James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 13 May 1792

From Thomas Jefferson

May 13. 1792.

Th: J. to J. Madison.

I send you my ideas of what might be said on the distinction between bonds & simple contracts,1 if any thing should be said. But my office being to vindicate the opinions of the courts, and none of the courts having made any distinction between these two cases, I ought to tread in their footsteps only: and the rather as mr. Hammond2 has not raised any such distinction on his part. It would be quite time enough for me to answer any objection founded in that difference, when the objection shall be made. It probably will never be made. To enter into it voluntarily may be to move a peice into prise which there is no occasion to move at all.

RC (DLC); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). RC addressed by Jefferson and docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Jefferson’s enclosure was probably a memorandum in his handwriting on debts owed to British creditors (undated [DLC: Jefferson Papers]). Jefferson docketed the document: “J. Madison’s Notes” and “not to be inserted.”

2At this time Jefferson was drafting a summary of his government’s position on implementing the Treaty of Paris of 1783. He submitted the paper to British minister George Hammond on 29 May 1792 for negotiation. His concern about “the distinction between bonds & simple contracts” was part of the larger issue of the inability of British creditors to collect American debts. He solicited opinions on the draft from not only JM but also Hamilton and Attorney General Randolph (Malone, Jefferson and the Rights of Man, pp. 412–14).

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