James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Madison, Sr., [1–15 June] 1776

To James Madison, Sr.

RC (LC: Madison Papers; and Massachusetts Historical Society: French Collection). Originally this letter must have consisted of two sheets, with each sheet folded twice, horizontally. Splitting along the folds as the manuscript aged, it divided into six separate strips. The first of these, upon which JM probably wrote the date, the salutation, and the opening few lines of his message, has disappeared. Although the portion immediately following this missing one and the section containing the closing lines of the letter are now in the Massachusetts Historical Society, two of the three middle fragments are in the Library of Congress. The other lost strip, probably comprising nine or ten lines, would directly precede the portion on which the letter closes. The fraying at each fold where the pages split caused a line or some part of a line to disappear. Therefore, the missing words have had to be supplied by conjecture. In like manner, the left-hand margins of the fragments in the Library of Congress have been so clipped as to cut off words or parts of words. Here, too, the editors have indicated, within brackets, what JM may have written. On the reverse of one of the fragments in the Library of Congress there appears in JM’s hand, “To [C]ol. James Madison, Orange County [carrie?]d by [Capt. Thomas W?]alker.” Noted below is internal evidence permitting the letter to be dated with considerable assurance at Williamsburg early in June 1776. JM had been there since 8 May as one of the two representatives of Orange County at the colonial “Convention of Delegates.”

[1–15 June 1776]

would be adviseable to make the best terms you can with him. I intend to apply myself to him on my return home. I have not had an opportunity since I red. your last1 of taking the opinion of Col Pendleton2 on Ignatius’s Queries,3 but I shall speak to him on the subject as soon as I can find him at leasure, which his close engagement in business occasions to be not very often the case. Col. Henry4 says that half blood entitles to personal Estates and that the money arising from the Sale of the Land must be considered as Chattels if the person who sold it was duly authorised by the Intestate. that is, if the bargain was so made as to bind the Intestate of

will of course bind the Heirs. so do not [forget?] [he?] also said that [Ne?]gros was to be considered as Chattels, as the  Intestate died with. I suppose the Law is plain enough in that instance.5 [Nothing rem]arkable has happened at Quin’s Island since the Enemy took [it. The]y are very active in fortifying it and those who are acquainted [with] the place are of opinion it will be impossible to dislodge them. Our [arm]y in field amount to abt. 500 Regulars I believe and are very [short of?] conveniences.6 Mr. Crig went from this place yesterday with a [pack]et[?] homewards, and will give you a more particular acct.7 [Many] of the Maryland Convention betray a disposition exceed[ingly?]

[adverse to?] the American Cause. Independ[ent] of the Recommendation8 [to detain the?] person and papers of Govr. Eden and to form a New Gove[rn]mt. [representative?] of the people, they have resolved that their present Governt. [is exerc?]ised under the Authority of the Crown and they confess the obliga[tion of its? rep]resentative[s] to obey the Mandates of the Ministry,   & they have not only given Eden permission to leave the Colony   [b]ut have insulted this Colony with a request that our Cruisars [should? fore]bear molesting him as he passes our Coasts. and have sent [us their?] proceedings respecting him among which is an address containing9  [de?]clared it during the


that the Persons who take them should be sworn. I expect it will avail noth[ing] and that the whole work will be to do over again.10 It is uncertain when the Convention will rise. Most of the members seem determind to go home to their Har[vests] and I expect the House will adjourn at that season though it is obvious th[e] Business will be by no means finished by that time. We shall expect the [Horses?] down about the 20th. of the Month if you do not hear from me again. Major Moore is well as usual. He grunts as much and eats as hearty a[s] an[y] man in Williamsburg.11

I am Dr Sir your affectionate son

Js Madison junr

1Not found. It probably would have furnished an identification of the “him” in each of the two preceding lines. If JM’s word “last” was used precisely, it signifies that his father had written to him more than once since he arrived in Williamsburg.

2Edmund Pendleton, president of the Convention, and also chairman of Virginia’s Committee of Safety.

3In the Orange County Order Book, No. 8, p. 356, a microfilm of which is in the Virginia State Library, appears the following, under date of 23 May 1776: “Administration granted Ignatius Tureman on the Estate of George Tureman Decd Whereupon he with James Madison Gent his Security Entered into And Acknowledged Their Bond for the Same in the Sum of £500. Cont. Money.” Ignatius Tureman (d. 1784) moved to Spotsylvania County by 1782 (Spotsylvania County Court Records, Will Book E, pp. 572, 584, on microfilm in Virginia State Library).

4Patrick Henry, then a delegate to the Convention from Hanover County.

5It would appear that George Tureman, probably of King and Queen County (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, IV [1896–97], 296; XXXII [1924], 156), died intestate before effecting a sale of his property in Orange County. Its court permitted Ignatius Tureman, with JM’s father as his security, to be the administrator of this portion of the deceased’s estate. George Tureman’s potential heirs evidently included some half-brothers or other relatives not wholly of his “blood.” Being in doubt about their legal share, if any, in the estate, and doubtful whether the administrator could go ahead and sell Orange County property which the deceased had taken steps to sell, Ignatius Tureman asked the elder Madison to have JM seek the advice of Edmund Pendleton, one of the ablest lawyers in Virginia. Unable to catch him at a leisure moment, JM posed the questions to Patrick Henry. How the Tureman estate issue was finally settled is unknown.

6Gwynn’s Island, in Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Piankatank River, was occupied by Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, and some four hundred of his Negro and white henchmen from about 1 June to 10 July 1776. JM may have greatly underestimated the number of Virginia troops facing Dunmore, since Pendleton in a letter of 1 June to Jefferson put the figure at two thousand (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , I, 297, 454–55, 468–69; H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of Virginia Governors, I, 6–7, 10).

7Probably Reverend Elijah Craig (ca. 1743–1808), pastor of the Blue Run Baptist Church in Orange County. He was twice jailed as a dissenting preacher in Culpeper County and is asserted to have been jailed also in Orange County. Craig represented the interests of his denomination at the state Revolutionary conventions and the general assemblies. In 1786 he migrated to Kentucky (J. H. Spencer, A History of Kentucky Baptists [2 vols.; Cincinnati, 1885], I, 87–88; Lewis P. Little, Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia, pp. 133, 516, 524). At Williamsburg Craig sold a rifle to one Charles Smith, a soldier in Captain Thomas Walker’s company of the 9th Virginia Regiment (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, VIII, 186). While returning to his place of residence in Albemarle County, Walker seems to have stopped at Montpelier to deliver JM’s letter to his father (see headnote).

8This apparently refers to two resolutions of the Continental Congress. On 10 May 1776 it “recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs have been hitherto established, to adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general” (Journals of the Continental Congress, IV, 342). The royal government of Maryland was evidently deemed not to be “sufficient” for the above-mentioned “exigencies” because on 16 April the Congress “earnestly requested” the Council of Safety of Maryland “immediately to cause the person and papers of Governor Eden to be seized and secured” (ibid., IV, 285–86).

9Conservative in temper and well disposed toward the amiable Governor Robert Eden (1741–1784), the Council of Safety and the General Convention in Maryland not only spurned the requests of Congress but even, as JM indicates, asked the authorities at Williamsburg to assure Eden an unmolested passage out of Chesapeake Bay. This request, being laid before the Virginia Convention on 31 May, makes certain that the letter of JM to his father could not have been written before that date (Proceedings of the Convention, May 1776, p. 30). The Virginians probably felt the more “insulted” by the Maryland Convention’s presumption because two weeks before, on 15 May, the Virginia Convention had “unanimously” instructed their delegates in the Continental Congress to propose that “the United Colonies” declare their independence (above, Declaration of Rights, 16 May–29 June 1776).

10Without having the missing strip preceding this final fragment of the letter, the antecedent of “it” is wholly speculative. Possibly JM had mentioned the work going on in the Convention to make the governmental transition from colony to commonwealth. The famous Declaration of Rights was adopted unanimously on 12 June; discussions were in train about what the rest of the state’s written constitution should be, and an ordinance was under consideration “to enable the present magistrates and officers to continue the administration of justice, and for settling the general mode of proceedings in criminal and other cases till the same can be more amply provided for.” This bill, by prescribing an oath to be taken by the “several persons named in the commission of the peace in each country” and by suggesting its provisional nature in its title, seems to coincide with what JM writes in the partial sentence and the first sentence of this fragment (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , IX, 126).

11Major William Moore, JM’s fellow delegate from Orange County. The mention of the 20th as being in the future fixes, of course, the date after which this letter could not have been written and also suggests that JM had probably sent at least one other letter from Williamsburg to his father. As already mentioned, the Convention remained in session until 6 July.

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