James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 4 July 1790

To James Monroe

New York, July 4, 1790.

Dear Sir,

You will find by one of the Gazettes herewith sent, that the bill fixing the permanent seat of Government on the Potowmac, and the temporary at Philadelphia, has got through the Senate. It passed by a single voice only, Izzard and Few having both voted against it.1 Its passage through the House of Representatives is probable, but attended with great difficulties. If the Potowmac succeeds, even on these terms, it will have resulted from a fortuitous coincidence of circumstances which might never happen again.

The provision for the public debt has been suspended for some time in the Senate by the question relating to the seat of Government. It is now resumed in that House, and it is to be hoped will soon be brought to an issue. The assumption sleeps, but I am persuaded will be awakened on the first dawn of a favorable opportunity. It seems, indeed, as if the friends of the measure were determined to risk everything rather than suffer that finally to fail.

We hear nothing further of the controversy between England and Spain.

Printed copy (Madison, Letters [Cong. ed.] description begins [William C. Rives and Philip R. Fendall, eds.], Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (published by order of Congress; 4 vols.; Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , I, 521–22).

1This bill, which had been under consideration by the Senate since early June, passed on 1 July by a vote of 14 to 12. Izard and Few were the only southern senators who opposed it (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 , I, 395–97). The bill provided for the location of the federal district between the mouths of the eastern branch of the Potomac (just below Georgetown) and the Conococheague (at Williamsport, Maryland). Philadelphia was to be the temporary capital for ten years. For a copy of the bill, see the N.Y. Daily Advertiser, 3 July 1790, or the N.Y. Journal, 9 July 1790.

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