to President Samuel Huntington on 11 May 1780 that the pamphlet “contains many points of serious information respecting France, Spain, and America” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1889). description ends , III, 670). Perhaps this comment and the fact that on 1 May 1780 the British House of Commons had manifested an interest in the essay (Journals of the House of Commons, XXXVII [1778–80], 812) led JM to introduce his motion. Rayneval’s work was an answer to Edward Gibbon’s tract, written under governmental auspices and entitled, Mémoire justificatif pour servir de réponse à l’exposé, &c. de la cour de France (London, 1779).

2In accordance with this directive, the Committee for Foreign Affairs had the brochure translated and published in Philadelphia in 1781, under the title, Observations on the Justificative Memorial of the Court of London. “Col. Madison” is written in ink on the title page of the copy in the Alderman Library, University of Virginia.

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