James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, [25?] July 1790

To James Monroe

New York, July 24 [25?], 1790.

Dear Sir,

After all the vicissitudes through which the assumption has passed, it seems at present in a fair way to succeed as part of the general plan for the public debt. The Senate have included it among their amendments to the funding bill, and a vote of yesterday in the House of Representatives indicates a small majority in favor of the measure.1 In its present form it will very little affect the interest of Virginia in either way.2 I have not been able to overcome my other objections, or even to forbear urging them. At the same time, I cannot deny that the crisis demands a spirit of accommodation to a certain extent. If the measure should be adopted, I shall wish it to be considered as an unavoidable evil, and possibly not the worst side of the dilemma.3

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, 522). JM may have written on 25 July, for the “vote of yesterday” mentioned in the text occurred on 24 July.

1The House had adopted the funding bill on 2 June with no provision for the assumption of state debts. The Senate returned the bill on 21 July, reinstating a modified version of assumption (similar to Sherman’s proposal of 21 Apr.). The House took up the Senate amendments on 22 July. The next day, Jackson moved that the House reject the assumption amendment. This touched off a lengthy debate and Jackson’s motion was defeated, 32 to 29, on 24 July. According to the N.Y. Daily Advertiser of 30 July 1790, JM “spoke in favour of the motion to reject the assumption.” The fullest report of the debate of 23 and 24 July is to be found in the Daily Advertiser of 26, 27, 29, and 30 July 1790.

2In his report Secretary Hamilton had estimated the state debts at $25 million. As proposed by the Senate (and provided in the act as adopted), the total amount to be assumed was $21,500,000. Virginia’s allotment was $3,500,000, “the exact sum it is supposed she will have to contribute of the whole assumption,” Jefferson wrote, “and sufficient also to cover the whole of her remaining domestic debt. Being therefore to recieve exactly what she is to pay, she will neither lose nor gain by the measure” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , I, 142; Jefferson to George Gilmer, 25 July 1790, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, 1950—). description ends , XVII, 269).

3The assumption bill passed the House by a vote of 34 to 28 on 26 July, JM voting with the minority as he had two days earlier (N.Y. Daily Advertiser, 30 July 1790).

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