James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Tazewell, 11 June 1797

From Henry Tazewell

Philadelphia 11. June 1797

Dear Sir

I hasten to tell you that the Northern Mail of today brings an account of the arrival of a Ship at Boston from London with European intelligence up to the 4th. May. Being Sunday, the post office is not open, but Mr Patten1 says, as Bache tells me, the papers contain a positive account of a seperate peace between France & the Emperor of Germany—and among other things, that a Mutiny has taken place on board Ld. Bridport’s Squadron.2 The papers will contain the particulars tomorrow,3 but as the Mail closes before I shall receive mine, I cannot send you one by tomorrows stage.

The earnestness with which the measures for providing Convoys for our ships, and for permitting individual merchants to arm in their defence have been pressed, evidence a decided determination in favour of a war with France. Whether this intelligence will change the tone, tomorrow will determine. Nothing else I beleive can save us. Nay from the steps which have been taken I wish that may. The Republican party are not strong enough to do any thing more, even if they are strong enough to prevent mischeif. The federalists as they call themselves but who hence forward will be called porcupines,4 are chop fallen, but I beleive they have gone too far to retract. Porcupine has abused Sam: Smith, Matt: Lyon, and Dayton in the most scurrilous manner you ever knew. Thatcher on Friday, offered Blount a personal insult in debate. Blount challenged him. Thatcher refused to accept the Challenge.5 Thus it remains with a determination on Blount’s part to kick him on sight. In short the insolence and scurrility of the british faction here can scarcely be born. Adieu

Henry Tazewell

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1Robert Patton, a former Continental army officer, was Philadelphia postmaster from 1789 until his death in 1814 (Prince, Federalists and the Origins of the U.S. Civil Service, p. 190; Campbell, History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, p. 501).

2Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport, was vice admiral of England and commander of the channel fleet. The mutiny at Spithead, which began 15 Apr., was not completely quelled until 15 May 1797, by which time it had spread to the North Sea fleet at Nore (J. Steven Watson, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815 [Oxford, 1960], pp. 372–73).

3The reports of the Preliminary Peace of Leoben and the mutiny in the British fleet were published in a Postscript to the Aurora (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 12 June 1797).

4Tazewell referred to William Cobbett’s Porcupine’s Gazette, a Federalist newspaper in Philadelphia that began daily publication on 4 Mar. 1797 (Brigham, History of American Newspapers, 2:946).

5In the course of a debate in the House over defensive measures, George Thatcher (Federalist, Massachusetts) took exception to Thomas Blount’s (Republican, North Carolina) use of the word requisition as a “French phrase” that should not be included in American legislative acts. Blount thought the objection trifling and said he supposed that by the use of the word he would be regarded as “one of the factious.” Thatcher replied that he “had said nothing about French factions” but “a guilty conscience needs no accuser.” At this point, Blount retorted that he “should take from no man, with impunity, such language as that” (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., 284). Blount’s letter challenging Thatcher to a duel was published in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 12 June 1797.

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