James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 19 December 1800

From Thomas Jefferson

Washington Dec. 19. 1800.

Mrs. Brown’s1 departure for Virginia enables me to write confidentially what I could not have ventured by the post at this prying season. The election of S. Carolina has in some measure decided the great contest. Tho’ as yet we do not know the actual votes of Tenissee, Kentucky & Vermont yet we believe the votes to be on the whole J. 73. B. 73. A. 65. P. 64. Rhode isld. withdrew one from P. There is a possibility that Tenissee may withdraw one from B. and Burr writes that there may be one vote in Vermont for J. But I hold the latter impossible, and the former not probable; and that there will be an absolute parity between the two republican candidates. This has produced great dismay & gloom on the republican gentlemen here, and equal exultation in the federalists, who openly declare they will prevent an election, and will name a President of the Senate pro tem. by what they say would only be a stretch of the constitution. The prospect of preventing this is as follows. G. N. C. T. K. V. P. & N. Y. can be counted on for their vote in the H. of R. & it is thought by some that Baer2 of Maryland & Linn3 of N. J. will come over. Some even count on Morris of Vermont. But you must know the uncertainty of such a dependance under the operation of Caucuses and other federal engines. The month of February therefore will present us storms of a new character. Should they have a particular issue, I hope you will be here a day or two at least before the 4th of March. I know that your appearance on the scene before the departure of Congress, would assuage the minority, & inspire in the majority confidence & joy unbounded, which they would spread far & wide on their journey home. Let me beseech you then to come with a view of staying perhaps a couple of weeks, within which time things might be put into such a train as would permit us both to go home for a short time for removal.4 I wrote to R. R. L.5 by a confidential hand three days ago. The person proposed for the T. is not come yet.6

Davie is here with the Convention as it is called; but it is a real treaty & without limitation of time. It has some disagreeable features, and will endanger the compromitting us with G. B. I am not at liberty to mention it’s contents, but I believe it will meet with opposition from both sides of the house. It has been a bungling negociation. Elsworth remains in France for his health. He has resigned his office of C. J. Putting these two things together we cannot misconstrue his views. He must have had great confidence in mr. A’s continuance to risk such a certainty as he held. Jay was yesterday nominated Chief Justice.7 We were afraid of something worse. A scheme of government for the territory8 is cooking by a committee of each house under separate authorities but probably a voluntary harmony. They let out no hints. It is believed that the judiciary system will not be pushed as the appointments, if made by the present administration, could not fall on those who create them.9 But I very much fear the road system will be urged.10 The mines of Peru would not supply the monies which would be wasted on this object, nor the patience of any people stand the abuses which would be incontroulably committed under it. I propose, as soon as the state of the election is perfectly ascertained, to aim at a candid understanding with mr. A. I do not expect that either his feelings, or his views of interest will oppose it. I hope to induce in him dispositions liberal and accomodating. Accept my affectionate salutations.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Unsigned. RC addressed by Jefferson to JM at Orange.

1This was probably Mrs. Catherine Brown of Philadelphia. Her daughter, Mary Brown, married Hore Browse Trist in April 1799 (Wells, “Thomas Jefferson’s Neighbors,” Magazine of Albemarle County History, 47 [1989]: 3 n. 8, 8 n. 29; see also JM to Monroe, 30 Jan. 1799, and n. 1).

2Maryland Federalist George Baer, Jr., served three terms in the House of Representatives, 1797–1801 and 1815–17.

3James Linn (1750–1821), a graduate of the College of New Jersey and a practicing lawyer, was a Revolutionary War veteran and an early Republican in New Jersey. Elected to Congress in 1799, he fulfilled his pledge to support Jefferson despite being identified by his colleagues in the House as a possible swing vote (Harrison, Princetonians, 1769–1775, pp. 28–31; see also George Jackson to JM, 5 Feb. 1801).

4Jefferson had undoubtedly sought and gained JM’s agreement to be named secretary of state in discussions during the summer of 1800, well before the latter was nominated for the office on 5 Mar. 1801. Though he declined Jefferson’s invitation to go to Washington, D.C., before the inauguration, JM did mention “one of the eventual arrangements contemplated” and wrote Jefferson that by refusing to join him it was not his purpose “to retract what has passed in conversation between us on that head” (JM to Jefferson, 10 Jan. 1801).

5Jefferson wrote to Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York on 14 Dec. 1800 to offer him the secretaryship of the navy (Ford, Writings of Jefferson description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 vols.; New York, 1892–99). description ends , 7:465).

6Jefferson intended Albert Gallatin, then a U.S. representative from Pennsylvania, for secretary of the treasury, although the post was not formally offered to him until after the Virginian’s election by the House of Representatives in February 1801. Gallatin arrived in Washington, D.C., on 10 Jan. 1801 (Walters, Albert Gallatin, pp. 126, 141–42).

7The appointment of John Jay as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate, but Jay declined the position for reasons of health (Monaghan, John Jay, pp. 424–25).

8With the government’s move to Washington, Adams, in his presidential address to Congress, posed the question of governance for the District of Columbia. On 27 Feb. 1801 Congress passed “An Act concerning the District of Columbia,” which continued the laws of Virginia and Maryland in that part of the territory “ceded by the said state to the United States.” It also divided the district into two counties, provided it with a circuit court, and authorized the appointment of civil officers to carry out the laws (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 , 2:103–8).

9On 13 Feb. 1801 Adams signed into law “An Act to provide for the more convenient organization of the Courts of the United States,” more commonly known as the Judiciary Act of 1801. The act expanded and reorganized the federal court system, redrawing districts and creating positions for twenty-three judges and court officers, among which were the “midnight appointments” that Adams made before he left office (ibid., 2:89–100; Smith, John Adams, 2:1064–65).

10An act “further to alter and to establish certain Post Roads” was signed into law on 3 Mar. 1801 (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 , 2:125–27).

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