James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Grayson, 8 November 1785

From William Grayson

New York Nov. 8th. 1785.

Dear Sir

The President being this moment about to set out for Virginia obliges me to be very short at present.1 We have no authentic advices from Europe respecting the Algerine War, although the Papers speak of several captures of american vessels.2 Nothing new from Mr. Adams respecting the debts. I will again look at his letters, & give you the necessary information in confidence. You will then judge for yourself as to the expediency or inexpediency of a certain measure.3

I shall at all events stay here till next Munday in order to collect some documents which are necessary for the State, & will write you again before I leave this. Mr. Hancock is talked of by the Southern States for President, though I suppose if Governor Nash or Paca were to come forward, they would change their tone.4

Since you left this We have had a considerable flurry respecting a motion brought forward by Massachusetz & Virginia respecting the dismemberment of States: The motion is on the journals.5

Contracts for the transportation of the Mail are made: two mails a week throughout America, for six months & three mails a week for the six other months—to begin in Jany. next. From yr. Affect. frd. & Most Obed Sert

Willm. Grayson

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM.

1Richard Henry Lee was elected President of Congress 30 Nov. 1784. His term technically expired on 7 Nov. 1785, hence the speculation concerning Hancock as Lee’s successor.

2On both 31 Oct. and 3 Nov. 1785, the N. Y. Packet published letters reporting Algerine atrocities against foreign ships. The 3 Nov. issue specifically dealt with the capture of two American ships.

3The House of Delegates was about to consider a bill on the problem of British debts and this is doubtless the “certain measure” Grayson had in mind.

4Governors Abner Nash of North Carolina and William Paca of Maryland. Nash was elected a delegate to the 1786 session and traveled to New York, but because of illness, never took his seat. Paca was not elected to serve (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, xciii, lxxxvi–lxxxvii).

5The motion appears in JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIX, 810. It opposed dismemberment of the original states for the formation of governments independent of the Confederation. After several delays, the matter was tabled without further action (ibid., pp. 811–12). The purpose of the motion was to rebuff the separatist movements in frontier areas. Governor Henry wrote Speaker Benjamin Harrison on 17 Oct. 1785 expressing concern over “the Assumption of sovereign power by the Western Inhabitants of No. Carolina” which “exposes our Citizens to the contagion of their example” (Executive Letter Book description begins Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, manuscript in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 483–84).

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