James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Pierce Butler, 21 August 1795

From Pierce Butler

Philadelphia August the 21st. 1795

Dear Sir

I have been favourd with two letters from You,1 the Dates I can not immediately refer to, not having the letters at hand. I shoud have written to You before this day had I been able to take a pen in my hand. I have been constantly indisposed since June. I wish now to write You a long letter, coud I be ascertained of it’s reaching Your hand unopend. Curiosity is so prevalent that I must desist from entering on a subject of some import.

There is a vile underhand game playing, with a View of injuring unspotted Characters. In this an Attempt is making to implicate You; if I was to mention by whom, You woud be surprised.2 “Man is to Man the surest, sorest foe.”3 It is difficult to say where, or in whom We can with safety place a Confidence. I wish You were nearer, and I woud have a Conversation with You. How far is Your residence from Alexandria? I coud go to Alexandria in October. At present I am on the Eve of a Jaunt to Boston, for the benefit of health. I purpose returning in September, about the last of the Month.

I understand that the Treaty is Signd, and sent to London.4 Great efforts have been made here by some Mercantile Gentlemen, to get an Address Signd Contravening the One presented against the Treaty. The Presidents of two of the Banks Messrs. Willing and Nixon are said to have been Prominent in this business.5 Men are not wanting to declare, that many Persons signd the last Paper, not from inclination or Approbation, but a dread of being refused Discounts at the Banks if they did not Sign. If the opinion is founded, it is to be lamented. I never thought favourably of Banks; this late instance will not give me a more favourable opinion of them. Much, in my Judgement, depends on the sentiments of Massachusetts. No pains You know have been spared to make her Jealous of Virginia. We must, for the good of the Union Counteract that wicked Policy. I shall by being on the spott, be better able to form an opinion of the sentiments of Men there.

Mr. R——h has on a sudden resignd, this Entre Nous, it is not yet known abroad. He is gone to Rhode Iseland this morning.6 If an oppy. offers I will write to You from Boston. I remain with sentiments of high Esteem and regard Dear Sir Yr. Very humble Servant

P Butler

RC (DLC); FC (PHi: Pierce Butler Letterbook). RC docketed by JM.

1Letters not found.

2Butler had probably heard rumors about the circumstances that had led to the resignation of Secretary of State Edmund Randolph on 19 Aug. The British minister, George Hammond, had divulged an intercepted dispatch written in October 1794 by his departing French counterpart, Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet. Its contents suggested that Randolph had solicited bribes from the French government and also named JM, as well as Jefferson and Monroe, as belonging to a small group of “honest” men resisting conspiracies to subvert the Constitution. When Washington confronted Randolph with the dispatch, he resigned (Reardon, Edmund Randolph, pp. 307–12, 375, 377).

3Butler may have misquoted “Man is to Man the sorest, surest ill” from Edward Young, The Complaint; or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (London, 1743), Night the Third, p. 17.

4Washington signed the Jay treaty’s instrument of ratification on 14 Aug. (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:272).

5For the 25 July Philadelphia memorial denouncing the Jay treaty, see John Swanwick to JM, 26 July 1795, and n. 2. Thomas Willing (president of the Bank of the United States), John Nixon (president of the Bank of North America), and more than four hundred others signed “The Address of the Subscribers, Merchants and Traders of the City of Philadelphia” commending the Jay treaty on 20 Aug. (Philadelphia Gazette, 22 Aug. 1795).

6After resigning as secretary of state, Randolph traveled to Newport (where Fauchet was preparing to embark for France) and asked the former minister for a written statement that he hoped would vindicate his official conduct (Reardon, Edmund Randolph, pp. 313–15).

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