James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 6 December 1787

From James Monroe

Richmond Decr. 6th. 1787.

Dear Sir

I have had hopes of being able to give you something from the proceedings of the Assembly of an interesting nature which might also be agreeable. But perhaps yr. wishes in this respect may not even yet be gratified. The resolutions respecting the Constitution you have long since receiv’d. In those you find no provision for the pay or priviledges of the members of the Convention. These especially the former were thought the subject matter for an act & were seperated from them. A few days since resolutions were brought in by Mr. Hopkins1 & supported by Messrs. Henry & Mason for this purpose & providing funds for defraying the expence of deputies to attend other convention or Conventions of the States, if this Convention shod, think the measure expedient, wh. were adopted by the house by a majority of abt. 15. The bill is not yet brought in. The B. debt business hath also been another subject of curious managment. Resolutions of absolute repeal pass’d the committee first by a great majority. Without any apparent necessity Messrs. Mason & Nicholas who advocated them agreed to a clause of suspension untill the other states shod. pass similar laws of repeal. When the bill was under discussion yesterday Nicholas who had been most active & zealous in the business chang’d his former ground in every instance and acceded to the proposition of Mr. Henry wh. suspended its effect untill G. B. shall have complied. Owning himself convinc’d by the arguments that had been us’d, this Gentn. appears to have abandon’d the prospect of instalments wh. he brought forward early in the session. That of district or circuit courts seems also to be despair’d of by those who are desirous of amending this branch of our system. A bill of Mr. Henry’s for prohibiting the importation of foreign distill’d spirits & other purposes, is among the orders of the day & will most probably be thrown out. It appears difficult to organize the affrs. of this & perhaps of any one State in a tolerable manner & it is doubtful, if it were done whether it cod. be executed or whether the people wod. not have it repeal’d the next Assembly. The ct. of chy. break up tomorrow. The chancelor2 is yet present but in a low state of health. I doubt whether I shall stay untill the end of the session, Mrs. M. & her sister are with me. What is new with you. I think the cloud wh. hath hung over us for sometime past is not yet dispell’d or likely soon to be. Sincerely I am dr Sir yr. friend & servant

Jas. Monroe

Since the above the house went in committee on a bill for amending the cty ct. law. It terminated in 2. resolutions, 1. that the administration of justice shod. be made more equal & expeditious 2. that under executns. property sold so low as to require some legislative provision for preventing it. Afterwards in the house a proposition for establishing district courts was agreed to; the alternative of extendg the term of the genl. ct. was rejected by a great majority.3 The plan of instalmt. will be brot. forward, and that of altering the executn. law so as to prevent property being sold but for ¾ its value. The former is the favorite of Mr. N. the latter of Mr. Henry. It is not improbable but that the district bill may fail if incumber’d with either, cod. either get a decided majority in preference to the other, yet it is possible that their division upon this point may lessen the weight of opposition to the district bill & promote its adoption.

RC (DLC). Addressed by Monroe and franked.

1Samuel Hopkins, Jr. (1753–1819), of Mecklenburg County. In 1797 he moved to Kentucky, where the town of Hopkinsville was named for him. He served in the Thirteenth Congress. See Hopkins, Hopkins Families of Virginia, pp. 14–17.

2Edmund Pendleton.

3After the debate in the Committee of the Whole on 6 Dec., the House adopted resolutions calling for bills to reform the execution law, to establish district courts, and to reform the county courts. These bills passed both houses early in January (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond, In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1790 are brought together in three volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1787, p. 85; 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, 457–62, 467–74, 532–58).

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