James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Henry Tazewell, 18 October 1796

To Henry Tazewell

Orange Ocr. 18. 1796.

Dear Sir

I was favored a few days ago with yours of the 3d. inst. It is so difficult to appreciate all the circumstances relating to the subject on which you ask my remarks, that the time allowed, does not enable me to do justice to it. Considering the various contingencies that may influence it, I am inclined to think it most prudent for you to do no more than simply present it among other things, to the attention of the Assembly; who will be able to hasten or suspend a final decision according to the lights which every day will continue to furnish.1 This course seems to be particularly recommended to you & your Colleagues, by the danger of misconstruction & perversion to which any formal & systematic view you might take of it, would be liable in the present temperament of party feelings towards Virginia.

Monroe’s recall was as much unapprehended, & as long disbelieved by me, as by you. I am still in the dark as to the ground on which the measure has been hazarded. In general I have understood, that the official characters give out, that he has not done his duty in vindicating the British Treaty to the French Government. But all his letters to me indicate that he has most sincerely & zealously laboured, to prevent that occurrence, from becoming a source of discord between France & this Country. I have not had a line from Philada. or elsewhere, that could enlighten my communications to Monroe on the subject.

I am also but little informed of the present state of the electioneering politics, either out of or in Virginia. In this District, the suspected candidate has I hear, declined in consequence of the President’s withdrawing his name. My brother William & a Mr. Conner, are the two surviving candidates.2 As they both mean the same thing, the contest proceeds with harmony, & the issue is not very material.

I sincerely regret that Mr. Page, with all his just claims to the favor of his fellow Citizens should leave public life, under their frowns. He will have however more than the satisfaction of knowing that he has not deserved them. He will be able to assure himself, that many, I will not forbear to say, a very great majority, are sensible of his patriotism, and wish to see it better requited.

I can not bid you farewell without a rebuke for again cheating me out of the visit you owe me. The Bishop also has incurred the same mark of my disappointment, which has been the greater, as I heard he had planned & was actually preparing this fall for the journey. Yrs. very sincerely

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (NjMoHP). Addressed by JM to Tazewell at Williamsburg. Docketed by Tazewell.

1There is no record of the Virginia legislature’s having taken any action in the 1796 session on the matters discussed by Tazewell and JM in their letters of 3 and 18 Oct. On 2 Jan. 1797 the U.S. Senate appointed a committee “to inquire whether any alteration, and if any, what alteration, in their opinion, will be necessary” to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It is not clear who was responsible for this action, nor was Tazewell appointed to the committee. No evidence has been found that the Senate took any further action (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 4th Cong., 2d sess., 1527).

2William Madison was chosen over Lewis Conner as presidential elector in Spotsylvania County (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 28 Nov. 1796).

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