James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 14 November 1784

To James Monroe

Richmond Novr. 14. 1784.

Dear Sir

I had intended by this post to commence our correspondence with a narrative of what has been done and is proposed to be done at present Session of the Genl As[s]embly, but by your last lettr. to Mr. Jones, I find that it is very uncertain whether this will get to Trenton before you leave it for Virga. I cannot however postpone my congratulations on your critical escape from the danger which lay in ambush for you, and your safe return to Trenton.1 My ramble extended neither into the dangers nor gratifications of yours. It was made extremely pleasing by sundry circumstances but could have been more so I assure you Sir, if we had been cotemporarys in the route we both passed. The Indians begin to be unquiet we hear both on the N. W. & S. E. sides of the Ohio.2 The Spaniards are charged with spurring on the latter. As means of obviating these dangers, the H of D. have resolved to authorize the Executive to Suspend the surveying of land within the unpurchasd limits—& to instruct the Delegation to urge in Congr. Treaties with the Southern Indians, and negociations with Spain touching the Mississpi. They also propose to set on foot Surveys of Potowmac & James River from their falls to their Sources. But their principal attention has been & is still occupied with a scheme proposed for a Genl. Asset. 47 have carried it agst. 32. In its present form it excludes all but Christian Sects.3 The Presbyterian Clergy have remonstrated agst. any narrow principles, but indirectly favor a more comprehensive establisht. I think the bottom will be enlarged & that a trial will be made of the practicability of the project. The Successor to Mr. H. is not yet appointed or nominated.4 It is in the option of Mr. H. and I fancy he will not decline the service. There will be three vacancies in the Council, for which also no nominations have been made. Mr. C. Griffith will probably be named, & Mr. W. Nicholas. Mr. Roane is also spoken of.5 I am Dr Sir Yrs sincerly,

J. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Addressed to Monroe “in Congress.”

1Monroe had visited Fort Schuyler in the fall of 1784, as had JM, but the one journey was as hazardous as the other was peaceful. Monroe recounted his experiences in a letter to Jefferson which was probably similar to “your last lettr. to Mr. [Joseph] Jones” (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, 459–62).

2Governor Harrison wrote the speaker of the House on 18 Oct. 1784 that Indians were murdering back country settlers and a war “more dreadful than any hitherto experienced” might result. The governor added that the Indians were being encouraged “by two powerful European neighbors, who look on us with the most jealous eyes” (Executive Letter Book description begins Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, manuscript in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 402–3).

3In JM’s text: “but Xn Sects.”

4JM meant Governor Harrison’s successor. The other “Mr. H.” was of course Patrick Henry, who exercised his option on 17 Nov. JM then served on the courtesy committee appointed to notify Henry of his election (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, p. 32).

5The three seats on the Council were actually filled by Joseph Jones, Spencer Roane, and Miles Selden (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 409, 448, 449). JM made a slip when he wrote “Mr. C. Griffith.” He was referring to Cyrus Griffin, who was appointed chief justice of the Washington District on 5 Jan. 1785. In 1786 he was again an unsuccessful candidate for the Council.

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