James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 28 July 1785

To James Monroe

Orange July 28th. 1785

Dear Sir

I received yesterday your favour of the 12th. inst. The date of the preceding one was early in May. From this interval and your not acknowledging some of my letters I suspect that our correspondence suffers from some fault in the post office. This has certainly been the case with letters between Col. Grayson and myself. The part of your letter which has engaged most of my attention is the postscript which invites me to a ramble this fall. I have long had it in contemplation, to seize occasions as they may arise, of traversing the Atlantic States as well as of taking a taste of the Western curiosities. A visit to the Eastern States which I have never seen formed the first article in my plan, and I had allotted to it the season which I otherwise employed last year. A trip in to Canada would also be agreeable. With these prepossessions, you may well suppose, I read your invitation with a sufficient disposition to accept it. There are several considerations however which oblige me to hesitate. My resources do not authorize me to disregard that of the expence,1 though this shall never be a decisive objection, but when it is an essential one: the possibility of my being called on to attend a public duty which has been imposed on me2—the inconveniency of sparing so much time. To these general objections particular ones occur. The time at which the Western treaty will actually be held must be extremely uncertain; great delays ought to be presupposed as happened in the last one at Fort Stanwix,3 and a return might be obstructed by the lowness of the waters, by the want of boats at our command, or by the necessity of travelling back thro’ the Wilderness via Kentucky; these circumstances compared with the time at which my attendance will be due at Richmond, seem to forbid my acceding to your first proposition. The second, to wit, a ramble towards Montreal & Quebec, is objectionable also on account of the time it would require; not to mention that the present may not be the crisis at which a Citizen of the U. States would travel with most satisfaction through that country. The Eastern ramble which is the third you suggest, has also its difficulties, though they are the least insurmountable. In the first place, your expressions leave me in doubt whether it would be agreeable to yourself or not; in the next, I should consider it as indispensable to go by land, and not by water from New York. The latter mode would not answer the purpose of a traveller; and I am not sure that the former is attainable without carrying horses from Virginia: and in the last place, it is possible as observed above, that I may be called by matters of a public nature from such a project of pleasure. Notwithstanding these difficulties, I will make some eventual arrangements, suspending a positive determination till I hear again from you, which I hope will be as early as an answer can come by the post. At all events it is not unlikely that I may be obliged to ride as far as Philada. where I should be very happy if we could meet in case your final plans should make it convenient. Besides a public undertaking which may possibly require such a ride, I have in conjunction with a friend here a project on the anvil, which may furnish a motive of interest. I am Dear Sir Yr. affectionate friend

J. Madison Jr.

I thank you particularly for the Journals of Congress.

RC (DLC). Cover addressed by JM. Docketed by JM at a later time. Misdated “June 28” by JM in his calendar of “Letters J. M. [to] Mr. Monroe.”

1JM was without capital and dependent upon income from Montpelier during this period (Ketcham, James Madison, p. 148; JM to Jefferson, 27 Apr. 1785).

2JM may have thought that he would be called upon to confer with interstate commissioners at a conference on Potomac navigation. Prompted by Washington, the General Assembly passed a resolution (introduced by JM on 28 Dec. 1784) that authorized JM and other Virginia commissioners to meet with Maryland delegates and those who might be commissioned by Pennsylvania to discuss mutual matters of navigation and jurisdiction. Apparently Governor Henry had forgotten to communicate to Pennsylvania the invitation to meet with the other commissioners, as well as having failed to relate the time and place designated by Maryland to the Virginia commissioners. JM may have thought a belated meeting likely to occur once Randolph had prodded Henry’s memory (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. 91; Edmund Randolph to JM, 17 July 1785).

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