James Madison Papers

Memorandum for George Washington, [ca. 8 October] 1789

Memorandum for George Washington

[ca. 8 October 1789]

On the supposition that the business can be more properly conducted by a private Agent at London, than a public Minister at a third Court, the letter and instructions for the former character appear to be well adapted to the purpose.1 If any remark were to be made, it would relate merely to the form, which it is conceived would be made rather better by transposing the order of the two main subjects. The fulfilment of the Treaty already made seems to be primary to the enquiries requisite to a subsequent Treaty.2

The reasoning assigned to those who opposed a commercial discrimination, states the views of a part only of that side of the question. A considerable number, both in the Senate & H. of Reps. objected to the measure as defective in energy, rather than as wrong in its principle. In the former, a Committee was appointed, who reported a more energetic plan. And in the latter, leave to bring in a bill, was given to a member who explained his views to be similar. Both of these instances were posterior to the miscarriage of the discrimination first proposed.

As Mr. Jefferson may be daily expected, as it is possible he may bring informations throwing light on the subject under deliberation, and as it is probable use may be made of his own ideas with regard to it, A quere suggests itself, whether the advantage of consulting with him might not justify such a delay, unless there be special reasons for expedition.

Ms (DLC). This document is listed under date of 1790 in the Index to the James Madison Papers. The approximate date has been determined from internal evidence (see n. 1).

1On 7 Oct. Washington conversed with Jay and Hamilton about the propriety of authorizing an unofficial agent to ascertain the views of the British concerning the western posts and the prospects for a commercial treaty with the U.S. The next day he spoke with JM on the same subject. His diary entry for 8 Oct. records the substance of JM’s views as expressed in this memorandum. Washington subsequently chose Gouverneur Morris for this task and sent the final draft of his instructions on 13 Oct. (Fitzpatrick, Washington Diaries, IV, 16–17; DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds., Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America (3 vols. to date; Baltimore, 1972—). description ends , II, 451–53).

2Washington followed this advice in the final draft.

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