James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 12 [11] August 1786

To James Monroe

Philada. Aug: 12 [11] Friday morning [1786]

Dear Sir

I called at Hunts at Trenton1 but he had come a few days before to this City. On my arrival last night I sought him out and find that he has disposed of two of the Horses belonging to the Sett on which you relied. The fourth horse he had never actually procured, but had him within his reach in case a bargain had been concluded with you. One therefore of that Sett only remains. His price would have been £40 each. The pair he sold brought him £85. He says he can probably provide another sett within a moderate time, but they will not be more than 15 hands high, and will not be in high order perhaps by the time you would wish for them. As my commission extended only to the sett supposed to be on hand I went no farther than to ask this information & promise to communicate it to you, that you may open a new treaty with him if you think fit.2 If I can be instrumental in that or any other service during my stay here, command me freely. I had some conversation at Princeton with Docr. Witherspoon on the subject which agitates you so much in Congs. He sees it in its proper light, and when an opportunity offers will not withold his ideas from those to whom they may be useful.3 I shall write again in a few days. Present my Sincerest respects to Mrs. Monroe & a ses belles soeurs.4 Adieu

Js. M. Jr

RC (DLC). Addressed by JM. Franked. JM apparently added the superscript “12” in the date line at a later time. The second Friday in August was the eleventh. Burnett correctly redated it (Letters, VIII, 419 n.).

1Probably Abraham Hunt (d. ca. 1824), “merchant prince of Trentontown,” whose dwelling and general store were located at Trenton’s “first ‘town centre of trade’” on the northwest corner of North Warren and West State streets, and near the City Tavern, a gathering place for public figures (Harry J. Podmore, Trenton Old and New [Trenton, 1927], pp. 33, 38).

2Monroe must have commissioned JM when he was in New York to inquire after a set of horses in Trenton for Monroe’s journey to Virginia.

3JM had stopped at Princeton on his way back to Philadelphia from New York to see his old friend and mentor, President Witherspoon. In the course of their conversation JM discussed the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations and the issue of revoking Jay’s instructions, which was being fiercely debated in Congress at the time. When in Congress (in 1782) Witherspoon had advocated endowing the U.S. with the title to various western territories rather than allowing several states their claims. Deploring the petty spirit of the individual states, he wished to see a strong central government established, and he envisioned the development of the country’s vast resources and its growth from coast to coast (Collins, President Witherspoon, II, 72–79, 189, 191–92). Thus, Witherspoon concurred with the southern states in believing that the free navigation of the Mississippi was a territorial right of the U.S. not to be relinquished under any terms. Whether he spoke to state legislators, delegates to Congress, or other public men is not certain; however, the New Jersey delegation did come around to the southern position. JM wrote in April 1787 that New Jersey felt “no small indignation at” the eastern states’ policy of excluding the federal territory from the markets which they monopolized for themselves. New Jersey had instructed their delegates in 1787 to maintain the claim of the U.S. to its right of free navigation of the Mississippi (JM to Edmund Randolph, 2 Apr. 1787; North Carolina Delegates to the Governor of North Carolina, 18 Apr. 1787; William Grayson to Monroe, 30 Apr. 1787, Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 583, 593).

4Elizabeth Kortright Monroe’s sisters were Sarah [Hyleger], Hester [Gouverneur], and Mary [H. Knox] (Will of Lawrence Kortright in Abstracts of Wills, XIV, Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1905 [New York, 1906], XXXVIII, 270).

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