James Madison Papers

From James Madison to George Washington, 14 October 1787

To George Washington

New York Octr. 14. 1787.

Dear Sir

The letter herewith inclosed was put into my hands yesterday by Mr. de Crœvecuœr who belongs to the Consular establishment of France in this Country. I add to it a pamphlet which Mr. Pinkney has submitted to the public, or rather as he professes, to the perusal of his friends;1 and a printed sheet containing his ideas on a very delicate subject; too delicate in my opinion to have been properly confided to the press. He conceives that his precautions against any farther circulation of the piece than he himself authorises, are so effectual as to justify the step. I wish he may not be disappointed. In communicating a copy to you I fulfil his wishes only.2

No decisive indications of the public mind in the Northn. & Middle States can yet be collected. The Reports continue to be rather favorable to the Act of the Convention from every quarter; but its adversaries will naturally be latest in shewing themselves. Boston is certainly friendly. An opposition is known to be in petto in Connecticut; but it is said not to be much dreaded by the other side. Rhode Island will be divided on this subject in the same manner as it has been on the question of paper money. The Newspapers here have contained sundry publications animadverting on the proposed Constitution & it is known that the Government party are hostile to it. There are on the other side so many able & weighty advocates, and the conduct of the Eastern States if favorable, will add so much force to their arguments, that there is at least as much ground for hope as for apprehension. I do not learn that any opposition is likely to be made in N. Jersey. The temper of Pennsylvania will be best known to you from the direct information which you cannot fail to receive through the Newspapers & other channels.

Congress have been of late employed cheifly in settling the requisition, and in making some arrangements for the Western Country. The latter consist of the appointment of a Govr. & Secretary, and the allotment of a sum of money for Indian Treaties if they should be found necessary. The Requisition so far as it varies our fiscal system, makes the proportion of indents receivable independently of specie, & those of different years indiscriminately receivable for any year, and does not as heretofore tie down the States to a particular mode of obtaining them. Mr. Adams has been permitted to return home after Feby. next, & Mr. Jeffersons appointment continued for three years longer. With the most perfect esteem & most affectionate regard, I remain Dr. Sir, Your Obedt. friend & servant

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC: Washington Papers); Tr (DLC). Docketed by Washington. For the enclosures, see nn. 1, 2.

1The pamphlet was Charles Pinckney’s Observations on the Plan of Government Submitted to the Federal Convention, on the 28th of May, 1787 … (New York, [1787]), which is reprinted in Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , III, 106–23. Washington’s copy is listed in A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum (Boston, 1897), p. 535. Many years later JM made extensive use of this pamphlet in questioning the authenticity of a document sent by Pinckney to John Quincy Adams in 1818, which the South Carolinian claimed to be the draft of the plan he had submitted to the Federal Convention. On the controversy over the Pinckney Plan, see Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , III, 501–15, 531, 534–37, 595–609. See also Jameson, “Studies in the History of the Federal Convention of 1787,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, I, 111–32; [Andrew C. McLaughlin], “Sketch of Pinckney’s Plan for a Constitution,” AHR description begins American Historical Review. description ends , IX (1903–4), 735–47.

2The “printed sheet” was a broadside of Mr. Charles Pinckney’s Speech, in Answer to Mr. Jay … on the Question of a Treaty with Spain. Delivered in Congress, August 16, 1786 (New York, n.d.; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 19926). JM also sent a copy of the speech to Jefferson on 24 Oct. 1787. A copy of the broadside, endorsed by JM, is in the Rare Book Division, Library of Congress, and is evidently the one used by Worthington C. Ford in his 1905 publication of the speech (AHR description begins American Historical Review. description ends , X [1904–5], 817–27). See also the bibliographical discussion in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 427 n. 2. The South Carolinian’s speech was an attempt to persuade Congress not to change Secretary Jay’s instructions so as to permit him to cede the right of the U.S. to the free navigation of the Mississippi River. Pinckney later recalled that copies of his remarks were “desired by many of the southern members,” and he accordingly “had a few printed which were confidentially delivered to some of my friends” (Pinckney to Washington, 14 Dec. 1789; Pinckney to Charles Lester, 8 July 1801, ibid., VIII, 427–28 n. 2). Although Pinckney implied that he had had his speech printed shortly after delivering it, JM’s comments in this letter and in a subsequent one to Washington seem to indicate that it was not published until the following year. According to JM the South Carolinian’s motives in publishing the speech were entirely self-serving: “His printing the secret paper at this time could have no motive but the appetite for expected praise: for the subject to which it relates has been dormant a considerable time, and seems likely to remain so” (JM to Washington, 28 Oct. 1787). Washington commented sarcastically that Pinckney was unwilling “to loose any fame that can be acquired by the publication of his sentiments” (Washington to JM, 22 Oct. 1787).

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