James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Henry Lee, 9 November 1786

To Henry Lee

Richmond Nov. 9th 1786—

Dear Sir

The last mail went out at a time when I was so engaged that I could not drop a line to you. The task of first conveying to you the result of the elections for Congress has therefore probably been performed by some of your other friends. The Superiority which your reflection and firmness will maintain over the vicissitudes incident to public life, forbids any suggestions which may be calculated to abate a sensibility with regard to them. I will only assure you that the indelicacy of the Situation in which your country has placed you is Severely felt by those whose esteem you would most value.1

The enclosed paper contains all the Legislative information worth giving you. Present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Lee, and assure yourself of my sincerest wishes for your happiness. Yrs affey—

Js. Madison Jr.

Tr (DLC). Not in JM’s hand. Enclosure not found.

1Lee and Monroe had been replaced on the Virginia delegation, but only Monroe had served the usual three-year limit (as imposed by the Articles of Confederation). JM’s statement that he was uncertain as to why Lee was dropped is puzzling (JM to Jefferson, 4 Dec. 1786). Although JM hinted that Lee’s “supposed heterodoxy touching the Mississpi” was partly to blame for the ouster, there may have been other causes of a more personal nature. Arthur Lee, Henry Lee’s uncle, was not a popular man in Virginia and was known to have been in league with the New England delegates who preferred fishing rights to the free navigation of the Mississippi in the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations (Monroe to JM, 29 Sept. 1786, n. 3). Richard Henry Lee, another uncle, was already on the delegation. Perhaps the General Assembly simply calculated that one Lee at a time was ample. Whatever the reason, Lee took the matter as a personal insult and thought JM was a party to the business (Lee to JM, 20 Dec. 1786). In time, JM’s assurances of friendship were accepted by Lee and they returned to their cordiality of old to become steadfast Federalist allies at the Richmond ratifying convention of 1788 (Lee to JM, 7 Dec. 1787 [DLC]). When Joseph Jones declined a place on the delegation, Lee was reelected to Congress on 1 Dec. 1786.

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