To Joseph Jones
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Cover missing. The words written by JM in the official cipher are italicized below.
May  17821
A letter from Docr. Franklin of the 4th. of March informs the Superintendt. of Finance that the court of France had granted an aid of six million of livres to the United States for the [pres]ent2 year. It appears however that this aid has been wholly anticipated as well as the aids of the last year by bil[l]s of exchange[;]3 by supplies for the army particularly those in Holland[;] by the debt to Beaumarchais amounting to two million & a half of livres[;] by the interest mony[;] by the deduction on account of Virginia computed at seven hundred thousand livres &c.4 The States must therefore by some means or other supply the demands of Congress or a very d[ange]rous5 crisis must ensue. After the difference between the modes of feeding the army by contracts & by the bayonet has been experienced both by the army and the people a recur[r]ence to the latter cannot be too much dreaded.6
The province of Friesland has instructed its delegates in the States general to concur in a public reception of Mr. Adams. The cit[y] of Dort has done the same to theirs in the provincial assembly of Holland.7
The above letters came by the Alliance wch. is arrived at Rhode Island. Capt. Barry8 I am told says that the marquis will come with a squadron for the American coast which was equip[p]ing. If this be true Barry is wrong in discloseing it. I distrust it.9
A French Cutter is since arrived after a short passage with despatches for the Minister10 here. He recd. them on Saturday by an express from Salem, and has not yet communicated their Contents to Congress. I understand th[r]ough11 the secry of foreign affairs that the court of London has lately proposed to the court of France a separate peace as the price of which she would place Dunkirk in its former state[,] make some sacrifices in the East Indies and accede to a status quo in the West Indies. The answer of France was dictated by her engagements with the United States.12 This insidious step taken at the same moment with the agency of Mr. Carlton will I hope not long be witheld from the public. We have heard nothing from this Gentleman since the answer to his request of a passport for his Secretary.13
In order to explain our public affairs to the states and to urge the necessity of complying with the requisitions of Congress, We have determined to depute two members to visit the eastern states and two the southern. The first are Root and Mon[t]gomery. The others Rutlidge and Clymer. I put this in Cypher because Secresy has been enjoined by Congress. The deputation will probably set off in a few days.14
I find that the minister of France has been informed by some correspondent in Virginia that the late intelligence from Britain has produced very unfavorable sym[p]toms in a large party. He seems not a little discomposed at it. The honour of the state concur[r]ed with my own persuasion in dictating a consolatory answer to him.15 For this reason as well as for others I think it would be expedient for the legislature to enter into a unanimous decla[ra]tion on this point. Other states are doing this and such a mode of announcing the sense of the people may be regarded as more authentic than a declaration from Congress. The best form I conceive will be that of an instru[c]tion to the delegates.16 Do not fail to supply me with accurate and full informations on the whole subject of this paragraph.
A letter from Dr. Franklin of the 30th. of March inclosing a copy of one to him from Mr. Adams at the Hague were laid before Congress subsequent to writing the above. By these it appears not only that an essay has been made on the fidelity of France to the Alliance, but that the pulse of America has been at the same time separately felt thro’ each of those Ministers. They both speak with becoming indignation on the subject, attest the firmness of our ally, and recommend decisive efforts for expelling the Enemy from our Country.17 Mr. Adams says “ten or eleven cities of Holland have declared themselves in favo[ur]18 of American independence and it is expected that today or tomorrow this province will take the decisive resol[u]tion of admitting me to my audience. Perhaps some of the other provinces may delay it for three or four weeks but the prince has declared that he has no hopes of resisting the torrent and therefore that he shall not attempt it. The Duke de Vauguyon has acted a very friendly and honourable part in this business without however doing any ministerial act in it.”19 What was said above of Friesland came from Mr. Berkley the Consul. Mr. Adams says nothing of that province altho’ his letter is of later date.20 If this sd. find you at Richmond, it will be unnecessary for you & Mr. R. both to be at the labor of decyphering, the above being copied from his letter. I made this provision for the contingency of your not having proceeded to Richmond. That you may not give me more credit for it than is due, I must confess that you owe it in part to the facility which my letter to him in Cypher afforded for repeating the intelligence to you. I believe, I have omitted one paragraph on another subject which he will communicate to you.21 Whitesides22 has the means remitted for taking up the note in which I am concerned. I have urged Mr. R. to return & charged him to urge you. Let me hear from you on that subject, & let it be favorably. Farewell
J. M. Jr.
Yr. favr. of 21.23 was rcd ½ after 9 OC last night.
1. Judging from the handwriting, JM wrote “May–1782” at the top of this letter late in his life. In arranging his correspondence for editing, he probably noted the similarity between the contents of this undated letter and those of the Virginia delegates to Harrison and of his own letter to Arthur Lee on 28 May 1782. The first paragraph of the latter of these (q.v.), when compared with the postscript to the present letter, permits no doubt that JM wrote to Lee and Jones either on the same day or added the postscript to Jones on 28 May, after writing the rest of the dispatch on the twenty-seventh.
2. JM inadvertently wrote 58.3, which stood for “di-car,” rather than 729, the cipher for “pres.” In decoding, Jones misread 58.3 as 583, and hence interlineated “within,” which that number symbolized. Many years later, when JM reacquired this dispatch, he evidently checked the coding, discovered his 58.3 was an error, decided he had meant to write the cipher for “pres,” and therefore wrote “present” above Jones’s irrelevant “within.”
3. This and the other bracketed punctuation marks later in the sentence were probably interlineated by Jones when he decoded the letter.
4. See Report on Salaries of Representatives Abroad, 28 May, and n. 3; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 28 May 1782, and nn. 9, 11, and 13. In his “account of the moneys in France,” read in Congress on 24 May, Morris listed, “Bills drawn by Congress in favour of Mr. de Beaumarchais three years ago, and which are payable 22 June next … [$]2,544,000” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 293). See also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIV, 746.
Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), author of the comedies The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro as well as many other literary works, effectively befriended the American cause between 1776 and 1781. Besides giving generously from his own purse, he used his considerable influence to persuade France to ally with the United States and even from the onset of the Revolution to assist it with loans and gifts of money and military supplies. He also encouraged French officers to volunteer for service with the American army. At the close of the war he declared that the Commonwealth of Virginia owed him £42,927 and Congress 3,600,000 livres. Virginia largely discharged its obligation before Beaumarchais’ death. On the other hand, his claim against the United States was complicated after 1786 by the problem of whether an unaccounted-for one million livres, which King Louis XVI in 1776 had empowered Beaumarchais to spend secretly for matériel needed by the American army, should be deducted from his bill. Finally in 1835, after the “lost million” had been a subject of repeated negotiations, including some wherein JM had supported the validity of the claim, Congress obliged the heirs of Beaumarchais either to forgo any remuneration or to accept (as they did) 800,000 livres in full settlement of the debt (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 462, 506, 535; 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, 339–40; Samuel Shepherd, ed., Statutes at Large of Virginia [new ser.], III, 22; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette Joins the American Army, pp. 66, 176; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette between the American and the French Revolution, p. 330; Elizabeth S. Kite, Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence [2 vols.; Boston, 1918], II, passim, and especially pp. 199–211).
5. JM wrote 501, the cipher for “bea,” rather than 505, the cipher for “ange.” Evidently uncertain what JM had intended, Jones disregarded the 154, symbolizing “d,” immediately preceding 501, and 241. 257 symbolizing “rous,” immediately following 501, and interlineated “serious.”
6. JM used “by the bayonet” to connote forcibly impressing food for the use of the army. 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, 325, 326, n. 5; Randolph to JM, 16–17 May 1782, and n. 18.
7. Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 28 May 1782, and n. 25; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 234–35, 257–58. JM used the ciphers for “ci-ti” rather than “ci-ty.”
8. 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, 149, n. 5. On 10 October 1776 Congress had designated John Barry (1745–1803) as the seventh ranking captain of “the navy of the United States” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VI, 861). Born in Ireland, Barry migrated to Philadelphia in 1760 and was a prosperous shipmaster and shipowner at the outset of the Revolution. During the war he commanded several continental men-of-war, including the “Alliance,” on which Lafayette embarked for France in December 1781 (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, 315, n. 2). From 1785 until 1794, when Congress named him senior captain of the United States Navy, Barry resided at his estate, Strawberry Hill, except for a mercantile voyage to China, 1787–1789. During most of the period 1797–1801 he was again at sea, especially in West Indian waters, as commodore of a squadron comprising his flagship the frigate “United States,” the frigate “Constitution,” and eight smaller vessels (Martin I. J. Griffin, Commodore John Barry, “The Father of the American Navy” [Philadelphia, 1903]).
9. The “marquis” was Lafayette. See Pendleton to JM, 15 April 1782, and n. 12; Louis Gottschalk, ed., The Letters of Lafayette to Washington, 1777–1799 (New York, 1944), pp. 251, 254–55. On 8 June 1782 the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends reported the likelihood that six French ships of the line and three frigates would soon arrive in American waters, and that Lafayette was “expected to be with the squadron.”
10. La Luzerne.
11. JM used the cipher for “though” rather than the one for “through.”
12. Livingston laid this information before Congress on 28 May 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, 303). At Great Britain’s insistence, France had reluctantly consented in the Peace of Paris (1763) to fulfill her earlier pledges to raze the fortifications at her Channel port of Dunkirk (Cambridge Modern History description begins A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, eds., Cambridge Modern History (13 vols.; Cambridge, England, 1902–12). description ends , VI, 331, 345, 429, 464).
14. See Report on Mission To Inform States of Financial Crisis, 22 May 1782, editorial note.
15. Neither La Luzerne’s correspondent in Virginia nor JM’s “consolatory answer” to La Luzerne is known to the editors. See Randolph to JM, 29 June, and n. 3; JM to Randolph, 9 July; Jones to JM, 22 July 1782.
16. See Instructions to Virginia Delegates, 24–25 May 1782. The legislature of Maryland and the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council had already adopted resolutions of this tenor (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 431; Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, XIII, 286–88).
18. Here JM wrote the cipher for “resolv” rather than the cipher for “ur.”
19. Except for differences in punctuation, JM’s quotation from Adams’ letter of 26 March 1782 is approximately correct (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 275). Paul François de Quélen de Stuer de Caussade (1746–1828), Duc de La Vauguyon, was ambassador from the court of Versailles to the States-General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands between 1776 and 1784. According to Adams, La Vauguyon unofficially had used his influence at The Hague on behalf of a recognition of the independence of the United States by the Prince of Orange and the States-General. William V, Prince of Orange and Nassau and a nephew of King George III, was pro-British.
20. Thomas Barclay (1728–1793), a Philadelphia merchant. 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, 201, n. 1; JM to Pendleton, 22 January, n. 11; Report on Foreign Dispatches, 20 March, n. 6; Report on Salaries of Representatives Abroad, 28 May 1782, n. 4. On 18 November 1782 Congress appointed Barclay as commissioner to settle the accounts of the United States in Europe, and on 3 January 1783 as consul general in France with authority to appoint United States commercial agents or vice consuls in that country (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 730; XXIV, 3). In October 1785 while holding these positions, Barclay was named by John Adams and Jefferson, who with Franklin had been commissioned by Congress to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the emperor of Morocco, to be their agent for carrying out this assignment. Congress complimented him upon its successful completion and ratified the treaty on 18 July 1787 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXX, 259; XXXI, 923; XXXII, 355–64). In the autumn of that year Barclay returned to the United States to settle his accounts with Congress and to raise money to satisfy his insistent creditors in France. His efforts during President Washington’s administration to procure a federal office in the United States were unavailing. On 31 March 1791 his friend Jefferson, then Secretary of State, named him consul for Morocco. Barclay died suddenly in Lisbon on 19 January 1793. 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 , XI, 493–500; XII, 114, 378; XIII, 253; XVI, 471–72. In volumes VII through XII, there are many letters from or to Barclay about his activities, 1785–1790.