James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Brown, 23 November 1788

From John Brown

Danville Novr. 23d. 1788

Dear Sir

I was this day duely favord with yours of the 24th. of Septr.1 & the 12th. of October for which accept my thanks.

The Convention elected pursuant to the recommendati[o]n of the late Convention met at this place the 1st. Instant & came to a determination that it was most advisable for this District to renew there application to the State of Virga. for an Independent Government—agreeable to the mode pointed out by the new Constitution. This Country was too much distracted by faction & divided in political opinions to admit of the adoption of any other measure had it even been thought necessary. The address has been forwarded to the present Assembly & we expect that an Act will pass authorising us to apply to the New Congress for admission into the Union as a federal member.2 I need not observe that this measure puts an end to the subject which employed our confidential conversation. I always entertained doubts respecting the expediency of it but when on my return I found the District in a State of Political distraction I was fully convinced that at present it was not only improper but impracticable. I am under some apprehensions that an Exchange for Louisiana will take place in favor of G Britain. If so will we not be reduced to the necessity of becoming British subjects? Be so good as to let me know your Sentiments upon this head. The people of the Western Country are no longer under any alarm on account of the proposed Treaty with Spain. Their fear is that Congress will not take effective measures to put them in possession of that Right Speedily.3

I thank you for your promise to favor me with your remarks on a plan of Government for this District. I shall daily expect their arrival & have no doubt but that they will be productive of unanimity upon that Subject.

This I expect will be handed to you by Majr. Croghan an Inhabitant of Kentucky & a friend of mine,4 his business at N York is principally to satisfy himself with respect to an Entery [on] the Books of the Treasury in which he suspects there must be an Error. He will inform you [of] the Case fully & I will esteem it a particular favor if you will assist him in discovering the true State of the Matter. He has ever supported an upright Character & his feelings are greatly hurt upon this Occasion. I am with very sincere regard Your friend and Mo. Hble Sevt.

J: Brown

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1JM wrote on 26 Sept.

2On the Kentucky convention of November 1788, see Watlington, The Partisan Spirit, pp. 174–79. The address to the Virginia General Assembly is printed in Littell, Political Transactions, pp. 106–8, The assembly passed a new act concerning Kentucky statehood on 29 Dec. (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, 788–91).

3The Virginia House of Delegates unanimously passed a resolution on 1 Dec. 1788 reaffirming the “absolute right” of U.S. citizens “to the free navigation of the river Mississippi; that by the principles of the Federal compact, those States more immediately interested in it, have a just claim upon the national government for every effort in their power for the accomplishment of this important object” (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. 1788, p. 76). The resolution called on the federal government, “after it shall be organized, to obtain an acknowledgment of the said right” from Spain.

4William Croghan (1752–1822), born in Ireland, moved to Kentucky after serving as an officer of the Continental line during the Revolution. He married Lucy Clark, sister of George Rogers Clark, and their son, George Croghan, served with distinction in the War of 1812 (Charles R. Williams, “George Croghan,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, XII [1903], 382–83).

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