James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 19 April 1787

To James Monroe

New York April 19. 1787.

Dear Sir

No definitive steps are yet taken for the transportation of your furniture. I fear we shall be obliged to make use of a conveyance to Norfolk as soon as one shall offer. I have examined the workmanship of the man in Chappel Street.1 The face of it is certainly superior to that of your workman. Whether it may prove much so for substantial purposes, I do not undertake to say. Should Mrs. Monroe not be pleased with the articles, I wd. recommend that you dispose of them, which may be done probably without loss, and send us a commission to replace them. I think we could please you both; and on terms not dearer than those of your purchase. We learn nothing yet of a remittance from S. Carolina.2

The business of the Mississippi will I think come to a point in a few days. You shall know the result in due time.

A motion was lately made to remove shortly to Philada. Six States would have been for it. Rh. Island was so at first, and would have been a seventh. One of the delegation was overpowered by exertions of his Eastern brethren. I need not rehearse to you the considerations which operated on both sides. Your conjectures will not mistake them. My own opinion is that there are strong objections agst. the moment; objections which nothing would supersede but the difficulty of bringing the sense of the Union to an efficient vote in Congress, and the danger of losing altogether a proper measure by waiting for a proper time. A middle way would have been my choice; that is to fix Philada. for the meeting of the ensuing Congs. & to remain here in the mean time. This would have given time for all preliminary arrangements, would have steered clear of the Convention, and by selecting a natural period for the event, and transferring the operation of it to our successors in office, all insinuations of suddenness, and of personal views, would have been repelled.3

I hear with much pleasure that you are to aid the deliberations of the next assembly, and with much concern that paper money will probably be among the bad measures which you will have to battle.4 Wishing you success in this and all your other labors for the public, and for yourself, I remain with best respects to Mrs. Monroe yours affely.

Js. Madison Jr

RC (DLC). Addressed and franked by JM. Forwarded from Fredericksburg to Richmond.

1Probably Thomas Burling at 36 Beekman Street. See Monroe to JM, 6 Feb. 1787 and n. 6.

2“A remittance” was the $200 which Monroe had paid in Virginia for Maj. Thomas Pinckney and which Monroe expected Pinckney to replace in New York. The brother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Thomas Pinckney (1750–1828) had become a friend of Monroe during the Revolution (Monroe to JM, 16 Dec. 1786; Marvin R. Zahniser, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney: Founding Father [Chapel Hill, 1967], pp. 81, 293; Heitman, Historical Register Continental description begins F. B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution (Washington, 1914). description ends , p. 442; Ammon, James Monroe, p. 33).

3On 10 Apr. Dyre Kearny made a motion to move Congress to Philadelphia, and William Blount seconded it. James Varnum of Rhode Island interjected a proposal that the place of meeting be changed to Providence, which was defeated. Rufus King then attempted to block the motion to transfer the seat to Philadelphia and succeeded in getting the question postponed until the next day. He wrote to Elbridge Gerry that the Massachusetts delegates “employed the interim in detaching for the present one of the R. Island Delegates [Peleg Arnold] from his Vote.” The six states that had voted for removal were New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. King was well aware that the Massachusetts victory was only a temporary one and that Rhode Island still might vote for the measure in the future or that upon the arrival of the full Maryland delegation the southern states would carry the motion. The motivating force behind the attempt was southern resentment of “the preponderance given to the Eastern Scale” by locating the seat of Congress at New York. Southern delegates had been eager to transfer Congress to Philadelphia since the beginning of February, but were hindered by inattendance and the lack of a quorum in Congress. The animosity displayed by New Jersey and Rhode Island toward New York provided the added impetus necessary for the attempt. JM’s fear that Congress and the Federal Convention would be situated at the same place and time was not wholly unfounded, for some delegates such as William Irvine were eager to watch over the proceedings of the convention (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 167–70, 171; Notes on Debates, 11 [10] and 12 [11] 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, 537, 538, 551, 554, 573–74, 585, 612; JM to Randolph, 15 Apr. 1787; JM to Washington, 16 Apr. 1787; Burnett, The Continental Congress, pp. 690–91).

4Monroe was elected a delegate for Spotsylvania County (Ammon, James Monroe, pp. 65–66). See Randolph to JM, 4 and 11 Apr. 1787, concerning the paper-money issue in Virginia.

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