James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 17 May 1798

From Thomas Jefferson

May 17. 98.

My last to you was of the 10th. Since that I have recieved yours of the 5th. I immediately sent a note to Carey to forward his paper to your brother as you desired. The first vote of any importance on the alien bill was taken yesterday. It was on agreeing to the 1st. section, which was carried by 12. to 7. If all the Senators in town had been present it would have been 17. to 7. The Provisional army gets along. The Rep. have reduced the 20. to 10. M̶. They have struck out the clauses for calling out & exercising 20,000. militia at a time. The 1st. Volunteer clause has been carried by a great majority.1 But endeavors will be made to render it less destructive & less injurious to the militia. I shall inclose you a copy of the land-tax bill.2 In the first moments of the tumults here, mentioned in my last, the cockade assumed by one party was mistaken to be the tricolor. It was the old blue and red adopted in some places in an early part of the revolution war. However it is laid aside. But the black is still frequent. I am a little apprehensive Burr will have miscalculated on Granger’s election in Connecticut. However it is not yet known here. It was expected Hillhouse would have been elected their Lt. Govr. but Treadwell is chosen.3 We know nothing more certain yet of the New York elections. Hamilton declined his appointment as Senator, & Jay has named North,4 a quondam Aid of Steuben. All sorts of artifices have been descended to, to agitate the popular mind. The President recieved 3 anonymous letters (written probably by some of the war-men) announcing plots to burn the city on the fast-day.5 He thought them worth being made known, and great preparations were proposed, by way of caution and some were yielded to by the Governor. Many weak people packed their most valuable moveables to be ready for transportation. However the day past without justifying the alarms. Other idle stories have been since circulated, and the popular mind has not been proof against them. The addresses & answers go on. Some parts of Maryland & of this state are following the example of N. Jersey. The addresses are probably written here; those which come purely from the country are merely against the French. Those written here are pointed with acrimony to party. You will observe one answer in which, a most unjustifiable mention has been made of Monroe,6 without the least occasion leading to it from the address. It is now openly avowed by some of the Eastern men that Congress ought not to separate. And their reasons are drawn from circumstances which will exist through the year. I was in hopes that all efforts to render the sessions of Congress permanent were abandoned: but a clear profit of 3. or 4. Dollars a day is sufficient to reconcile some to their absence from home. A French privateer has lately taken 3. American vessels from N. York & Philada., bound to England. We do not know their loading, but it has alarmed the merchants much. Wheat & flour are scarcely bought at all. Tobacco, old, of the best quality, has long been 14. D. My respects to mrs. Madison & to the family. Affectionate Adieux to yourself.

P.M. The Provisional army bill has this day passed to it’s 3d reading. The volunteer corps remains a part of it.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Unsigned. RC franked and addressed by Jefferson to JM “near Orange courthouse.” Postscript not on FC.

1A motion had been made on 14 May to strike out the third section of the provisional army bill, which authorized the president “to accept of any company or companies of volunteers … who may associate and offer themselves for the service … at their own expense.” The officers of these companies were to be appointed by the president and the men would be “called upon to do military duty at any time the President shall judge proper.” The use of volunteer companies was opposed by the Republicans as being unconstitutional and having “a bad effect upon the militia,” but the vote to strike out the section was negatived 56 to 37 (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., 1703, 1758).

2The House ordered its publication as the Report of the Committee of Ways and Means, Instructed on the Sixth Ultimo, to Enquire Whether Any and What Additional Revenues, Will Be Wanted for the Public Service. 2d May, 1798, Committed … (Philadelphia, 1798; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 34765).

3John Treadwell of Connecticut was a Yale-educated Federalist politician who served as lieutenant governor, 1798–1809, and as governor, 1809–11 (Fischer, Revolution of American Conservatism, p. 292).

4William North (1755–1836) served as aide-de-camp of Baron von Steuben during the Revolutionary War and was a prominent Federalist legislator in the New York Assembly, serving as its Speaker in 1795–96 and 1810. North served briefly as U.S. senator, taking his seat 21 May and resigning on 19 July when he was appointed adjutant general of the provisional army, a post he held until June 1800. In 1812 JM nominated him for the position of adjutant general in the U.S. Army (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 , 2:240).

5The president had received several anonymous letters informing him that some Frenchmen in Philadelphia had formed a conspiracy to burn the city and massacre the inhabitants on 9 May, the day set aside as a national fast day (Abigail Adams to Mary Cranch, 10 May 1798, in Mitchell, New Letters of Abigail Adams, pp. 170–72).

6See Monroe to JM, 8 June 1798, and n. 1.

Index Entries