James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 25 April 1796

From Edmund Randolph

Richmond April 25. 1796.

My dear friend

The meeting, which I mentioned to you in my last letter, was this day held at the Capitol.1 Between 3 & 400 persons were present; a large proportion of whom were British merchants, some of whom pay for the British purchases of horses,2 their clerks, officers, who hold posts under the President at his will, stockholders—expectants of office—and many without the shadow of a freehold. Notwithstanding this, the numbers on the republican side, tho’ inferior, were inferior in a small degree only; and it is believed on good grounds, that the majority of freeholders were on the side of the house of representatives. Campbell and Marshall were the principal combatants, Arranged, as you know, without being told. Marshall’s argument was inconsistent, and shifting; concluding every third sentence with the horrors of war. Campbell spoke elegantly and forcibly; and threw ridicule and absurdity upon his antagonist with success. Mr. Clopton will receive two papers; one signed by the treaty men, many of whom he will know to have neither interest nor feeling in common with the citizens of Virginia, and to have been transplanted hither from England or Caledonia since the war; interspersed pretty considerably with fugitive tories, who have returned under the amnesty of peace.

The notice, which I sent you the other day, spoke of instructions and a petition; but Marshall, suspecting, that he would be outnumbered by freeholders, and conscious, that none should instruct, except those, who elect, quitted the idea of instructions, and betook himself to a petition, in which, he said, all the inhabitants of Richmond, tho’ not freeholders, might join. Upon which Campbell gave notice, that it would be published, that he (Marshall) declined hazarding the question on the true sense of the country. Very few of the people of the county were present; but ¾ of those, who were present, voted with Campbell. Dr. Foushee was extremely active, and influential. Shew this to J. Nicholas, to whom Wilson,3 now here, means to write. Yrs. very truly

E. R.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1At the public meeting described by Randolph, its Federalist sponsors debated with Republicans a resolution and petition urging the House of Representatives to execute the Jay treaty. Republicans argued “that no person should be permitted to sign the measures to be adopted but those qualified to vote for a Representative—it was observed by the other side that instructions should be signed by freeholders only, but that every citizen had a right to petition, and might with propriety sign it.” A witness estimated that the resolution “carried by a majority I think of about five to three.” The minority then passed resolutions of their own, “That it is not necessary or expedient, at this time, for the people of this District to offer any Instructions to their Representative in the Congress,” and a petition to that effect was endorsed by such prominent Republicans as Alexander Campbell, William Foushee, John Dawson, and Alexander Quarrier (Richmond Va. Gazette, and General Advertiser, 27 Apr. 1796; Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, 27 and 30 Apr. 1796).

2During the controversy over the exportation of horses from Norfolk to the British West Indies, U.S. district attorney Alexander Campbell had sounded the opinion of Richmond lawyers. Randolph was alone in advising that such exportation was contrary to U.S. neutrality and treaty obligations (Campbell to Timothy Pickering, 17 Jan. 1796 [DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters]; see also John Dawson to JM, 12 Jan. 1796, n. 2).

3Wilson Cary Nicholas.

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