James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 7 April 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia Apr. 7. 93.

Th: J. to J. Madison.

We may now I believe give full credit to the accounts that war is declared between France & England. The latter having ordered Chauvelin to retire within eight days, the former seemed to consider it as too unquestionable an evidence of an intention to go to war, to let the advantage slip of her own readiness, & the unreadiness of England. Hence I presume the first declaration from France.1 A British packet is arrived. But as yet we learn nothing more than that she confirms the accounts of war being declared. Genest not yet arrived. An impeachment is ordered here against Nicholson their Comptroller general, by a vote almost unanimous of the house of Representatives.2 There is little doubt I am told but that much mala fides will appear: but E. R. thinks he has barricaded himself within the fences of the law.3 There is a good deal of connection between his manœuvres & the accomodating spirit of the Treasury deptmt. of the US. so as to interest the impeachors not to spare the latter. Duer now threatens that, if he is not relieved by certain persons, he will lay open to the world such a scene of villainy as will strike it with astonishment.4 The papers I occasionally inclose you, be so good as to return, as they belong to my office. I move into the country tomorrow or next day. Adieu your’s affectionately.

RC (DLC); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

1France declared war on Great Britain and the Dutch Republic on 1 Feb.

2John Nicholson, comptroller general of Pennsylvania, had weathered an attempt to remove him from office in 1790. Early in 1793 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives appointed a committee to investigate his accounts. On that committee’s recommendation—presented by Albert Gallatin—the House impeached Nicholson on 5 Apr. for redeeming his own state loan certificates instead of exchanging them for federal certificates. A year later the state Senate acquitted Nicholson, but he resigned as comptroller general (Arbuckle, John Nicholson, pp. 47–48, 52–59).

3U.S. attorney general Edmund Randolph was a debtor to Nicholson and in private practice represented him in a case which was separate from but related to the impeachment (ibid., pp. 57–58).

4William Duer, former assistant secretary of the treasury, had speculated in ventures that collapsed in March 1792, precipitating a financial panic in New York. Since that time he had been in debtors’ prison.

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