James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 5 December 1796

To Thomas Jefferson

Philada. Decr. 5. 1796

Dear Sir

It is not possible yet to calculate with any degree of certainty whether you are to be left by the Electors to enjoy the repose to which you are so much attached, or are to be summoned to the arduous trust which depends on their allotment. It is not improbable that Pinkney will step in between the two who have been treated as the principals in the question. It is even suspected that this turn has been secretly meditated from the beginning in a quarter where the leading zeal for Adams has been affected.1 This Jockeyship is accounted for by the enmity of Adams to Banks & funding systems which is now become public,2 and by an apprehension that he is too headstrong to be a fit puppet for the intriguers behind the skreen. It is to be hoped that P. may equally disappoint those who expect to make that use of him, if the appointment should in reallity light on him. We3 do not however absolutely despair that a choice better than either may still be made; and there is always the chance of a devolution of the business on the House of Reps. which will I believe decide it as it ought to be decided.

Adêts Note which you will have seen, is working all the evil with which it is pregnant.4 Those who rejoice at its indiscretions & are taking advantage of them, have the impudence to pretend that it is an electioneering manoeuvre, and that the French Govt. have been led to it by the opponents of the British Treaty. Unless the unhapy effect of it here & cause of it in France, be speedily obviated by wise councils & healing measures, the crisis will unquestionably be perverted into a perpetual alienation of the two Countries by the secret enemies of both. The immediate consequences of such an event may be distressing; but the permanent ones to the commercial & other great interests of this Country, form a long & melancholy catalogue. We know nothing of the policy meditated by the Executive on this occasion. The Speech will probably furnish some explanation of it. Yrs. always & affecy.

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC); partial Tr (DLC: Nicholas P. Trist Papers). RC docketed by Jefferson, “recd. Dec. 16.” Partial Tr in Trist’s hand; filed with JM to Trist, 4 Feb. 1828 (see n. 3).

1JM was probably referring to rumors that Hamilton and Wolcott were endeavoring to obtain an equal number of electoral votes in New England for Thomas Pinckney and John Adams as a way of undermining the candidacy of the latter (see Kurtz, The Presidency of John Adams, pp. 96–113).

2Beginning in October 1796, Republican and Federalist newspapers in Philadelphia subjected the political writings of John Adams to extensive criticism. In the tenth essay of a series written by Tench Coxe under the pseudonym of “A Federalist,” both the Aurora and the Gazette of the U.S. proclaimed that Adams “greatly disapproves of the funding and banking systems and … he does not hesitate to speak of them as matters that have and will produce extreme and extensive ills” (Aurora General Advertiser, 6 Dec. 1796; Gazette of the U.S., 30 Nov. 1796).

3Trist’s extract begins here and continues to the end of the paragraph.

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