James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 30 January 1799

From Thomas Jefferson

Jan. 30. 99.

My last to you was of the 16th. since which yours of the 12th. is recieved and it’s contents disposed of properly. These met such approbation as to have occasioned an extraordinary impression of that day’s paper.1 Logan’s bill is passed. The lower house, by a majority of 20. passed yesterday a bill continuing the suspension of intercourse with France, with a new clause enabling the President to admit intercourse with the rebellious negroes under Toussaint,2 who has an agent here,3 & has thrown off dependance on France. The H. of R. have also voted 6. 74s. & 6. 18s. in part of the additional navy: say 552. guns, which in England would cost 5000. D. a gun, & here 10,000. consequently more than the whole 5. millions for which a loan is now opened at 8. per cent. The maintenance is estimated at £1000. lawful a gun annually. A bill has been this day brought into the Senate for authorising the P. in case of a declaration of war or danger of invasion by any European power, to raise an eventual army of 30. regiments, infantry, cavalry & artillery, in addition to the additional army, the provisional army, & the corps of volunteers, which last he is authorised to brigade, officer, exercise, & pay during the time of exercise.4 And all this notwithstanding Gerry’s correspondence recently read & demonstrating the aversion of France to consider us as enemies. All depends on her patient standing the measures of the present session, & the surrounding her islands with our cruisers & capturing her armed vessels on her own coasts. If this is borne a while, the public opinion is most manifestly veering in the middle states, & was even before the publication of Gerry’s correspdee. In New York, Jersey & Pensylvania every one attests this, & Genl. Sumpter,5 just arrived, assures me the republicans in S. C. have gained 50. per cent in numbers since their election which was in the moment of the XYZ. fever. I believe there is no doubt the republican governor would be elected here now, & still less for next October. The gentlemen of N. C. seem to be satisfied that their new delegation will furnish but 3. perhaps only 2. antirepublicans. If so we shall be gainers on the whole. But it is on the progress of public opinion we are to depend for rectifying the proceedings of the next congress. The only question is whether this will not carry things beyond the reach of rectification. Petitions & remonstrances against the alien & sedition law are coming from various parts of N. Y. Jersey & Pensva.; some of them very well drawn. I am in hopes Virginia will stand so countenanced by those states as to repress the wishes of the government to coerce her, which they might venture on if they supposed she would be left alone. Firmness on our part, but a passive firmness is the true course. Anything rash or threatening might check the favorable dispositions of these middle states & rally them again round the measures which are ruining us. Buonaparte appears to have settled Egypt peaceably6 & with the consent of the inhabitants, & seems to be looking towards the E. Indies where a most formidable co-operation has been prepared for demolishing the British power. I wish the affairs of Ireland were as hopeful, and the peace with the North of Europe. Nothing new here as to the price of tobo. the river not having yet admitted the bringing any to this market. Spain being entirely open to ours, & depending on it for her supplies during the cutting off of her intercourse with her own colonies by the superiority of the British at sea, is much in our favor. I forgot to add that the bill for the eventual army authorises the President to borrow 2. millions more. Present my best respects to mrs. Madison. Health & affectionate salutations to yourself. Adieu.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Unsigned. RC franked and addressed by Jefferson to JM “near Orange court house.”

1See Madison’s Aurora General Advertiser Essays, 23 Jan.–23 Feb. 1799.

2François-Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743–1803) was a former slave who became first a Spanish, then a French, general, and finally virtual dictator of the island of Hispaniola. In a series of military campaigns and diplomatic maneuvers in the 1790s, his troops occupied Santo Domingo, forcing the British, French, and Spanish off the island. The bill to renew the suspension of commercial intercourse with France and its possessions, which was signed into law on 9 Feb. 1799, authorized the president to lift the restriction on “any island, port or place” belonging to the French republic. Known as “Toussaint’s clause,” this section was designed to encourage Saint-Domingue to declare its independence from France by ensuring the resumption of commerce between it and the U.S. President Adams issued a proclamation lifting the trade embargo on 26 June 1799 (Scott and Rothaus, Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, pp. 976–78; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 1:613–16; DeConde, Quasi-War, pp. 130–36).

3A Frenchman, Joseph Bunel, was sent to the U.S. by Toussaint to persuade the Adams administration of the benefits of renewed commercial relations with Saint-Domingue (Charles Callan Tansill, The United States and Santo Domingo, 1798–1873: A Chapter in Caribbean Diplomacy [Baltimore, 1938], pp. 16–17, 45).

4The object of the bill, proposed by James Gunn, the chairman of the Senate committee on defense, was to give “eventual authority to the President of the United States to augment the Army” (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 5th Cong., 3d sess., 2209). For the differences between the new army, the provisional army, the eventual army, and the volunteer units, see Kohn, Eagle and Sword, p. 229 n.

5Thomas Sumter, U.S. representative from South Carolina.

6News reaching the U.S. from Egypt was sporadic at best; the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser published reports from Paris newspapers on 17, 21, and 29 Jan. 1799 giving details of Bonaparte’s successes in July through September 1798.

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