To James Madison, Sr.
Philada. May 27th. 1787.
We have been here for some time suffering a daily disappointment from the failure of the deputies to assemble for the Convention. Seven States were not made up till the day before yesterday. Our intelligence from N. York promises an addition of three more by tomorrow. General Washington was unanimously called to the Chair & has accepted it. It is impossible as yet to form a judgment of the result of this experiment. Every reflecting man becomes daily more alarmed at our situation. The unwise and wicked proceedings of the Governments of some States, and the unruly temper of the people of others, must if persevered in soon produce some new scenes among us.
My inquiries concerning the iron do not promise any supply from the quarter you wished it.1 Nor do I find the advantage which formerly existed in sending the other articles. The late regulations of Trade here & in Virginia, particularly the Act of the latter requiring the Cargoes destined to Fredg. &c. to be deposited in the first instance at ports below, are obstructions to the intercourse.2 Tobacco however of the first quality may be sent hither to advantage. Old Tobo. of this description will command six dollars. Mine which has arrived safe being new will not I fear fetch me more than 32/. Virga. currency.3
Mr. William Strother who was lately here gave me the first information of the event of the election. I was not more concerned than surprised at the rejection of Majr. Moore.4 I am unable utterly to account for so sudden & great a change in the disposition of the people towards him. False reports occur as the most probable cause.
I have enjoyed good health since I left Virginia and learnt with much pleasure from Mr. Strother that he had heard nothing otherwise with respect to my friends in general in Orange. Remember me affectionately to my mother & the rest of the family and accept of the dutiful regards of your Son
Js. Madison Jr.
1. JM’s father sought information concerning the Andover Iron Works in Sussex County, New Jersey. See PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IX, 358–59 and n. 1.
2. JM was possibly referring to the Pennsylvania law of 15 Mar. 1787 “to amend and explain the Act, entitled ‘An Act to encourage and protect the Manufactures of this State, by laying additional Duties on the Importation of certain Manufactures which interfere with them, and for the further Encouragement of the Navigation of this State’” (Mitchell and Flanders, Pa. Statutes, XII, 403–9). The Virginia law was “An act to amend the act, intituled An act to restrict foreign vessels to certain ports within this commonwealth” passed at the October 1786 session of the legislature (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 320–23). The port of delivery for vessels entering the Rappahannock was Tappahannock, about forty miles below Fredericksburg.
3. JM referred to the tobacco which Ambrose Madison had sent him (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IX, 258–59). Since 1785 the price of tobacco in Virginia had been dropping sharply, and the Madison family had found it advantageous to sell in the Philadelphia market (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VIII, 365–66; IX, 120–21 and n. 1). On the decline of tobacco prices in Virginia, see Schaffer, “Virginia’s ‘Critical Period,’” in The Old Dominion, ed. Rutman, p. 163; Myra L. Rich, “Speculations on the Significance of Debt: Virginia, 1781–1789,” VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. description ends , LXXVI (1968), 308–9: Jacob M. Price, France and the Chesapeake: A History of the French Tobacco Monopoly, 1674–1791, and of Its Relationship to the British and American Tobacco Trades (2 vols.; Ann Arbor, 1973), II, 728–87.
4. William Strother (1726–1808) of Culpeper County later moved to Kentucky (Tyler’s Quarterly description begins Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine. description ends , XI [1929–30], 127). William Moore, a former delegate from Orange, apparently sought JM’s vacated seat in the House of Delegates. Hardin Burnley and Thomas Barbour won the two seats (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (10 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 148 n. 2; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 27).