James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 14 August 1785

From James Monroe

N. York August 14th. 1785.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 28th. of July I receiv’d by the last post. The rout from hence to Boston may be effected by stage in 5 days; to Lake George in the same time, thence to St. Johns in three perhaps less, to Montreal one, & thence to Quebec in two, but in the latter instance it must be posted. In either rout you will have no difficulty for the boats and stages are under good regulation. I have been in doubt for some time which to prefer, the trip to Boston or the Indian treaty (having gratified my curiosity as to Canada) & have at length given way to the circumstances which urge in favor of the latter, viz. the security & facility of travelling with the Comrs., an opportunity wh. may not offer again whereas a trip to Boston will be always equally practicable. It wod. give me pleasure to meet you in Phila. but as you delay yr. mov’ment untill you hear from me, cannot expect it, since I sit out hence on the first of Sepr. to join Genl. Butler in Carlisle. I shall return from the treaty thro’ the Wilderness & see you at Richmond as you will be on the Assembly. By the first of Sepr. we expect the most important business will have been decided on ultimately, or postpon’d for the winter. The requisition will have pass’d, unless new difficulties arise. This subject hath been sifted thoroughly with the advances of the several States during the contest & their claims upon each other under them respectively. We cannot but lament that the state of our accts. agnst the union is in such a situation as to leave us totally in the dark with respect to it. We have no documents & have therefore only conjecture to build our most important measures on. Several men have been in pay for years in Richmond and yet have reason to believe they have done little. Surely the state will pursue the most efficatious measures upon this head & no longer suffer her interests in that line to be neglected.1 Those states whose accts. are unsettled a[re] not only subjected to great disadvantages in the requisition but are cr[i]minated as avoiding it designedly for the purpose of evading the payment of what they owe to the other States, having fail’d as they presume to advance their federal quota. The contrary of this will, we suppose appear upon a settlement, why then, say they, delay it? Does it arise from our refusing any thing you ask to effect it, or the negligenc[e] of your government? The report upon the 9th. of the articles of confideration will not I believe be finally determin’d untill the winter. It will however probably be taken up merely for the Sake of investigation & to be committed to the journals for publick inspection. You have I understand a copy of & I wish much yr. sentiments on it. A navigation act by recommendation hath been propos’d in conversation & debate but not submitted to the inspection & consideration of Congress. This is the other plan & shod. not be adopted but in the ultimate decision, that it is improper the power shod. rest in Congress:2 if this shod. be the decision it might be well to collect better information from the merchants of each State than congress now possess on the subject, indeed with or without the power, this information shod. be obtain’d or we may err in the act. If this report shod. be adopted it gives a tie to the confederacy wh. it hath not at present nor can have without it. It gives the states something to act on, the means by which they may bring abt. certain ends—without it god knows what object they have before them, or how each State will move, so as to move securely, with respect to fœderal or State objects. A report revising the instructions to our ministers forming comm[er]cial trea[t]ies changing the principle & substituting to that of the right of the most favord nation a simple bargain with each founded in the nature of our intercourse with each respectively hath been twice before Congress & postpon’d.3 It investigates fully the impolicy of those form’d on that principle, since in the opinion of the committee, they obtain nothing from the powers not having posesions [in] the west indies wh. we may not obtain without them & embarrass us in any restrictions we may lay on the trad[e], of those who have, it being the only means by which we are to remove the restraints which now exist. This alterat[ion] seems to obtain the assent of Congress & will most probably be acceded to if there will be a sufficient number of States in the ensuing week. A consulate convention with france enter’d into under instructions of long standing (but from wh. the secry of f. affr. thinks there are substantial d[evi]ations) by Dr. F[ranklin] for ratification universally disapprov’d will most probably be postpon’d for the present.4 I shall write you again before I sit out if any thing arises worthy communication. I am Dear Sir yr. friend & servant

Jas. Monroe

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed. Italicized words, unless otherwise noted, were encoded by Monroe using the code first sent him by JM on 14 Apr. 1785.

1The original 1781 Virginia cession of its western land claims contained a provision that the state should be reimbursed for the Virginia-financed conquest of the Northwest Territory by George Rogers Clark’s expedition (Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, pp. 244–45). In time, a commission was established to settle these claims (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (8 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 72–78). The first commissioners who attempted to settle these western claims with Congress after the cession was accepted in 1781 were Thomas Marshall, William Fleming, Samuel McDowell, and Caleb Wallace. They first met on 1 Nov. 1782, and having liquidated as far as possible all accounts, prepared and submitted a report to the governor and council on 1 July 1783. By the renewed cession of 1 Mar. 1784, Virginia repeated her earlier condition that Congress fully reimburse the state for the Clark expeditions. One commissioner was to be appointed by Virginia, one by Congress, and one by the two other commissioners. Edward Carrington was the Virginia commissioner, but he resigned 19 Dec. 1785 and was replaced by William Heth. There were a series of congressional commissioners: Samuel Holden Parsons, 9 June 1785–4 Oct. 1786; Edward Fox, 5 Oct. 1786–9 Apr. 1787, who resigned because of inadequate salary; and John Pierce, appointed 11 Apr. 1787, who was the commissioner of army accounts. During Pierce’s illness and absence, Heth and David Henley in 1788 came to a settlement of $500,000 to be paid to Virginia by Congress. However, a final accounting was not made until after the establishment of the national government under the Constitution (ibid., V, 229 n. 4; James, George Rogers Clark Papers, 1781–1784, pp. 290, 401–2, 465–66; 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. 1785, p. 99; CVSP, IV, 84; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVIII, 442; XXXI, 737, 741; XXXII, 165–66, 171–72; Ferguson, Power of the Purse, pp. 216–17).

2Monroe commented to Jefferson that “a second plan hath been proposd, a navigation act digested here and recommended to the States. This hath not been presented but probably will be. One would expect in a particular quarter of the union perfect concert in this business, yet this is not altogether the case. The 2d. plan above attended to takes its origin with MacHenry. The Eastern people wish something more lasting and will of course in the first instance not agree to it. They must therefore come in with that propos’d in the report [on amending the ninth article]” (italicized words originally in code) (Monroe to Jefferson, 15 Aug. 1785, 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 , VIII, 382).

3On 4 Apr. 1785 Monroe had moved that a committee be appointed to report on and revise the instructions to ministers concerning commercial treaties. Monroe presented the report on 2 June and it was assigned to 9 June for consideration, but it does not appear in that day’s, or in subsequent days’ records (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVIII, 229, 418–22).

4On 24 June 1785 John Jay conveyed to Congress Franklin’s copy of the consular convention with France. Jay’s report on the proposed treaty convention, read 6 July, explicated in detail the deviations in the convention from the instructions given to the American minister. The substance of Jay’s report was that the convention gave extraordinary privileges and immunities to French consuls and seemed to denigrate American sovereignty (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXVIII, 480; XXIX, 500–515; Monroe to Jefferson, 15 Aug. 1785, 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 , VIII, 383 n.; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 19319). JM had given Washington a printed copy of Jay’s report and possibly in a lost letter JM may have commented upon Jay’s lawyer-like bill of particulars (see Washington to JM, 22 Oct. 1785).

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