James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Dawson, 1 February 1800

From John Dawson

Philadelphia. February 1st. 1800.

Dear Sir!

This will find you on your farm & I hope with restord health. According to practice we have had a bankrupt law before us for many days. The final question on it is pospond untill tuesday week, & the fate of it uncertain1—tho I much fear that it will pass—you well know what they can do by time—there was a majority of 20 agt it when introducd.

You observe by the papers that there is a small chance, that the present legislature of this State will agree on a mode for the choice of electors2—this must be left to the next & will probably be made by them—in this event we calculate on a favourable issue—N. York & N. Jersey, it is said, are improving.

Bounaparte has brought about another revolution3 & Suvarrov4 is going home. Peace is expected. To us I think it certain. With much esteem Your friend

J Dawson

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1The final vote on the uniform bankruptcy bill was taken on 21 Feb. 1800. The bill passed by the vote of the Speaker after the House divided equally on the issue, 48 to 48 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 6th Cong., 1st sess., 534).

2The Federalist Senate and the Republican House of the Pennsylvania legislature were deadlocked over the method of choosing the state’s presidential electors. The former favored an election by districts, the latter, a general ticket. Some hope appeared that the matter might be resolved when the two houses appointed a conference committee in late January 1800, but two months of talks failed to produce a compromise by the time the legislative session came to a close (Tinkcom, Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, pp. 243–45).

3The coup of 18 Brumaire Year VIII (9–10 Nov. 1799), engineered by Napoleon Bonaparte, ended the Directory and replaced it with the Consulate. Backed by a new constitution (proclaimed on 25 Dec. 1799), the power of the new government was centered in its three-man executive, with Napoleon as first consul (Scott and Rothaus, Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1:262–65).

4Aleksandr Suvorov-Rymnikskii (1729–1800), a Russian field marshal in command of an Austro-Russian army, had destroyed the French presence in northern Italy in a campaign that began in February 1799 and included victories over General Macdonald at Trebbia (18–19 June) and over General Joubert at Novi (15 Aug.). Ordered into Switzerland by the Allied Command, he abandoned his plans for the invasion of southern France and, forcing the St. Gotthard Pass, marched to the Rhine River against heavy opposition. His campaign was arrested, however, by the collapse of the Second Coalition and the recall of his troops to Russia (ibid., 2:918–19).

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