James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 15 May 1784

To Thomas Jefferson

Richmond May 15. 1784

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 7th. inst: with another pr. of spectacles inclosed came safe to hand on thursday last. I shall leave the person for whose use they were intended to take choice of the most suitable & will return the other pr. to Mr. Dudley by the first conveyance, unless I meet with a purchaser which I do not expect. The arrangement which is to carry you to Europe has been made known to me by Mr. Short who tells me he means to accompany or follow you. With the many reasons which make this event agreeable, I can not but mix some regret that your aid towards a revisal of our State Constitution will be removed. I hope however for your licence to make use of the ideas you were so good as to confide to me, so far as they may be necessary to forward the object. Whether any experiment will be made this Session is uncertain.1 Several members with whom I have casually conversed give me more encouragemt. than I had indulged. As Col: Mason remains in private life, the expediency of starting the idea will depend much on the part to be expected from R. H. L. & P. H. The former is not yet come to this place, nor can I determine any thing as to his politics on this point. The latter arrived yesterday & from a short conversation I find him strenuous for invigorating the federal Govt. though without any precise plan, but have got no explanations from him as to our internal Govt. The general train of his thoughts seemed to suggest favorable expectations. We did not make a House till wednesday last, & have done nothing yet but arrange the Committees & receive petitions. The former Speaker was re-elected without opposition. If you will either before or after your leaving America point out the channel of communication with you in Europe, I will take the pleasure of supplying you from time to time with our internal transac[tions] as far as they may deserve your attention, & expect that you will freely command every other service during yr. absence which it may be in my power to render. Wishing you every success & happiness I am Dr Sir Your affecte. friend

J. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM many years later.

1While JM and Jefferson had toyed with the idea of a drastic revision of the 1776 Virginia Constitution, most public men in Virginia were in no mood to tinker with the machinery of state government. A far more pressing matter was the distinct possibility that debts owed by Virginians to British merchants would have to be paid in full, as provided by the 1783 peace treaty. James Monroe believed the sum involved to be a staggering £2,800,000 (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 , VII, 48). Speaker John Tyler was seeking allies who knew “how unjust it was to consent to the payment of the debts after such an unusual manner of Warfare had been carryed on” (ibid., p. 277). But whatever the focus of legislative strife, Edmund Randolph predicted to Jefferson, “our friend of Orange will step earlier into the heat of battle, than his modesty would otherwise permit, For he is already resorted to, as a general, of whom much has been preconceived to his advantage” (ibid., p. 260).

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