Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 4

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Author: James Madison

U.S. History

From James Madison.

Richmond, 11 November, 1785.

DEAR SIR,

I received your favor of the 29th ultimo on Thursday. That by Colonel Lee had been previously delivered. Your letter for the Assembly was laid before them yesterday. I have reason to believe that it was received with every sentiment which could correspond with yours, Nothing passed, from which any conjecture could be formed as to the objects which would be most pleasing for the appropriation of the fund. The disposition is, I am persuaded, much stronger to acquiesce in your choice, whatever it may be, than to lead or anticipate it; and I see no inconveniency in your taking time for a choice that will please yourself. The letter was referred to a Committee, which will, no doubt, make such report as will give effect to your wishes.

Our session commenced, very inauspiciously, with a contest for the Chair, which was followed by a rigid scrutiny into Mr. Harrison’s election in his county. He gained the Chair by a majority of six votes, and retained his seat by a majority of still fewer. His residence was the point on which the latter question turned. Doctor Lee’s election was questioned on a similar point, and was also established; but it was held to be vitiated by his acceptance of a lucrative post under the United States. The House have engaged, with some alacrity, in the consideration of the Revised Code, prepared by Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Pendleton, and Mr. Wythe. The present temper promises an adoption of it, in substance. The greatest danger arises from its length, compared with the patience of the members. If it is persisted in, it must exclude several matters which are of moment; but, I hope, only for the present Assembly. The pulse of the House of Delegates was felt on Thursday with regard to a general manumission, by a petition presented on that subject. It was rejected without dissent; but not without an avowed patronage of its principles by sundry respectable members. A motion was made to throw it under the table, which was treated with as much indignation, on one side, as the petition itself was on the other. There are several petitions before the House against any step towards freeing the slaves, and even praying for a repeal of the law which licenses particular manumissions.

The merchants of several of our towns have made representations on the distresses of our commerce, which have raised the question whether relief shall be attempted by a reference to Congress, or by measures within our own compass. On a pretty full discussion it was determined, by a large majority, that the power over trade ought to be vested in Congress, under certain qualifications. If the qualifications suggested, and no others, should be annexed, I think they will not be subversive of the principle, though they will, no doubt, lessen its utility. The Speaker, Mr. M. Smith, and Mr. Braxton, are the champions against Congress. Mr. Thurston and Mr. White have since come in; and, I fancy, I may set down both as auxiliaries. They are, however, not a little puzzled by the difficulty of substituting any practicable regulations within ourselves. Mr. Braxton proposed two, that did not much aid his side of the question. The first was, that all British vessels from the West Indies should be excluded from our ports; the second, that no merchant should carry on trade here until he should have been a resident     years.

Unless some plan, freer from objection, can be devised for this State, its patrons will be reduced clearly to the dilemma of acceding to a general one, or leaving our trade under all its present embarrassments. There has been some little skirmishing, on the ground of public faith, which leads me to hope that its friends have less to fear than was surmised. The assize and port bills have not yet been awakened. The Senate will make a House to-day for the first time.

With the greatest respect and regard, I have the honor to be, dear Sir, &c.,

JAMES MADISON Jr.

P. S. Inclosed, herewith, are two Reports from the Commissioners for examining the head of flames River, &c., and the ground between the waters of Elizabeth River and North Carolina; also, a sensible pamphlet said to be written by St. George Tucker, of this State.

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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "From James Madison.," Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 4 in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. Jared Sparks (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1853), 119–121. Original Sources, accessed October 2, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3UQTPPTKAEXJ12X.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "From James Madison." Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 4, in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, edited by Jared Sparks, Vol. 4, Freeport, NY, Books for Libraries Press, 1853, pp. 119–121. Original Sources. 2 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3UQTPPTKAEXJ12X.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'From James Madison.' in Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Vol. 4. cited in 1853, Correspondence of the American Revolution: Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, ed. , Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, pp.119–121. Original Sources, retrieved 2 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3UQTPPTKAEXJ12X.