James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 13 December 1795

To Thomas Jefferson

Philada. Decr. 13. 1795

Dear Sir

I recd. yesterday your favor covering a letter to Monsr. Liancourt which I have put into the hands of Noailles1 who will attend to the delivery of it. I inclose a copy of the P’s speech. The Senate have answered it, as was to be expected.2 You will see the first fruits of their open doors3 in the debates it produced. The answer of the House of Reps. will be reported tomorrow. It has been delayed by a disagreement of ideas in the Committee, which consisted of Sedgwick, Sitgreaves & myself. The two former are strongly for the Treaty, and wish to favor it, at the same time that they are afraid to hazard direct expressions to that effect. The policy of that party is to obtain it a quiet passage thro’ the present Session, pretending that it is too soon now to meddle with it, as they will hereafter pretend that it is then too late. The means employed are to blazon the public prosperity, to confound the Treaty with the President, & to mouth over the stale topics of war & confusion. The answer as it stands to be reported contains a clause4 which will put the House of Reps. in a dilemma similar to that forced on the House of Delegates, and I believe will never be swallowed because it is in part notoriously untrue. It affirms the confidence of his fellow Citizens to be undiminished, which will be denied by many who sincerely wish it to be the case. It cannot yet be determined what course the business will take. It seems most probable at present that the answer will be neutralized; and the subject immediately after taken up in a Come. of the whole on the State of the Union; which will have the advantage of disentangleing it from the P. & of accomodating the wishes of some individuals who will be much influenced by the mode. There is pretty certainly a great majority agst. the Treaty on its merits; but besides the ordinary difficulty of preventing scisms, there is a real obscurity in the constitutional part of the question, & a diversity of sincere opinions about it, which the other side will make the most of. Nothing very late from abroad. The provision order has been repealed, but the spoliations go on.5 The publication of E. R. is not yet out. It is said it will appear the latter end of the present week. Adieu. Yrs. Affy

Js M Jr.

Flour 14 dollrs. & tis thought will rise to 16. The purchases of British agents for the W. India armaments are no doubt one of the causes of this extraordinary rise.

RC (DLC). Franked and addressed by JM to Jefferson at Charlottesville. Docketed by Jefferson, “recd. Dec. 25.”

1Louis-Marie, vicomte de Noailles (1756–1804), was Lafayette’s brother-in-law and one of the allied commissioners who negotiated the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. In 1789 he proposed the abolition of feudal privileges in the French National Assembly but in 1792 emigrated to Philadelphia, where Washington received him (a gesture that the president did not extend to other émigrés). He invested in the Asylum Company, an émigré land scheme backed by Robert Morris and John Nicholson (Jackson and Twohig, Diaries of George Washington, 3:430; Frances Sergeant Childs, French Refugee Life in the United States, 1790–1800: An American Chapter of the French Revolution [Baltimore, 1940], pp. 31–32, 94–95).

2Washington delivered his annual message to Congress on 8 Dec., and the Senate replied on 11 Dec. (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 4th Cong., 1st sess., 10–14, 15–16).

3The Senate met in closed sessions until a resolution of 20 Feb. 1794 opened the galleries for most legislative proceedings (ibid., 3d Cong., 1st sess., 46–47).

5JM was referring to the order in council of 8 June 1793, which had been partially revoked on 6 Aug. 1794. The seizures he complained of were made under the secret order in council of 25 Apr. 1795. This order was rescinded in September 1795, but the seizures continued because of the length of time necessary to communicate with British ships of war. British chargé d’affaires Phineas Bond did not inform Secretary of State Pickering of the existence of the order of 25 Apr. 1795 until January 1796 (Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers, pp. 86 and n. 37, 97 and n. 67; Josiah T. Necomb, “New Light on Jay’s Treaty,” American Journal of International Law, 28 [1934]: 686 and n. 4, 689).

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