James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 4 June 1797

From John Dawson

Philadelphia June 4th. 1797.

Dear Sir!

I am favourd with your letter,1 & will, as far as lays in my power, forward the wishes of my friends in Orange altho I learn that after due deliberation it has been resolvd in the Executive council, not to appoint any person of our politicks to any office, least they shoud unhinge, or impede the movements of the government, & that Bedinger2 has been objected to on that score solely—in conversation with Mr. Jefferson he assures me that the president has not opend his lips to him on politicks since his appointment, & that he will favour Mr. Taylor’s wishes,3 shoud the subject be mentiond to him; otherwise any thing from him woud only injure.

You will observe, that after near three weeks debating we have agreed on an answer to the Presidents speech, not very grateful to either side—we were able to introduce an amendment, declaring that France ought to be placd in a situation as favourable as any nation; whilst they retaind the clause, approbating the conduct of our goverment in our foreign relations—the strength of our side has however drawn forth a reply very different from the address, & more favourable to our wishes, which are for peace—on tomorrow we shall begin business seriously—on yesterday W. Smith made a most extraordinary motion, “that all the proceedings arising out of the Presidents speech shoud be with shut doors”4—15 members only voted for it; but I learn it will be renewd on tomorrow, & this day, no doubt employd in rallying their troops, some of which do not appear well broke in.

The accounts from Europe abound with late & brilliant successes of that wonderful man Bounaparte—he has entirely defeated the Arch Duke—he has already crossd “The valley of hell”—he has fought above the clouds, & I believe nothing less than the arm of the omnipotent will prevent his storming heaven5—his successes may save us, by restoring peace to Europe, without which I very much fear we shall be engagd in war in six months, such is the rage of many against France & such the violence of the measures which they propose.

I pray you to remember me to my friends, of your acquaintance, to whom I cannot write as often as I wish. Yrs. with much Esteem

J Dawson.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Letter not found.

2Daniel Bedinger (b. 1761), a Revolutionary War veteran and an outspoken critic of George Washington and Jay’s treaty, was seeking the post of customs collector at Norfolk, Virginia. President Adams appointed Federalist Francis Otway Byrd instead (Carl E. Prince, The Federalists and the Origins of the U.S. Civil Service [New York, 1977], pp. 12, 107–11).

4See Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 5th Cong., 1st sess., 238.

5In the spring of 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte continued his previous year’s success in Italy by launching a series of attacks against the Austrian forces there under the command of the archduke Charles, brother of Francis II of Austria. On 16 Mar. the French crossed the Tagliamento River and in a series of engagements drove the archduke’s army back into Austria. One of the last battles of the campaign was fought “above the clouds,” near the Alpine town of Tarvis (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 3 June 1797; Rothenberg, Napoleon’s Great Adversaries, pp. 46–48).

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