James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 18 June 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is missing and the letter is not docketed.

Philada. 18th. June 17821

Dear Sir

I recd. no letter from you yesterday nor shall2 I receive any for that week unless it be through the channel of Rivington’s Gazette, the Post having been robbed of his mail on Saturday eving last in Maryland.3 I hope your letter did not contain anything not in Cypher which is unfit for the public eye.4 The policy however wch. seems to direct Carlton’s measures renders it probable that he will decline the mean expedient pursued on such occasions by his predecessors for giving pain to individuals.5 It will be proper for us to take from this accident an admonition to extend the use of our Cypher.

The destination of the fleet which Sailed lately from N. York is not yet known.6 No offical intelligence from the West Indies is yet come hand. No intelligence of any kind from Europe. The business of Congress is too un[in]teresting to merit recital.

The trade with N. York begins to excite general indignation and th[r]eatens a loss of all our hard money. The continued drains which it makes from the bank must at least contract its utility, if it produces no greater mischief to it. The Legislature of N. Jersey are devising a new remedy for this disgraceful & destructive traffic,7 and a Committee of Congress are also employed in the same work.8 I have little expectation that any adequate cure can be applied, whilst our foreign trade is annihilated9 & the Enemy in New York make it an object to keep open this illicit channel


J. M. Jr.

I have written to Mr. Jones.10 If he sd. not be at Richmond open the letter.

1Late in his life JM or someone by his direction bracketed the first and last paragraphs of this letter to indicate that they should be published in the first edition of his papers (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 143).

2JM inadvertently repeated this word.

3For the interception of the postrider on 15 June, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 8 June, and n. 1; Report on Mail Robbery, 19 June 1782.

4At this point JM drew a broad line of ink across a short sentence. The sentence appears to have been “I am certain it contained nothing which would be of avail to the Enemy.”

5That is, the obvious desire of General Carleton to effect a truce in order to discuss terms of peace might lead him to abandon General Clinton’s practice of publishing intercepted letters in Rivington’s Royal Gazette for the purpose of embarrassing their authors. For Carleton’s eagerness to please Washington and Congress, see JM to Randolph, 4 June 1782, n. 35.

7After “new” JM crossed out “means of” and wrote “remedy.” The session of the New Jersey legislature which adjourned on 24 June enacted a law “for preventing an illicit trade and intercourse between the subjects of this state and the enemy.” The lengthy text of the measure is printed in the Pennsylvania Journal of 6 July 1782. In the 4 July issue of the Pennsylvania Packet, an article by “A Plain Farmer,” which had recently appeared in the New-Jersey Gazette, stated that during the past “few weeks,” no less than 40 or 50,000 pounds in specie, otherwise available for the payment of taxes, had been drained out of New Jersey by “moonlight pedlars,” encouraged by General Carleton, to purchase “British gewgaws” in New York City. “Their goods are not proof against fire or water,” the writer suggested. “Break up this trade root and branch,” he admonished, “or it will break you up.” See also the Pennsylvania Packet of 6 and 9 July for other articles on the same subject.

9With considerable success, the British pursued a policy in 1782 of avoiding military conflict with the Americans, enticing them with manufactured articles to exhaust their supply of specie, and of annihilating their trade on the seas. See Motion on Protection of Commerce, 2 May, and nn. 1 and 5; Motion To Request France To Protect American Commerce, 14 May 1782, and n. 1; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 138–41.

10This letter apparently is not extant. See Jones to JM, 25 June 1782.

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