James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 7 October 1787

To Edmund Randolph

New York Octr. 7th. 1787.

Mr.1 dear friend

I was yesterday favored with yours of the 30th. Ult: and heard with particular pleasure the favorable influence of your journey on Mrs. Randolph’s health.

I wrote to you shortly after my arrival here, and rehearsed the proceedings of Congress on the subject of the new federal Constitution. I have since forwarded by Mr. Hopkins2 a large foreign letter for you with some others for the friends of Mr. Jefferson which you will be kind enough to dispose of. I have also delivered to Mr. Constable3 of this City to be forwarded by water to your care, several volumes in sheets addressed to the University of W. & Mary. They came in a box of books which I received by the last packet, but without a single memorandum on the subject from any quarter. They were addressed to the two Universities of Virga. & Penna. & duplicate sheets being contained in each packet.4 I know not how the duty in Virga. will be settled. The difficulty was avoided here, by the precaution of entering them for re-exportation. As they are a free gift, are of little value, and are destined for a public institution, I should suppose that no facility consistent with law will be witheld.

Congs. are at present deliberating on the requisition. The Treasury Board have reported one in Specie alone, alledging the mischiefs produced by “Indents.” It is proposed by a Committee that indents be recd. from the States, but that the conditions tying down the States to a particular mode of procuring them, be abolished, and that the indents for one year be receivable in the quotas of any year.5

Sinclair is appointed Govr. of the Western Territory, & a Majr. Sergeant of Masts. the Secretary of that Establishment. A Treaty with the Indians is on the anvil as a supplemental provision for the W. Country.6 It is not certain however that any thing will be done, as it involves money, and we shall have on the floors nine States one day more only.

We hear nothing decisive as yet concerning the general reception given to the Act of the Convention. The Advocates for it come forward more promptly than the Adversaries. The Sea Coast seems every where fond of it. The party in Boston which was thought most likely to make opposition, are warm in espousing it. It is said that Mr. S. Adams, objects to one point only, viz. the prohibition of a Religious test. Mr. Bowdoin’s objections are said to lie agst. the great number of members composing the Legislature, and the intricate election of the President. You will no doubt have heard of the fermentation in the Assembly of Penna.

Mr. Adams is permitted to return home after Feby. next, with thanks for the zeal, & fidelity of his services. As the commission of Smith7 expires at that time and no provision is made for Continuing him, or appointing a Successor, the representation of the U.S. at the Court of London will cease at that period. With every wish for your happiness, and with the sincerest affection I remain My dear Sir, Your Friend,

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC). Addressed and franked by JM. Docketed by Randolph.

1JM meant “My.”

2Probably John Hopkins, Continental loan office commissioner for Virginia.

3Probably William Constable, a New York merchant and speculator (New-York Directory, 1786, pp. 24, 26; Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (21 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , V, 242 n. 3; Ferguson, Power of the Purse, p. 258).

4In his letter of 2 Aug. 1787 to JM, Jefferson indicated that he had sent the books to JM’s care. JM apparently had not yet received this letter.

5The Board of Treasury’s report on the requisition, dated 28 Sept. 1787 and read in Congress the next day, described in detail the failure of the indent system of servicing the public debt. According to the board’s estimate, nearly five million dollars in indents remained in circulation, unredeemed by state taxes. This estimate did not include the indents on the requisition of 1786, which the treasury refused to issue because no state had yet provided adequate funds to meet its quota (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIII, 569–78). This report was referred to a committee, which included JM, on 5 Oct. The committee rejected the Board of Treasury’s recommendation of a requisition in specie alone, declaring “that the domestic Creditors will not be benefited so much by the change as the other parts of the community will be distressed.” It proposed instead to allow the states to service the public debt “in such manner as they judge most expedient.” To make the collection of indents easier the committee recommended repeal of the requirements in the previous requisitions. These changes were approved by Congress on 11 Oct. (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXIII, 616 n. 1, 632–36, 649–58; Ferguson, Power of the Purse, pp. 226–28). Under the new rules, indent payments to the Continental treasury did not have to be accompanied by a proportion of specie, and the indents issued for a given year could be received “indiscriminately” in payment of a state’s quota for any year. For example, indents issued on the requisition of 1785 could be submitted in fulfillment of a state’s quota for 1786. Moreover, the states were now free to obtain indents by direct purchase rather than by laying taxes payable in this paper medium.

7William Stephens Smith, secretary to the legation at London.

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