James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 3 May 1798

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia. May 3. 98

I wrote you last on the 26th since which yours of the 22d. of April is recieved acknowleging mine of the 12th. so that all appear to have been recieved to that date. The spirit kindled up in the towns is wonderful. These and N. Jersey are pouring in their addresses offering life & fortune. Even these addresses are not the worst things. For indiscreet declarations and expressions of passion may be pardoned to a multitude acting from the impulse of the moment. But we cannot expect a foreign nation to shew that apathy to the answers of the President, which are more Thrasonic than the addresses.1 Whatever chance for peace might have been left us after the publication of the dispatches is compleatly lost by these answers. Nor is it France alone but his own fellow-citizens against whom his threats are uttered. In Fenno of yesterday you will see one wherein he says to the Address from Newark ‘the delusions & misrepresentations, which have misled so many citizens, must be discountenanced by authority as well as by the citizens at large,’ evidently alluding to those letters from the representatives to their constituents which they have been in the habit of seeking after & publishing.2 While those sent by the Tory part of the house to their constituents are ten times more numerous, & replete with the most atrocious falsehoods & calumnies. What new law they will propose on this subject has not yet leaked out. The citizen bill sleeps. The alien bill proposed by the Senate has not yet been brought in. That proposed by the H. of R. has been so moderated that it will not answer the passionate purposes of the war-gentlemen. Whether therefore the Senate will push their bolder plan, I know not. The provisional army does not go down so smoothly in the R. as it did in the Senate. They are whitling away some of it’s choice ingredients, particularly that of transferring their own constitutional discretion over the raising of armies to the President. A commee. of the R. have struck out his discretion, and hang the raising of the men on the contingencies of invasion, insurrection, or declaration of war. Were all our members here the bill would not pass. But it will probably as the house now is. It’s expence is differently estimated from 5. to 8. millions of dollars a year. Their purposes before voted require 2. millions above all the other taxes, which therefore are voted to be raised on lands, houses, & slaves.3 The provisional army will be additional to this. The threatening appearances from the Alien bills have so alarmed the French who are among us that they are going off. A ship chartered by themselves for this purpose will sail within about a fortnight for France with as many as she can carry.4 Among these I believe will be Volney, who has in truth been the principal object aimed at by the law. Notwithstanding the unfavorableness of the late impressions, it is believed the New York elections, which are over, will give us two or three republicans more than we now have.5 But it is supposed Jay is re-elected. It is said Hamilton declines coming to the Senate. He very soon stopped his Marcellus. It was rather the sequel that was feared than what actually appeared. He comes out on a different plan in his Titus Manlius,6 if that be really his. The appointments to the Missisipi territory7 were so abominable that the Senate could not swallow them. They referred them to a commee. to enquire into characters, and the P. withdrew the nomination, & has now named Winthrop Serjeant Governor,8 Steele of Augusta in Virginia, Secretary,9 Tilton &  10 two of the judges, the other not yet named.11 As there is nothing material now to be proposed, we generally expect to rise in about three weeks. However I do not yet venture to order my horses. My respectful salutations to mrs. Madison. To yourself affectionate friendship & Adieu.

Perhaps the P’s expression, before quoted, may look to the Sedition bill which has been spoken of, and which may be meant to put the Printing presses under the Imprimatur of the Executive. Bache is thought a main object of it. Cabot of Massachusets is appointed Secretary of the navy.12 It is said Hamilton declines coming to the Senate.

RC (DLC); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Unsigned. RC franked and addressed by Jefferson to JM “near Orange courthouse.” Last sentence of postscript not on FC.

1Addresses in support of the administration poured in to Philadelphia from every corner of the U.S. during the spring and summer of 1798. Adams’s responses, published in the newspapers, fueled public calls for war and vilified Republicans by linking them with France. “Tho they load the President with constant application to his pen,” Abigail Adams wrote, “he answers all of them and by this means has an opportunity of diffusing his own sentiments, more extensively & probably where they will be more read and attended to than they would have been through any other channel” (DeConde, Quasi-War, pp. 80–82; Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 18 May 1798, Stewart Mitchell, ed., New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788–1801 [Boston, 1947], p. 175).

2John Adams, “To the Citizens of Newark, in the State of New-Jersey,” Philadelphia Gazette of the U.S., 2 May 1798. Some members of Congress, mostly from the South, reported the proceedings of Congress in the form of printed circular letters, addressed in most cases to individuals in their districts but sometimes intended for newspaper publication. In at least one case, in 1796, a representative complained of an unauthorized publication of one of his letters in Fenno’s Gazette of the U.S. (Cunningham, Circular Letters of Congressmen, 1:xv–xviii).

3Robert Goodloe Harper, of the Committee of Ways and Means, presented a report on 1 May that analyzed the current revenue sources and pointed to a $2 million shortfall. The report, after being read, was recommitted (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 5th Cong., 2d sess., 1563–66).

4On 1 June 1798 Secretary of State Pickering authorized passage of the ship Benjamin Franklin to France under a flag of truce; he did the same on 14 July for the brigantine Liberty. Both carried French nationals (Childs, French Refugee Life in the United States, pp. 189–90).

5Despite modest gains for Republicans in New York, the congressional elections of 1798 increased the Federalist majority in the House of Representatives from six in the Fifth Congress to about twenty in the Sixth Congress (Cunningham, The Jeffersonian Republicans, p. 134).

6In March and April 1798, Alexander Hamilton wrote seven essays for the N.Y. Commercial Advertiser under the title of “The Stand” and signed them “Titus Manlius.” The essays appeared on 30 Mar. and 4, 7, 12, 16, 19, and 21 Apr. (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols.; New York, 1961–87). description ends , 21:381 and n. 1).

7The nominations Adams had made on 18 Apr. 1798 were withdrawn on 2 May, and those noted by Jefferson were proposed to the Senate in their stead. They were confirmed on 7 May (Jefferson to JM, 19 Apr. 1798; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:269–70, 272, 274).

8Winthrop Sargent was governor of the Mississippi Territory, 1798–1801 (see PJM-SS description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–90). description ends , 1:321 n. 1).

9John Steele (ca. 1755–1817) served as an officer in the Virginia Continental line during the Revolution. Elected to the Virginia Council of State in 1790, he was removed in 1796, according to one Federalist “because his principles were those of Federalism & moderation.” Steele served as secretary of the Mississippi Territory, 1798–1802 (McIlwaine et al., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, 5:405–6; Risjord, Chesapeake Politics, p. 514).

10Left blank by Jefferson. Peter Bryan Bruin (d. 1827) had been an officer in the Virginia Continental line who served as aide-de-camp to Gen. John Sullivan after 9 Nov. 1777 and retired a major at the close of three years’ service. Bruin had settled in the Natchez district in 1788. Evidently, neither Bruin nor Daniel Tilton knew much about the law; both Sargent and the next governor, W. C. C. Claiborne, complained that the two judges, though “amiable gentlemen, [are] not qualified for the position” (Gwathmey, Historical Register of Virginians, p. 103; William S. Coker, “The Bruins and the Formulation of Spanish Immigration Policy in the Old Southwest, 1787–88,” in The Spanish in the Mississippi Valley, 1762–1804, ed. John Francis McDermott [Urbana, Ill., 1974], pp. 61–71; Rowland, Courts, Judges, and Lawyers of Mississippi, pp. 6, 12–13).

11William McGuire of Virginia was nominated by President Adams to be chief justice of the Mississippi Territory on 26 June 1798. He was confirmed by the Senate two days later (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 1:282).

12FC ends here. George Cabot declined the post; Benjamin Stoddert was appointed in his stead (ibid., 1:272, 275–76).

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