James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Lee, 16 February 1786

From Henry Lee

New York 16h. Feby. [1786]

My dear Sir

By way of introduction of a correspondence, with a character I love & respect so sincerely, I enclose a report passed yesterday by Congress, the only material business done lately & which proves the dreadful situation of our fœderal government.1 The report speaks so fully on the subject that I withhold remarks which might [my?] solicitude for the public gives birth to.

We have received some advices from our agent in Madeira which afford some ground to hope success will attend our negotiations with the Barbary powers tho when you consider the enmity which certainly prevails in the British cabinet towards us, their influence with those pirates and our scanty purse, I profess my fears preponderate.2 Indian affairs do not wear a promising countenance—an additional evil to our many evils, if the spring should open with a war with the savages.

Only eight states are represented. Grayson joined us two days ago, & Monroe becomes Benedict this evening.3 My best wishes attend you, farewel my friend. Yours truely,

H. Lee Junr

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found.

1On 15 Feb. 1786, Congress approved the report of a committee delegated to consider the “System of General Revenue” recommended by Congress on 18 Apr. 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXX, 70–76).

2John Pintard, U. S. commercial agent in Madeira, wrote to Jay on 5 and 12 Dec. 1785. Jay forwarded these letters to Congress who returned them for a report which Jay rendered on 19 May 1786 (ibid., XXX, 76 n.).

3Monroe was about to lose his bachelor’s status—hence Lee jested with bachelor JM by alluding to their traitorous companion as a “Benedict.”

Index Entries