To Thomas Jefferson
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr” and marked “private.” Docketed by Jefferson, “Madison Jas May 5. 1781.”
Philada. May 5th. 1781
In compliance with your request I have procured and now send you a copy of the Constitutions &c published by order of Congress. I know not why the order in which they stand in the Resolution was varied by the committee in binding them up. The encomium on the inhabits. of Rhode Island was a flourish of a Delegate1 from [that] State who furnished the Committee with the acct. of its Constitution, and was very inconsiderately suffere[d] to be printed.2
I am Dear Sir Yr sincere friend
J. Madison Junr.
1. James Mitchell Varnum, the only Rhode Island delegate present in Congress between 29 December 1780 and the date of this letter (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , V, lxii–lxiii; VI, li), of whom Thomas Rodney confided to his diary, he “is fond of Speaking and Spouting out every thing that his reading has furnished him with whether apt or not to the purpose” (ibid., VI, 19).
2. On 29 December 1780 Thomas Bee, John Witherspoon (N.J.), and Oliver Wolcott were appointed to oversee the publication of “200 correct copies of” The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America; the Declaration of Independence; the Articles of Confederation between the said States; the Treaties between His Most Christian Majesty and the United States of America (Philadelphia, 1781). The resolution of Congress listed the documents of the Continental Congress before the state constitutions. An edition published in London in 1783 followed the order prescribed by Congress. For other early editions of this compilation, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1201–3. Appended to the Rhode Island Charter of 1663 is a brief note describing the operations of the state government and referring, evidently with pride, to her lack of a religious establishment (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVIII, 1217).