James Madison Papers

Notes on Debates, 17 December 1782

Notes on Debates

MS (LC: Madison Papers). See Notes on Debates, 4 November 1782, ed. n.

Mr. Carroll in order to bring on the affair of Mr. Howel moved that the Secy. of Foreign Affairs be instructed not to write to the Govt. of Rhode Island on the subject.1 The state in wch. such a vote would leave the business unless the reason of it was expressed, being not adverted to by some, and others being unwilling to move in the case, This motion was incautiously suffered to pass.2 The effect of it however was soon observed, and a motion in consequence made by Mr. Hamilton,3 to subjoin the words, “Mr Howel having in his place confessed himself to be the Author of the publication.”4 Mr. Ramsay thinking such a stigma on Mr. Howell unnecessary, & tending to place him in the light of a persecuted man whereby his opposition to the Impost might have more weight in his State, proposed to substitute as the reason “Congress havg. recd. the information desired on that subject.[”]5 The yeas & nays havg. been called by Mr. Hamilton[,] Mr: Howell6 grew very uneasy at the prospect of his name being thereby brought on the Journals; and requested that the subject might be suspended untill the day following. This was agreed to & took place on condition that the ne[ga]ti[v]ed counterdirection to the Secy. of F.A. should be reconsidered & lie over also.7

1See Report on Breach of Secrecy, 12 December, and nn. 1, 10; Notes on Debates, 12 December, and n. 3; 13 December 1782, and n. 3. Between “Affairs” and “be” JM deleted “sd.” (should).

2Between “and” and “others” JM deleted “the.” The “state” of the “business” would have been to leave the committee deputized to proceed to Rhode Island with no arguments other than those advanced by the Hamilton committee the day before (Notes on Debates, 6 December, and nn. 27, 34; 16 December 1782, and n. 1). Although these arguments were cogent, they did not call attention to the erroneous information upon which the Rhode Island House of Representatives had justified its rejection of the 5 per cent impost amendment.

3JM interlineated this word above a canceled “H.”

4JM interlineated an “x” above the quotation mark to refer to a brief footnote at the bottom of the page. The beginning of this note survives only as a few ink dots; the latter part of the note may read “as shn in Journal.” Perhaps JM intended the note to be a directive to his clerk to incorporate the entire motion in the notes before sending them to a printer.

Hamilton’s motion asserted that David Howell, “having avowed himself the author of the letter respecting foreign loans and other matters as published in the Boston Gazette of Novr. 10, 1782, mentioned in the report of the Committee, thereupon, It is the sense of this house that the said letter contains a misrepresentation of facts of a tendency injurious to the public affairs and a disclosure of an important foreign transaction requiring secrecy and that therefore the said letter is highly unjustifiable” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 812).

5JM interlineated “as the reason” above a canceled “these words,” and, probably at a later date, changed “Mr H.” to “Mr. Howell.” David Ramsay’s motion is not noted in the printed journal. The “information desired on that subject” refers to Howell’s acknowledgment of his authorship of “the letter from which the extract was published in the Providence Gazette.” See Notes on Debates, 6 December, n. 12; 13 December 1782.

6JM wrote “Mr. H——n. Mr: H” in his original draft. He later canceled the “n,” neglected to delete the period after “n” and the dash preceding it, and inserted “amilton” after the first “H” and “owell” after the second.

7The printed journal omits mention of Hamilton’s “call,” Howell’s request, and the conditional acceptance by Congress of this request (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 812). In the manuscript of his notes, JM underlined “netied.” For a further consideration of the matters deferred by Congress, see Notes on Debates, 18 December 1782.

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