Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison
RC (Virginia State Library). Written by JM. Docketed, “Lr from Delegates partly in Cypher May 82[.] April 23d 1782.” “May 82” probably signifies when the letter was received. Italicized words in the present copy appear in the manuscript as numbers, conforming with the so-called “official cypher.” A decoding and an encoding page are in the Virginia State Library.
Philada. April 23d. 1782
Your Excellency’s favor of the 12th. came to hand yesterday. There is at present no Delegate here from N. Carolina. As soon as one arrives, we shall apprize him of the want of Commissions suggested by you.1
The office of the Superintendant of Finance does not contain the information you wish relative to the amount of payments made by the States in the new Continental bills, no regular returns having been yet transmitted thither. As far as the portion of these bills allotted to the use of Congress shall be unissued, as also as far as the requisitions made in them on the States shall be unpaid, they will constitute a charge agst. the States, respectively.2 But the rate at which they are to be charged is yet to be determined by Congress.3
The Delegates have long had it in charge from the Executive to provide a conveyance to Virginia of certain Stores taken on their passage from France & carried into Boston, or if that could not be accomplished, to have them Sold. They lye in the hands of Mr. J. Bradford formerly an Agent for the U. States. We have written various letters to him on the Subject, & recd. various answers without being able to fulfill either of the alternatives. The first indeed has been long relinquished. Our last letter requested him peremptorily to sell the Stores & remit the amount. The inclosed paper No. 1. is his answer, on which we shall await the pleasure of the Executive.4
We have again endeavored to obtain from Congress some explicit decision on the territorial cession of Virginia that the assembly may not again be left in uncertainty on that subject. The sickness of the Presidt. which suspended the vote of Maryland furnished a pretext for postponing the business which we judged it prudent to yield to. As soon as he returns to Congress which will probably be in a few days, we shall renew our proposition and continue to urge it till we obtain in some form or other such evidence of the purpose of Congress as will be satisfactory to the State:5
Early in the last year a plan was formed by the Courts of Vienna & Petersburg for bringing about a general pacification under their mediation. The preliminary articles which were proposed with this view to the belligerent powers are copied in the inclosed paper No. 2.6 Congress have just received from the minister o[f]7 France some informal communications relative to the issue of this pacific experiment. Among them is the answer of the British court given in June last. It explicitly and emphatically re[j]ects8 that part of the plan which relates to the negotiation between her and the colonies and guaranties the result as incompatible with the relation of sub[j]ects to their so[v]ereign and the essential interests of the empire; alleging at the same time that a great part of the Americans are disposed to return to their held [al]legiance9 and that such step would furnish the rebel chiefs with fresh means of nourishing the [re]bellion and confirming their usurpe[d] authority. The final answer of the me[diat]ing courts professes great impartiali[ty] and delicacy toward the beligerent partys adheres [to] the expediency of the first plan & hopes that it m[ay] st[ill]10 become under more favorable circumstances11 the basis of a general pacification.12
We have the honor to be with great esteem and respect Your Excellency’s Obt. & hble. servts.
J. Madison. Jr.
Theok. Bland Jr.
2. See Report on New Hampshire Requisition, 25 March, n. 2; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 6 April 1782, and nn. 3 and 6. By the ordinance of Congress of 18 March 1780, “the portion of these bills allotted to the use of Congress” was 40 per cent (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 49, n. 2). On 17 June 1782, because the amount of cash being paid the “receivers of Continental taxes in the several States” had become alarmingly meager, Abraham Clark introduced a motion in Congress directing Morris to have his agents stop “their publications of monies received as well as where none was received, as a measure tending to discredit our public funds, and give offence to the delinquent States” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 336). The committee to whom this motion was referred apparently made no recommendation, probably because on the same day Congress adopted JM’s report providing for a comprehensive inquiry “into the proceedings of the department of finance.” See Report on Congressional Inspection of Departments, 17 June 1782, and n. 5. Clark was one of the investigating committee named by Congress for this purpose on 2 July 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 370).
3. Even as late as November 1782 Congress still was discussing what “the rate” of depreciation for issues made prior to 18 March 1780 should be (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 855). At the close of this paragraph JM canceled about thirty-six words so heavily that only a few of them can now be recovered with assurance. The deleted passage was approximately of this tenor: “As far as the States shall redeem the old currency by emissions of their own & shall redeem the old currency beyond the emissions of their respective shares of the ten Millions of the … surplus[.]” Apparently not finishing the sentence, JM may have intended at its outset to cite the situation in New Hampshire. See Report on New Hampshire Requisition, 25 March 1782, and n. 2.
4. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 308; and Bradford to Virginia Delegates, 20 March 1782, headnote and notes. Except for this one dispatch, the editors have not found the correspondence with Bradford mentioned by the delegates in this paragraph. In his reply of 4 May to them (q.v.) the governor disapproved their directive to Bradford. The ultimate fate of the cargo is unknown to the editors. When Penet, d’Acosta Frères et Cie, the supplier of these “Stores,” became bankrupt, some of its creditors sought remuneration from Virginia, because the Commonwealth was in debt to the firm. The price of the “Stores” probably formed a part of the claims. Between 1788 and 1791 Virginia paid these claimants at least £2,000. See the following three MSS in the Virginia State Library: Resolution of the General Assembly, 21 and 22 November 1788; undated Petition of Louis Abraham Pauly to the Virginia High Court of Chancery; Ruling of the High Court of Chancery, Richmond, 28 October 1790; also a resolution of the General Assembly in 1791, printed in 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 , XIII, 323. See 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 , XII, 312.
5. See Motion on Chairman of Congress, 15 April, and n. 2; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 17 April, and n. 1; Motion To Amend Lee’s Motion on Western Lands, 18 April, and n. 1; JM to Pendleton, 23 April 1782, and n. 7.
6. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 133; 147; 175, n. 19; 205, n. 3. John Adams’ letters of 11, 14, and 15 July, read in Congress on 3 October 1781, each contained a copy of the “Articles pour servir de base à la négociation du rétablissement de la paix,” dated 21 May 1781, and dispatched jointly by the Tsarina Catherine II and the Emperor Joseph II to the courts of London and Versailles. Before receiving Adams’ dispatches, Congress may have been furnished a copy of the document by La Luzerne (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 990, 1032). JM transcribed the French text at least twice, retaining one copy for his own use (LC: Rives Collection of Madison Papers) and enclosing the other in the present letter. An English translation appears in Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 561. JM most likely made his two copies shortly before the delegates’ letter was posted to Harrison. During the latter half of April, after receiving Vergennes’ dispatches which included news about the attempted mediation, La Luzerne passed along the information to Livingston for transmittal to Congress (Report on Communication from La Luzerne, 1 May 1782, and notes).
7. Here JM inadvertently wrote the numerical symbol for “o” rather than for “of.”
8. The code lacked symbols for “je” and “ve.” Hence in this sentence, JM used the symbol for “ie” to indicate the former and the symbol for “ue” to indicate the latter.
9. Except for those mentioned in n. 10, all the brackets from here to the end of the paragraph signify missing ciphers because of a tear in the manuscript. The letters within the brackets are taken from a decoded copy in the Virginia State Library. This copy was made by Archibald Blair, clerk of the Council of State.
10. By mistake, JM here wrote 695, the symbol for “learn,” rather than 696, the symbol for “il.”
11. After writing this word, JM heavily deleted it and designated it by the appropriate symbol.
12. In this paragraph JM summarizes very briefly the British response to the proposed mediation and the rejoinder of the mediators to that response. This interchange and other papers bearing upon the same subject evidently interested JM greatly because, using eleven pages of folio size and omitting all personal comments, he copied for his own use the French texts of the following documents and docketed them, “Comunication relating to the issue of the proposed mediation of Vienna & Peterburg”: (a) “Reponse de S. M. T. C. [Louis XVI] aux articles proposés par les deux Cours Mediatrices” on 16 August 1781; (b) “Reponse fait par la Cour de Londres aux Articles preliminaires proposés par les Cours Mediatrices” on 15 June 1781; (c) “Reponse au papier marqué A. remis à la Cour de Londres par Mr. Compte de Belgioso [Belgioioso],” apparently also on 15 June 1781; (d) “Reponse verbale du roy de la G. B. aux observations verbales remise par M. le Compte de Belgioso” on 13[?] November 1781; and (e) “Reponse des Mediats.,” possibly on 27 October 1781 (LC: Papers of Madison; Isabel de Madariaga, Britain, Russia and the Armed Neutrality of 1780: Sir James Harris’s Mission to St. Petersburg during the American Revolution [New Haven, 1962], pp. 267, 272–73, 278, 281, 290, 325, 328, 352–53). Count Lodovico Antonio Barbiano di Belgioioso-Este was the Austrian ambassador to Great Britain. “Compte” should be “Comte.”
Although John Adams, Francis Dana, Benjamin Franklin, and La Luzerne had furnished Congress with general information about the progress of the mediation, Congress apparently lacked the texts of all five of the documents listed above until La Luzerne gave them to Robert R. Livingston, the secretary for foreign affairs, late in April 1782 (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 440–41, 720–22, 859; V, 138, 190). JM probably did not make his copies from those supplied by La Luzerne but from a slightly different version of them transmitted by Franklin. Both sets of these documents, translated into English, appear in ibid., IV, 441–47, 860–66. See also JM to Randolph, 23 April; and Report on Communication from La Luzerne, 1 May 1782.