James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Beckley, 15 October 1796

From John Beckley

Philadelphia, 15th. October 1796.

Dear Sir,

I received your favor of the 1st: instant, covering one for Colo. M. which I shall forward to morrow; the mystery of his recall is not developed here, and can only be resolved into the personal hatred of Hamilton to Mr: M: and Mr: J:—and the intrigue of enlisting the interest of the Pinckney family, in the appointment of a president; and you may be assured that neither Hamilton or Jay, wish the appointment of Adams, tho’ this is a card they are constrained to play with great caution. In last evenings Gazettee (Fenno) Hamilton makes his first appearance under signature of Phocion No. 1,1 in a systematic attack on Mr: Jefferson; one or two Numbers more will unfold his plan more fully; but you will observe a marked caution in the first number not to aid the pretensions of Adams; a military character is declared essential.2 I do not think this effort will produce any great public impression in this State, for which it is intended; whilst at the same time I consider it as an Evidence of fear on their part. Great exertions are making in this state by the republicans to carry their Electoral ticket for J. & B.3 and we are very sanguine of Success. Indeed our late victory in Swanwicks reelection, the putting out Muhlenberg and electing B. McClanahan in his room inspires us with confidence.4 Three weeks hence we will tell you more about it. I cannot discover much from the Eastward, we are however told that 6 votes at least will be had East of Jersey. Burr has been out electioneering these six weeks in Connecticut, Vermont, R: Island & Massachts., but I doubt his efforts are more directed to himself than any body else. You well know him; would it not be prudent to vote one half of Virga. for Clinton? Consider this. If we succeed in our ticket in this State, every vote will be right, and we have very great hopes. 30.000 tickets are gone thro’ the State, by Express, into every County.

Respecting foreign news, the prospect of Spanish War encreases every hour. The decree of the Executive directory to seize all neutrals bound to or from British ports, has created universal consternation. Insurance houses are all shut up. Flour fell three dollars a barrel. Upwards of 50 seizures in the W. Indies, and several in Europe. No bills on Europe or England to be bought, one half those last drawn returned. No Money. Every body crying distress.

I have endeavored with great industry to procure you a house, but find it absolutely impossible. Mr: Habersham, post master, had partly promised me his, but finds it impracticable to procure another. Rents are advanced 50 per cent, and before a house is finished, or an old one given up, it is taken. I do not think a house of any description can be got.5 I have assayed in at least a dozen instances without success.

RC (NN). Complimentary close and signature clipped. Docketed by JM.

1William Loughton Smith of South Carolina, and not Hamilton, attacked Jefferson in twenty-five essays over the pseudonym “Phocion.” John Fenno published the series between 14 Oct. and 24 Nov. in the Gazette of the U.S. and as an anonymous pamphlet, The Pretensions of Thomas Jefferson to the Presidency Examined … (2 pts.; Philadelphia, 1796; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 31212, 31213). Beckley responded to “Phocion” in an article signed “A Subscriber,” published in the Gazette of the U.S. on 29 Oct.

2Beckley’s analysis was possibly too subtle. “Phocion” had argued that Jefferson’s reputation as a philosopher might suit him for a professorship but would be “as incompatible with the duties of the presidency as with the command of the Western army” (Gazette of the U.S., 14 Oct. 1796).

3Jefferson and Burr.

4In the 11 Oct. congressional elections, the Republican incumbent John Swanwick defeated the Federalist candidate Edward Tilghman in the city of Philadelphia, and Republican Blair McClenachan defeated Federalist Robert Waln in Philadelphia County. McClenachan served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1790–91 and 1795, as president of the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, 1794, and as a congressman, 1797–99. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, the congressman for Philadelphia County, 1789–97, was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789–91 and 1793–95. As chairman of the Committee of the Whole, he broke a tie vote on 29 Apr. 1796 to refer to the House a resolution to implement the Jay treaty. He retired from Congress and on 11 Oct. lost the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election to incumbent Thomas Mifflin (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 12 and 13 Oct. 1796; Pennsylvania Manual, 88 [1947–48]: 552; Foner, Democratic-Republican Societies, p. 414 n. 26; JM to John Langdon, 1 May 1796).

5During the second session of the Fourth Congress, JM apparently resided at 121 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia (see James Swan to JM, 10 Feb. 1797, n.).

Index Entries