James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 23 April 1796

To Thomas Jefferson

Apl. 23. 1796

Dear Sir

I inclose another number of the Debates on the Treaty.1 The subject is still going on in the House, as well as the press. The majority has melted, by changes and absence, to 8 or 9 votes. Whether these will continue firm is more than I can decide. Every possible exertion is made as usual on the other side. A sort of appeal has been made to the people, with an expectation that the mercantile force would triumph over the popular sentiment. In this city the majority of petitioners has appeared agst. the Mercantile party.2 We do not know the event of the experiment in N. York. Petitions on both sides are running thro’ the adjoining States of Delaware, & N. Jersey.3 Among other extraordinary manoeuvres, the Insurance Companies here & in New Y. stopt business, in order to reduce prices & alarm the public.4 The Banks have been powerfully felt in the progress of the petitions in the Cities for the Treaty. Scarce a mercht. or Trader but what depends on discounts, and at this moment there is a general pinch for money. Under such circumstances, a Bank Director soliciting subscriptions is like a Highwayman with a pistol demanding the purse. We hope the question will be taken tomorrow. But if carried agst. the Treaty, the game will be played over again in other forms. The Senate will either send it down by itself, or coupled with the Spanish Treaty or both. Nothing of importance from Europe. Adieu.

Js. Madison Jr

RC (DLC). Docketed by Jefferson, “recd. May 14.”

1Debates in the House of Representatives.

2On 21 Apr. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg had presented a petition against the Jay treaty signed by 800 inhabitants of Philadelphia. Signatures on two protreaty petitions from the city totaled only 292 (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., 1114).

3Petitions for the Jay treaty were presented on 21 and 22 Apr. from the inhabitants of Trenton and New Brunswick in New Jersey and Newcastle County in Delaware. This last petition was countered three days later by a petition against the treaty presented by Albert Gallatin (ibid., 1114, 1171; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (9 vols.; Washington, 1826). description ends , 2:520–21).

4Typical of reports circulating at this time was an “Extract of a Letter from a respectable House in New-York, to a House in this City, dated New York, April 19, 1796. ‘The present aspect of our country, has almost arrested all commerce. The underwriters having refused to insure any more vessels until a decision of the question before Congress for the appropriations for the British treaty. Exchange nominally at 2 per cent discount, a great demand for money and general confidence lessened’” (Philadelphia Gazette of the U.S., 20 Apr. 1796).

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