James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 14 March 1794

To Thomas Jefferson

Philada. March 14. 1794.

Dear Sir

The paper of yesterday inclosed, will give you a clue to the designs of the faction which has used Sedgwick1 for its organ.2 His immediate prompter will be seen both in his speech and in his propositions. Whether more be seriously aimed at than to embarrass the others which have been long depending, is by some doubted. Perhaps this may be one of the objects; but you understand the game behind the Curtain too well not to perceive the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the Government. It would seem however that less subtlety has prevailed in this than in some other instances. The ostensible reason for the provisional army is not only absurd; but remote from the present sensations of the public; and at the same time disarms the projectors of the cavil & calumny used with most success against the commercial propositions, towit, that they tended to provoke war by an unnecessary alarm & irritation to G. Britain. The commercial propositions were the subject of yesterday & will probably be resumed today. We admit that the change of appearances may require something further, but we contend that they ought to make part of our code, until the end be obtained; and that they will be proper whether we are to be at peace or war. In the former case they will have their intended operation: In the latter they will put our Extive. on the right ground for negocia⟨tion.⟩

RC (DLC). Unsigned. Docketed by Jefferson, “recd. Mar. 31.” Missing enclosure was probably the 13 Mar. Philadelphia Gazette of the U.S. (see n. 2).

1Someone, possibly John C. Payne (an early editor), interlined “[party]” above “faction” and a long dash above “Sedgwick.”

2In the House of Representatives on 12 Mar., Federalist Theodore Sedgwick introduced eight resolutions providing for “fifteen regiments of auxiliary troops, to consist of 1000 men rank and file each, with the proper officers,” and authorizing the president at his discretion to impose an embargo during the recess of Congress. The resolutions were referred to the Committee of the Whole, which defeated them on 24 Mar. Sedgwick then moved a resolution “That measures ought to be immediately taken to render the force of the United States more efficient,” which the committee approved. The House appointed a select committee to prepare “a bill to augment the military force” but defeated a bill reported by Sedgwick on 19 May and a similar Senate bill on 30 May (Philadelphia Gazette of the U.S., 13 and 24 Mar. 1794; Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 3d Cong., 1st sess., 500–501, 504, 527–28, 534–35, 561, 709–10, 735, 738; see also JM’s speech of 30 May 1794 and nn.).

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