Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, August 20, 1785

Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, August 20, 1785

James Madison
August 20, 1785

Dear Sir,–Yours of the 18th of March never reached me till the 4th inst. It came by post from N. York, which it did not leave till the 21 of July. My last was dated in April, & went by Mr. Mazzei, who picked it up at N. York and promised to deliver it with his own hand.

The machinations of G. B. with regard to Commerce have produced much distress and noise in the Northern States, particularly in Boston, from whence the alarm has spread to New York & Philda. Your correspondence with Congs will no doubt have furnished you with full information on this head. I only know the general fact, and that the sufferers are everywhere calling for such augmentation of the power of Congress as may effect relief. How far the Southern States & Virginia in particular will join in this proposition cannot be foreseen. It is easy to foresee that the circumstances which in a confined view distinguish our situation from that of our brethren, will be laid hold of by the partizans of G. B, by those who are or affect to be jealous of Congress, and those who are interested in the present course of business, to give a wrong bias to our Councils. If anything should reconcile Virga to the idea of giving Congress a power over her trade, it will be that this power is likely to annoy G. B. against whom the animosities of our Citizens are still strong. They seem to have less sensibility to their commercial interests; which they very little understand, and which the mercantile class here have not the same motives if they had the same capacity to lay open to the public, as that class have in the States North of us. The price of our Staple since the peace is another cause of inattention in the planters to the dark side of our commercial affairs. Should these or any other causes prevail in frustrating the scheme of the Eastern & Middle States of a general retaliation on G. B. I 1 tremble for the event. A majority of the States deprived of a regular remedy for their distresses by the want of a federal spirit in the minority must feel the strongest motives to some irregular experiments. The danger of such a crisis makes me surmise that the policy of G. B. results as much from the hope of effecting a breach in our Confederacy as of monopolizing our trade.

Our internal trade is taking an arrangement from which I hope good consequences. Retail Stores are spreadg all over the country, many of them carried on by native adventurers, some of them branched out

The Library of Congress, The James Madison Papers

The Writings of James Madison. Edited by Gaillard Hunt, 1723-1836.