James Madison Papers

Samuel Nightingale, Jr., to Virginia Delegates in Congress, 6 December 1780

Samuel Nightingale, Jr.,
to Virginia Delegates in Congress

Printed text (Charles Campbell, ed., Bland Papers, II, 39). From the salutation, Nightingale addressed his letter to Bland and JM, the only delegates from Virginia then in Congress, rather than to Bland alone. The editor of the Bland Papers either decided to print only an extract of the letter or could print no more because the rest of it was missing or illegible.

Providence, December 6th, 1780


I1 this day received your favor, dated the 14th October, inclosing a letter from his Excellency Governor Jefferson, dated the 28th of the same month, also a letter to the Hon. John Foster, which I have delivered him.2 Due attention shall be paid to them.

I am very sorry to hear your state is invaded by a powerful enemy, but hope you will soon be able to dislodge them.

Observe you design the goods belonging to the state of Virginia which came in the schooner Committee, shall be transported by land; and that you request me to do something, but am not able to tell what, as that part of your letter was entirely worn out before I received it. The small arms are very badly packed, having nothing between them and considerable play in the boxes. I shall consult some person that is acquainted with the manner of packing arms, and endeavor to get them packed properly, as it must be for your interest, and presume you will justify me in so doing. I sent a letter to his Excellency Governor Jefferson, dated 22d of November,3 inclosing an invoice of that half of the goods which is stored for the former owners, to your care. By it you will see the marks and numbers which were found on the goods when.…4

1Samuel Nightingale, Jr. (1741–1814), member of a prominent mercantile family in Providence, R.I., was an active patriot in his city even as early as the time of the Stamp Act (Gertrude Selwyn Kimball, Providence in Colonial Times [Boston, 1912], pp. 294–99, 321, 367–68).

2John Foster was judge of the Court of Admiralty of Rhode Island (John Russell Bartlett, ed., Records of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England, IX [Providence, 1864], 55). None of the letters mentioned in this paragraph is known to be extant. Either Nightingale or the editor of the Bland Papers probably erred, since it is unlikely that a letter from the delegates of “14th October” would inclose one from Jefferson, dated 28 October.

3Printed in 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 , IV, 143–44.

4The main subject of this letter was long-lasting and puzzling, both to Jefferson and the Virginia delegates in Congress. The schooner “Le Comité,” bound from Nantes, France, to Virginia with munitions, clothing, salt, and other much needed supplies purchased by that state, was captured by a British ship off Cape Henry and soon recaptured by two American privateers. On 26 September, after they brought their prize to Providence, the ship and one half of its cargo were sold at public auction. Under the prize law, the other half was still the property of Virginia. How to convey this half from Providence to Richmond is the problem discussed in the present letter, and will arise frequently hereafter in letters from or to Madison and the other Virginia delegates as late as 1 May 1781. For the next mention of the subject, see Jefferson to Virginia Delegates, 18 December 1780.

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