George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Madison, 19 March 1789

From James Madison

N. York March 19. 1789.

Dear Sir

On our arrival here we found that the number of Representatives on the spot had been stationary from the second day of the Meeting. Mr Page, Mr Lee, & myself raised it to 21. and Mr S[amuel] Griffin and Mr [Andrew] Moore have been since added. The number of attending Senators continues at 8. When a Quorum will be made up in either House, rests on vague conjecture, rather than on any precise information.1 It is not improbable I think that the present week will supply the deficiency in one, if not in both of them. The States most convenient, are among the defaulters. It will not be known, I am told, in this State, who the Representatives are till some time next month. The federal party calculate on an equal division of the six: Mr Laurence for the City district, Mr Floyd for the Long Island district; and Mr Benson for a third.2 In New Jersey, the election has been conducted in a very singular manner. The law having fixed no time expressly for closing the polls, they have been kept open three or four weeks in some of the Counties, by a rival jealousy between the Eastern & Western divisions of the State, and it seems uncertain when they would have been closed, if the Governour had not interposed by fixing on a day for receiving the returns, and proclaiming the successful candidates. The day is past, but I have not heard the result. The Western ticket in favor of Skureman, Budinot, Cadwallader, & Sennickson if this be the name, is supposed to have prevailed; but an impeachment of the election by the unsuccessful com-petitors has been talked of3—Two of the Representatives from Massachusetts are also unknown to us. In one of the districts, it is supposed that a disaffected man has prevailed.4

An English Packet has been long expected, and is not yet arrived. The State of foreign news remains of consequence little altered. The accounts of latest date through other channels shew that the progress in France towards a Constitutional establishment, is unchecked, and that a coalition between the King and the Commons agst the Nobility & Clergy, will direct the innovations. With respectful Compliments to Mrs Washington & the rest of the family, I am Dear sir truly & affecely Yr Obedt servt

Js Madison Jr

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DLC: Madison Papers.

1For the difficulty in achieving a quorum in the First Congress, see Knox to GW, 5 Mar. 1789, n.1. Madison set out for Congress probably on 20 or 21 February. On 24 Feb. he wrote James Madison, Sr., from Mount Vernon that “the obstructions to my journey from the Snow, the River at Fredericksburg, and the unparallelled badness of the roads, prevented my arrival here sooner than the Evening before last.” By waiting a few days, Madison noted, he could “promise myself” the company of some of his fellow congressmen on the trip to New York, particularly John Page. Richard Bland Lee “is the only member who has yet set out, according to my information. He has gone on to Alexanda. but will wait I presume for Company, at least untill the weather shall invite him to proceed” (Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 11:450).

2On 21 Jan. 1789 the New York assembly passed “An act directing the times, places and manner of electing Representatives in this State for the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States,” which divided the state into six electoral districts and specified dates for the congressional election (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York at Their Twelfth Session, Begun and Holden at the City of Albany, the Eleventh Day of December, iy88 [Albany, 1788], 75, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records description begins Microfilm Collection of Early State Records prepared by the Library of Congress in association with the University of North Carolina, 1949. description ends ). The New York elections were held on 3 and 4 Mar. 1789, although counting of the votes was not completed until the end of the month. The successful candidates were federalists John Laurance (1750–1810), representing the New York district, Egbert Benson (1746–1833), representing Dutchess and Westchester counties, and Peter Silvester (1734–1808), representing northeastern New York. The successful antifederalist candidates were John Hathorn (1749–1825), representing Ulster and Orange counties, William Floyd (1734–1821), representing Long Island, and Jeremiah Van Rensselaer (1738–1810) for western New York.

3New Jersey was one of the four states that elected their congressional representatives at large. On 21 Nov. 1788 the New Jersey legislature passed “An Act for carrying into Effect, on the Part of the State of New-Jersey, the Constitution of the United States,” which opened the polls for electing members of the House of Representatives on the second Wednesday in February. No closing date was specified (Votes and Proceedings of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey at a Session Begun at Trenton on the 28th Day of October 1788 [Trenton, 1788], 67, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records description begins Microfilm Collection of Early State Records prepared by the Library of Congress in association with the University of North Carolina, 1949. description ends ). The election developed into a bitterly fought campaign reflecting the traditional rivalry between East and West Jersey. Voting began on 11 Feb., and although many counties had closed their polls by the end of the month, supporters of the West Jersey Junto’s candidates prevented closure in Burlington and Gloucester counties. Supporters of the East Jersey candidates Jonathan Dayton and Abraham Clark kept the Essex County polls open until the end of April. On 18 Mar., with the Essex polls still open, the privy council declared the four candidates with the greatest number of votes the victors. The successful candidates, all federalists and all supported by the Junto, were Elias Boudinot (1740–1821), James Schureman (1756–1824), Lambert Cadwalader (d. 1823), and Thomas Sinnickson (1744–1817). The draft of Gov. William Livingston’s proclamation announcing the results of the election is in MHi: Livingston Papers; the proclamation is printed in the Brunswick Gazette and Weekly Monitor, 19 Mar. 1789. By the end of March, however, the congressmen had still not received their commissions. “My embarassment how to conduct myself in the present conjuncture will be a sufficient apology for troubling your Excellency,” James Schureman wrote Livingston on 28 March. “I wish to avoid giving any reasonable pretext for censure by not going on to New York, and should be pained to impede the operations of Government by unnecessary delay. The house of Representatives have nearly a Quorum, should a deputation from Jersey be wanting to complete it the attending Members will be clamorous against the state—The proclamation without a commission cannot be authoritative” (MHi: Livingston Papers). The New Jersey election was appealed to Congress on 25 May 1789, and on 2 Sept. the House upheld the election (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 1st sess., 425, 866, 867).

4Madison is probably referring to Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814) of Cambridge or Jonathan Grout (1737–1807) of the Worcester congressional district, both of whom had opposed ratification of the Constitution.

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