James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 4 June 1786

To James Monroe

Orange June 4. 1786

Dear Sir

At the date of my last I expected I should by this time have been on the Journey which promises the pleasures of taking you by the hand in New York. Several circumstances have produced a delay, which I did not calculate upon, and which are like to continue it for eight or ten days to come.1 My journey will also be rendered tedious by the route which I shall pursue. I have some business which makes it expedient for me to take Winchester & Lancaster in my way, and the duties of consanguinity which will detain [me] some days in the neighborhood of the former.2 If I have an opportunity I will write you again before I set out and if I should not I will do it: immediately on my reaching Philada. You will not write after the receipt of this.

I imagine you get from Mr. Jones better information as to the back Country as well as concerning our more immediate affairs than I can give you.3 The death of Christian seems to be confirmed.4 The disinclination of Kentucky to a separation is also repeated with strong circumstances of probability. Our staple continues low.5 The people have got in debt to the Merchts who set their own price of course. There are perhaps other causes also, besides the fall of the Market in Europe which of itself does not explain the matter. One of them may be the scarcity of money which is really great. The advocates for paper money are making the most of this handle. I begin to fear exceedingly that no efforts will be sufficient to parry this evil.6 The election of Col. Mason is the main counterpoise for my hopes against the popular cry. Mann Page & Genl. Nelson will also I flatter myself be valuable fellow labourers.7 Our situation is truly embarrassing. It can not perhaps be affirmed that there is gold & silver eno’ in the Country to pay the next tax. What then is to be done? Is there any other alternative but to emit paper or to postpone the collection? These are the questions which will be rung in our ears by the very men whose past measures have plunged us into our difficulties. But I will not plague you with our difficulties here. You have enough of them I am sure where you are. Present my best respects to Col. Grayson & your other colleagues & believe me to be yours affectionately

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC). Addressed by JM to Monroe in New York and directed “FredbgWay” in another hand.

1One of the circumstances which probably caused JM to delay the journey was the bad weather. JM wrote that from 19 May to 4 June they had had “incessant rains, … torrents that threatened to sweep away every thing” (JM to Jefferson, 19 June 1786). The “alarming freshes … swept away every bridge” on the coach route north (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser (Richmond: Thomas Nicolson et al., 1781–97). description ends , 31 May 1786).

2His sister Nelly (1760–1802) married Isaac Hite (1758–1836) in 1783 and settled in Winchester. Hite and JM became close friends; the Hites’ home was often a stopping place for JM (Ketcham, James Madison, p. 371).

3Monroe’s kinsman, Joseph Jones, was better informed because he was sitting on the Virginia Council, which met regularly at the capital.

4William Christian of the Kentucky district. See JM to Monroe, 13 May 1786 and n. 8.

5Tobacco prices paid Virginia planters reached 40 shillings per hundredweight in 1784, then began to slip. By June 1786 the price fell to around 20 shillings per hundredweight, which was the “break-even point” (JM to Jefferson, 12 May 1786; Forrest McDonald, E Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American Republic, 1776–1790 [Boston, 1965], p. 70).

6By 1786 seven states had adopted paper currency: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island. The inevitable result in those states was the disappearance of specie. In Connecticut and Delaware there was no agitation for paper money, while in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire opponents of a paper medium were successful (Nevins, American States during and after the Revolution, pp. 518–42).

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