James Madison Papers

Memorandum on Comment by Thomas Jefferson, 25 January 1783

Memorandum on Comment by Thomas Jefferson

LC (Madison Papers). Written by JM on verso of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s note of “Jany. 24. 1783 Thursday Evening” to “Mr Jefferson.”

Philada. Jany. 25th. 1783

Mr. Jefferson informed me when he put this into my hands that he should not deliver the letter to Mr. B. Vaughan untill a peace shall be finally concluded; as he understood that he is a Secy to one of the British Ministers.1

J. Madison Jr.

1Dr. Rush’s note of 24 January, covering a “letter to Mr. B. Vaughan,” probably reached Jefferson the next day, on the eve of his departure from Philadelphia in the expectation of embarking at Baltimore for France (JM to Randolph, 7 Jan. 1783, and n. 9). Being too much occupied to acknowledge Rush’s note, Jefferson left it with JM and perhaps asked him to explain to Rush why delivery of the letter to Vaughan might be delayed. Whether JM did so is unknown, but Jefferson was again in Philadelphia for over six weeks, beginning on 26 February, and hence could have orally thanked Rush for his courtesy (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 253 n., 261).

In the covering note, besides wishing Jefferson “a safe voyage” and a beneficial role as a peace commissioner, Rush remarked that his letter would introduce Jefferson, “fellow-worshipper in the temple of Science,” to Vaughan, “a gentleman of knowledge & taste, in Science,” who “possesses a most extensive acquaintance among the literati in London” (ibid., VI, 223). The letter of introduction is now missing and may have been given back to Rush by Jefferson upon his return to Philadelphia. When Jefferson was in London in the spring of 1786, he seems to have met Vaughan for the first time (ibid., IX, 363 n.).

In the autumn of 1782 Benjamin Vaughan (1751–1835) was in Paris, commenting upon the course of the peace negotiations in confidential dispatches to the Earl of Shelburne. Believing that the Comte de Vergennes was outwardly supporting the American peace commissioners but covertly opposing their demands, especially with regard to boundaries, navigation of the Mississippi River, and the use of Newfoundland fisheries, John Jay easily persuaded Vaughan, “strongly attached to the American cause,” to return to England on 11 September and let Shelburne know that he could “cut the cords which tied us to France” by an immediate acknowledgment of the independence of the United States and by yielding to her stand on those three issues (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 29–32; Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers, pp. 291–93, 333–34, 337–39). Characteristic of Vaughan’s long career was his support of revolutionists, whether in the thirteen colonies, Ireland, or France, and his interest in applied science. Migrating to the United States in 1796, he settled at Hallowell in the Maine district of Massachusetts. There he engaged in agricultural experimentation and continued to correspond on political and scientific topics with prominent Americans, including JM. Vaughan left portions of his large library to Harvard and Bowdoin colleges.

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