James Madison Papers

Motion on Secretary for Foreign Affairs, [4 March] 1782

Motion on Secretary for Foreign Affairs

MS (NA: PCC, No. 25, II, 81).

[4 March 1782]

That the Scy. of F: Affairs have permission to be absent from the public service for the time requested in his letter of   day of   1

1A letter, now missing, from Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, to the president of Congress was referred to Arthur Lee, John Morin Scott (N.Y.), and Thomas Bee (S.C.). To this committee’s report, recommending that the secretary’s request for a leave of absence of “a few weeks” be granted “if in the opinion of Congress the business of his Department will admit of it,” JM evidently moved the above addendum, after hastily writing it on a scrap of paper. Congress accepted this amendment along with the committee’s report (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 114–15).

Livingston’s “excursion to the state of New York” lasted for over a month (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 330 n.). At this time he was discontented because Congress accorded his office little prestige, assigned tasks to him which he deemed menial, and denied him much independence of action in the shaping of foreign policy. In New York his political rivals were seeking to remove him as chancellor on the grounds that he should not simultaneously occupy a high position under each of two governments (George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746–1813 [New York, 1960], pp. 144–45, 177, 477, n. 28; Report on Form of Public Audience for La Luzerne, 7–9 May 1782, n. 7).

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