James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 7 May 1784

From Thomas Jefferson

Annapolis May 7. 1784.

Dear Sir

The inclosed resolutions on the subject of commerce are the only things of consequence passed since my last.1 You will be surprised to receive another pair of spectacles. The paper with them will explain the error. If you can dispose of the supernumerary pair do so, & I will remit the money to Dudley: if you cannot, return them by the next post & I will return them to him.

Congress is now on foreign treaties. Mercer has devised new expedients for baf[f]ling the measure. He has put it into Reads head to think of being appointed a foreign minister and has by his intrigues defeated every proposition which did not proceed on that ground. He is very mischievous. He is under no moral restrain[t]. If he avoids shame he avoids wrong according to his system. His fondness for Machiavel is genuine & founded on a true harmony of principle.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). In Jefferson’s hand but not signed. Cover missing. Italicized words were encoded by Jefferson in the code he first used on 14 Apr. 1783. Enclosure not found.

1The missing enclosure must have been a copy of the resolutions passed by Congress on 30 Apr. 1784, a day when Jefferson appears to have been absent although he served on the committee which submitted them. The resolutions recommended to the states that they vest in Congress, for a period of fifteen years, power to prohibit importations or exportations “in vessels belonging to or navigated by the subjects of any power with whom these states shall not have formed treaties of Commerce,” and to prohibit foreigners from importing goods “not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVI, 320 n. 1, 322). For JM’s probable use of this measure see Resolutions to Strengthen Powers of Congress, 19 May 1784, and Bill Granting Congress Limited Power to Regulate Commerce, 5 June 1784.

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