James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 6 February 1787

From James Monroe

Fredricksbg. Feby. 6. 1787.

Dear Sir

We were sorry you cod. not make it convenient to call on us; hope you have arrivd be fore this safe.1 An agreeable journey cannot be calculated on. I must trouble you with some small commissions that I fear you will find little leasure to attend to provided the States are assembled—but you will postpone any attention to these to give preference to affrs. of more consequence. The day before I left New York I experienc’d an unfortunate disaster, particularly upon that occasion. I had drawn a bill on mr. Jones endors’d by Colo. Hamilton for 530. dolrs. & committed it to a broker mr. Mordicai to negotiate for me.2 He was to have furnish’d the money the day appointed for me to leave the city. On that day he fail’d, having previously recd. & dispos’d of my money. He advanc’d me 90£ however of that currency & assur’d me he wod. certainly indemnify me altogether.3 I hear from Carrington he hath made a return of my debt & that he will be able to pay a considerable part of it & perhaps the whole. You will be so kind as enquire into this affr. & receive (if there shod. be any) the money for me. I shall be afterwards able to direct its application. A mr. Coghill in King Street engag’d to make some furniture for me.4 Agreeably to our contract it shod. be of the best kind, & if not I was at liberty to decline taking it. Maria writes me it is vile.5 You will examine it &, if so, reject it. Tell him I decline taking it, for if it is not of the best kind I had rather have none. You will proceed regularly so as to prevent his suing me prov[i]ded I shod. hereafter visit N. Yk. I wish you i[n] that event to engage precisely the same artic[le] of Burrell or Burling in Chappell street.6 You were so kind as observe you wod. be able to apply the small sum due me to such purposes as I sh[od.] direct in N. York. When it shall be conven[i]ent apply it to the purchase of this furniture & send it by the packet to Fredricksbg. [I] wish the chairs bottom’d of hair of the best kind & of the fashion heretofore directed. If I shall be able to arrange the article of finance, wh. wi[ll?] depend on Mordicai, I will also get a dozn. of windsor chairs with stuff’d bottoms similar to those Colo. Grayson had. You will advise me of the time they will be finish’d, the sum they will cost & my expectation on the Jew—the expence of casing & covering them properly for the voyage—of the freight. Miss Kortrig[ht] & Maria will be able to give you every necessar[y] information on this head. Believe me since[rely] yr. friend & servt.

Jas. Monroe

RC (NN). Letters in brackets were obscured by mounting. At the bottom of the second page, written in Rives’s hand, “Cow[dry?] in Kings Street nearly opp[osite] the French Church, at [Sign?] with name of Cowley. / Bur[l]ing in Beekman Street next to Church.”

1Monroe commonly inverted his word order as in this sentence. He meant that he hoped JM had arrived safely before this date.

2Jacob Mordecai (1762–1838), born in Philadelphia, was the son of Moses and Elizabeth Whitlock Mordecai. He served as a clerk under David Franks during the Revolution; afterwards he led a peripatetic existence, residing for a while in New York, where in 1784 he formed a partnership with Haym Salomon. They maintained an auction house at the corner of Wall and Pearl streets. Mordecai carried on the business at 22 Wall Street after Salomon’s death in 1785, until Mordecai himself went bankrupt in the winter of 1786. He resided intermittently in Richmond, then settled in Warrenton, North Carolina, in 1792 as a country merchant, and founded a seminary for women there in 1809. Ten years later he returned to Richmond where he was president of Congregation Beth Shalom (Joseph R. Rosenbloom, A Biographical Dictionary of Early American Jews: Colonial Times through 1800 [Lexington, Ky., 1960], pp. 117, 118; Marcus, Early American Jewry, II, 161, 190–92; Ezekiel and Lichtenstein, History of the Jews of Richmond, pp. 23–24; New-York Directory, 1786 [New York, 1786; 1850(?) reprint], p. 39).

3At the then current rate of exchange in New York, Mordecai still owed Monroe £122, less his commission (New-York Directory, 1786, pp. 16, 17).

4Probably Jonathan Cowdery, who had a store at 191 King Street and a carpenter’s shop at 2 King Street (The New-York Directory, and Register, for the Year 1789 … [New York, 1789; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago. 1903–34). description ends 22021], p. 23).

5Mrs. Monroe’s sister.

6Monroe must have meant Thomas Burling, “Cabinet and Chair Maker, … at the sign of the Chair, near the Chapel, in [36] Beekman street, formerly Chapel-street” (24 Jan. 1785, N. Y. Packet; New-York Directory, 1789 [Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago. 1903–34). description ends 22021], p. 17; see also Rita Susswein Gottesman, comp., The Arts and Crafts in New York, 1777–1799: Advertisements and News Items from New York City Newspapers [New York, 1954], pp. 111–12).

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