James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 24 December 1784

To James Monroe

Richmond Decr. 24. 1784.1

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 14th. instant came to hand on thursday. A proposition was made a few days ago for this State to empower Congs. to carry into effect the imposts as soon as 12 States should make themselves parties to it. It was rejected on the following grounds 1. that it would present a disagreeable aspect of our affairs to Foreign nations. 2 that it might lead to other combinations of lesser numbers of the States. 3. that it would render R. I. an inlet for clandestine trade. 4. that it would sour her temper still further, at a crisis when her concurrence in some general & radical amendment of the Confederation may be invited by Congress. 5 that the chance is almost infinitely agst. a Union of 12 States on such new ground, and consequently the experiment would be only a fresh display of the jarring policy of the States, and afford a fresh triumph & irritation to R Island. The Act empowering Congs. to surrender Citizens of this State, to the Sovereign demanding them for certain crimes committed within his jurisdiction has passed. Congress are to Judge whether the crimes be such as according to the Law of Nations warrant such demand, as well as whether the fact be duly proven. Concurrent provision is made for punishing such offences by our own laws in case no such demand be made to or be not admitted by Congs. and legal proof can be had.2 The latter law extends to offences agst. the Indians. As these tribes do not observe the law of Nations it was supposed neither necessary nor proper to give up Citizens to them. The Act is not suspended on the concurrence of any other State, being judged favorable to the interest of this tho’ no other should follow the example, and [naturally?] a fit branch of the fœderal prerogative. The Bill for Assize Courts has passed the Senate without any material amendment, is enrolled, and waits only to be examined by the Committee & signed by the Speakers. The Genl. Assesst. on the question for engrossing it, was yesterday carried by 44 agst. 42. Today its third reading was put off till Novr. next by 45 agst. 37 or thereabouts, and is to be printed for consideration of the people.3 Much business is still on the table but we shall probably rise about New Years day. I am Dr Sir with sincere regard Yr. freind & Servt.

J. Madison Jr.

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

1The letter is dated “1785” but JM inserted “4” above the “5.”

2The “concurrent provision” held that persons who committed crimes in the territory “of any christian nation or Indian tribe, in amity with the United States,” would be liable to prosecution “on proof of such offence by oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 471).

3The 44 to 42 vote on the proposed bill “establishing a provision for the teachers of the Christian religion” indicates the sharp division over this controversial measure. JM voted with the majority (45 to 38) in postponing action on the bill. The House voted to send twelve printed copies of the bill along with “the names of the ayes and noes” on the postponement motion, to each member of the General Assembly for distribution “in their respective counties” (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. 82).

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