James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 10 February 1802

From James Monroe

Richmond Feby 10. 1802.

Dear Sir

Two incidents occurr’d in the course of the last session of our Assembly which are worthy some attention. These were, the attack on the Executive respecting the disbursements of the publick money,1 and the meetings which took place in the Capitol towards the close of the session of some of the members from the western counties for the purpose of promoting a dismemberment of the State.2 The first was commenc’d before Christmass and lasted to the end of the session, in Feby. A motion was made in the H. of Delegates by B. Harrison of P. George3 to appoint a joint committee of both houses to examine into and report a statment of those expenditures, wh. passed without opposition. It was amended in the Senate by being converted into a standing rule of the legislature. The committee was appointed by both houses, who were met by three members of the council (a request to that effect being made) and who gave information on all the items on which it was desir’d. Creed Taylor4 from the Senate was chairman of the committee. He had promoted the enquiry in the commenc’ment, and seemed disposed to push some restrictive resolutions, as to the future conduct of the Executive wh. cod. not otherwise than operate as a censure on what had passed. Before the committee the members of the council, Genl. Guerrant, Dr. Foushee & Mr. Mc.Rae5 were much mortified by the conduct of some members especially a Mr. Sheffey6 who had embarked in it with peculiar zeal. The committee reported to the House a series of opinions as to what the Executive had done invol[v]ing a censure without stating a single fact on which their opinions were founded. As the enquiry was unprecedented, and other circumstances occurr’d to excite a suspicion that the object of many was to censure, a report of that kind did not surprise us. It was moved & carried without opposition that the report lie on the table & the Executive be furnished with a copy of it. I then wrote the legislature justifying the enquiry, and expressing a wish that it be pursued with the utmost rigor, but stating that the report which had already been made, did not contain a single fact, on wh. I cod. furnish any explanation or the house form an opinion. I requested that the house wod. cause such a statment of facts to be reported as might remain and become a precedent, under the decision formed on it, which might serve as a guide to both departments for the future, and that the Executive might have a copy of it. The report was then committed to the same committee and with it my letter, with an instruction to make such a report as had been desired. In my letter I observed that I shod. explain in what cases the Executive had acted relative to the salaries of clerks &ca.7 Finding after the commitment that there was cause to suspect the affr. wod. be protracted to the end of the session, with a view to avoid a report of facts, and leave the case on the ground on which it stood, which was the most favorable the partizans in the business then hoped for, I prepard my letter, the one in the pamphlet enclosed8 intending to send it in whether a report was made or not. The report was made on the saturday before the adjournment wh. was on tuesday, and my letter being nearly finished was sent in immediately afterwards. The result was what you will perceive in the enclosed paper.9 The foundation of the enquiry was sundry protests of Genl. Wood10 entered in the journal of the council, agnst an addition to Major Coleman’s salary of £75., the building of the barracks for the guard, & some other trifling expenditures. Those wh. made most noise were the illumination of the Capitol, and the charge of the powder expended on the 4. of July, for wh. Mr. Wood voted with the other members. Several engaged in the business at first who cod. not be suspected to have any unfriendly views to the Executive, or any connection with the federalists, such as Creed Taylor. It is probable the agency of such men gave the thing a consequence it wod. not have had, had the federalists appeard in it at first. The zeal of these men who had embarked in it, with too little reflection, abated as they got information of the true state of facts. The federalists were forc’d then to shew themselves more distinctly in the business. Till finally on the statment of facts which my letter gave the republicans who had before given any countenance to the enquiry turnd completely round, and many of the federalists left the house, among whom was Mr. Sheffey heretofore deemed a republican but whose conduct was more than equivocal thro’ the session. On monday Sheffy mov’d to take up the rept. of the committee intimating that his absence on saturday had been accidental. The motion was set aside by the previous question.

The caucus’s for promoting a dismemberment of the State went on at the same time. In these Sheffy, & Wilson11 of the Senate, were most active, the latter I believe from Morgantown. There are 28. counties westwd. of the mountains. Only 29 of their members attended, of whom 14. only were for recommending the subject to the consideration of the people, and it being carried by the vote of their chairman (Breckenridge)12 that their names shod. be signed to whatever they recommended, the affr. fell to the ground at least for the present. I do not think any thing is to be inferrd as to the views of the chairman from his vote on the above question. I suspect both movments were federal, that they were carried on with the same political views & prompted by the same parties. I fear you will not be able to read this as it is written with a bad pen in great haste. Our best regards to Mrs. Madison & yr. family yr. friend & servant

Jas. Monroe

By whom was Mr. Skipwith’s claim referrd to you, the house of reps. or the President?

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