James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 18 May 1782

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas Meriwether.

In Council. May 18th: 1782.


We are obliged to you for your communications of the 4th. Instant;1 I hope there can be no doubt of America’s complying strictly with her engagements to our Allies; there is none here every person that I converse with seems to think it our Interest as well as duty. Our Assembly is at last doing duty and from the complexion of the house I have great hopes something clever will be done.2 The sending Ships of the enemy here to load Tobacco for the British Merchants gives great umbrage, as indeed it ought; we have suffered too much already by an intercourse with the British. I beg of you never to countenance it again, for be assured if you do, it will be attended with bad consequences, as no means will be left untried to bring the people over to comply with the views of the British Parliament.3 The offer that Mr Morris has accepted was in part made to me and would have been attended with great advantage to the state in her distresses but was refused as inconsistent with our duty to our Allies and to America.4

I am. &c.

2See Lee to JM, 16 May 1782, n. 3. By “clever,” Harrison probably meant “satisfactory” or “positive.”

4The “offer” to Governor Harrison has not been identified, but it must have extended Virginians a wider opportunity to trade with the British than the Articles of Capitulation afforded. For fuller treatment of the matter as pertaining to the “duty to our Allies,” see Pendleton to JM, 17 June 1782. Gratitude to the French for their indispensable aid in clearing the enemy out of Virginia in the autumn of 1781, and dependence upon the French navy to deliver the matériel which Virginia was attempting to purchase in France, may partially explain Harrison’s opposition to the tobacco contract concluded with the “merchants-capitulant” at Yorktown (Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 24 January, and nn. 1 and 5; Ambler to JM, 20 April, n. 4). In Robert Morris’ view, this tenderness for the feelings of the French was wholly unwarranted, since the contract was merely giving effect to the ninth of the Articles of Capitulation, to which the French had been a party. “But of all things in the world,” Morris wrote on 30 May 1782 to his Virginia agent, Daniel Clark, entrusted with supervising the loading of tobacco, “the most ridiculous” was the assertion that the contract would “give cause of complaint to the king of France” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 452).

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