James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 31 August 1783

From Thomas Jefferson

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison of the Virginia delegation in Congress.” Docketed by JM, “August 31. 1783.” Another hand wrote “Mr. Jefferson” below that date and, to the right of it, “Th. Jefferson Augst 31. 1783.” Under this second dating, William Cabell Rives, the first major biographer of Madison, wrote, probably late in the 1850’s, “our allusions in this letter to our affairs of the heart of Mr. Madison.” See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, xxiii–xxiv; William C. Rives, History of the Life and Times of James Madison, I, 522–23.

Monticello Aug. 31. 1783.

Dear Sir

Your favour of July 17.1 which came to hand long ago remains still unacknoleged, as from the time of it’s receipt I had constant hope that you would be on the road for Virginia before an answer could reach you. that of the 11th. inst.2 I received yesterday, and leaves the time of your visit as unfixed as ever, and excites some fear that I shall miss of you. I propose to set out for Congress about the middle of October, unless they should be returned to Philadelphia in which case I shall take at home the week I meant otherwise to pass at Philadelphia on my way to Congress.3 I wish it had been possible for your journey to have been so timed as that your return could have been when I go: for I still Suppose you mean to pass the winter there as you told me at a time when it seemed to have no object but that of prosecuting your studies more at leisure.4 I sincerely lament the misadventure which has happened, from whatever cause it may have happened.5 should it be final however, the world still presents the same & many other resources of happiness, and you possess many within yourself. firmness of mind & unintermitting occupations will not long leave you in pain. no event has been more contrary to my expectations, and these were founded on what I thought a good knowlege of the ground,6 but of all machines ours is the most complicated & inexplicable.—either here or in Philadelphia I must ask a perusal of your Congressional notes with leave to take notes from them, as they will better than any thing else possess me of the business I am to enter on.7 what is become of the mutineers?8 what of the Secretaryship of foreign affairs?9 what of the commercial treaty with Gr. Britain?10 these and many other questions I hope for the pleasure of having answered by you at Monticello. be so good as to present my compliments to mrs. House & mrs. Trist and to ask whether the pleasure of lodging in their house may be counted among the circumstances which will render Philadelphia agreeable to me in case of the return of Congress thither.11 should Congress not return thither, would it be possible for you to engage me a tolerable birth wherever they are? a room to myself, if it be but a barrack, is indispensable.12 in either event of my being or not being in Philadelphia I propose to place Patsy there; and will ask the favor of mrs. Trist to think for me on that subject, and to advise me as to the person with whom she may be trusted. some boarding school of course, tho’ I am not without objections to her passing more than the day in such a one.13—the want of public occurrences worth detailing has filled my letter you find with private & unimportant subjects. I wish you every possible felicity and am with sincere esteem Dr. Sir

Your friend & servt.

Th: Jefferson14

1Q.v.

2Q.v. The Virginia Gazette of 30 August 1783 announced that among the letters remaining unclaimed in the Richmond post office were eighteen for Jefferson.

4The “time” almost surely was between 26 February and 12 April 1783, when Jefferson and JM were together in Philadelphia (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 243, n. 5; 327, n. 6).

5The breaking by Catherine Floyd of her engagement to marry JM (JM to Jefferson, 11 Aug. 1783, and nn. 3–5).

6Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 180; 182, n. 28; 459; 481.

7Ibid., V, 231–34; JM to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783.

9JM to Randolph, 17 June; Livingston to JM, 19 July 1783, nn. 3, 4.

13“Patsy” was Jefferson’s daughter Martha (JM to Jefferson, 30 Sept. 1783; 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, 359–60).

14JM did not receive this letter until 19 September (JM to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783).

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