To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Docketed, “James Madison. 2d July 1782.” The cover is missing. The italicized words are those that JM wrote in the official cipher.
Philada. 2d. July 1782.
My dear Sir
The confidential & circumstancial communications in your favor of the 20th. of June1 have afforded me much pleasure. Those which relate to the scheme of garbleing the delegatetion were far from surprizing me. In a conversation with Mr. J. before he left Philada.2 it was our joint inference from a review of certain characters & circumstances that such a scheme would be tried. The prevailing temper of the present delegatetion is too little flexible to the factious and vindictive plans3 of a particular member of it4 to be relished by him and his adherents. No delegate who refuses to league with him in the war against the financeir5 must expect to be long at ease in his post. The disappointment in the affair of the flags will increase the venom against the minister.6 The first conversation I had with the doctor after his return7 clearly betrayed how much it rankled in his bosome.
No addition has been made to our foreign intelligence in the course of the past week. Some of the republications from the European papers herewith sent8 throw light however on the general state of foreign affairs. Those which relate to Ireland in particular are very interesting.9 The Empress of Russia appears by the Memorial of her Ministers to be more earnest in forwarding a reconciliation between England & Holland than is consistent with the delicate impartiality she has professed as Mediatrix,10 or with that regard which we flattered ourselves she felt for the interests of the U. States.11
One article of our late communications from France was that the interest on the certificates is no longer to be continued and that provision mu[st]12 be made within ourselves. This has caused great commotion & clamour among that class of public creditors, against Congress, who they beli[e]ve or affect to believe have transferred the funds to other uses.13 The best salve to this irritation, if it could with truth be applied, wd. be a notification that all the States had granted the impost of 5 PrCt. and that the collection & appropriation of it would immediately commence.14 It is easy to see that the States whose jealousy & delays withhold this resource15 from the U. S. will soon be the object of the most bitter reproaches from the public creditors. Rhode Island & Georgia are the only States in this predicament, unless the Acts of Virga. & Maryland should be vitiated by the limitations with which they are clogged.16
No step has yet been taken in the instructions prepared before your departure. I expostulated a few days ago with D[oct]or W[itherspoo]n17 on the subject & prevailed on him to move in the business, but his motion only proved the watchfulness & i[n]flexibility of th[os]e who think they advance towards their own objects in the same proportion as they recede from those of Virginia.18 I have since shewn him the report and he is a confirmed advocate both for the innocence & expediency of it.19
We are even at this day without official advice of the naval event of the 12 of April in the W. I.20 nor have we any advices of late date from that quarter. There is little room to hope that the misfortune of our ally will be repaired by any subsequent enterprizes.
Congress are much perplexed by the non-appearance of Connecticut at the time appointed for the meeting of her Agents & those of Pennsylvania. We wish to avoid leaving her any pretext to revive the controversy & yet the reasons for her neglect cannot be pronounced sufficient. Her adversary professes a strong jealousy that she means by every artifice to parry a decision during the war; and it21 cannot be denied that appearances but too well authorize it.22
3. Randolph erroneously decoded JM’s 202.5 as “feelings” rather than “plans.” See also Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 378.
7. Arthur Lee had resumed his seat in Congress on 27 June 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, 354).
8. Immediately after “sent,” JM wrote and struck out “will throw light on sundry.” He certainly enclosed a copy of the Pennsylvania Packet of 27 June and possibly also copies of the same newspaper for 29 June and 2 July. These included excerpts from debates in Parliament as late as 16 April 1782.
9. The resolutions of 14 March 1782, agreed upon by delegates from fifty-nine military volunteer corps of the province of Connaught, declared that “no power upon earth has any right to make laws to govern this kingdom, except the king, the lords and commons of Ireland; and that we will at the risque of our lives and fortune, resist the execution of all other laws, for we do consider as absolute slavery, that of being governed by a foreign legislature, over which we have no controul” (Pennsylvania Packet, 27 June 1782). See JM to Pendleton, 23 July 1782, n. 9.
10. As long as the United States was at war with Great Britain, Americans obviously could not credit Tsarina Catherine II with impartiality if she succeeded in decreasing the number of Britain’s enemies.
11. The word “regard” replaces a heavily deleted passage which may have been “attention to American interests.” Indifferent to “the interests of the U. States,” the tsarina had no intention of offending London by recognizing prematurely the independence of the new nation (Frank A. Golder, “Catherine II. and the American Revolution,” American Historical Review, XXI [1915–16], 92, 96). Under a 3 April date line from The Hague, the Pennsylvania Packet of 27 June 1782 reported that, on their return trip from London to St. Petersburg, two of the tsarina’s envoys had addressed a memorial to the States-General urging the Netherlands to agree to an immediate truce with Great Britain, since the latter power was ready to negotiate a peace treaty restoring to the Dutch their “rights of free trade and navigation, which neutral nations enjoy, and especially those who have acceeded to the principles of the armed neutrality.” The Netherlands recognized the independence of the United States less than three weeks after the Russian envoys presented this memorial (Report on Salaries of Representatives Abroad, 28 May 1782, n. 11).
On 20 May 1784, about seventeen months after agreeing upon a truce, Great Britain and the Netherlands signed a definitive treaty of peace wherein the Dutch ceded Negapatam to the British, relinquished exclusive trading rights in the Far East, and failed to gain recognition of the principles of the League of Armed Neutrality of 1780. On the other hand, Great Britain returned all other possessions conquered from the Netherlands during the war (J[ohn] Holland Rose et al., eds., The Cambridge Modern History of the British Empire [8 vols. to date; New York, 1929——], I, 781–82; 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, 56, n. 3; III, 45, n. 9; 205, n. 3).
12. JM erroneously encoded the last two letters of this word by using 42, signifying “only,” rather than 421, the symbol for “st.”
13. After La Luzerne, upon instructions from Vergennes, had informed Robert Morris that the French government would no longer provide money with which to pay the interest on loan-office certificates, a committee of Congress recommended on 13 June “that no more bills of Exchange be drawn or issued for the interest of loan office certificates; but that the said interest be paid out of the revenues to be granted by the several States for funding the public debts.” The threat of this action, which Congress delayed taking until 9 September 1782, after all efforts to have the states pay their financial requisitions and to induce Rhode Island and Georgia to accept the 5 per cent impost amendment of the Articles of Confederation had been unavailing, caused the “great commotion & clamour” mentioned by JM. With Morris’ encouragement, the “public creditors” in Philadelphia addressed memorials to Congress and appointed a committee “to make one common cause” with all holders of loan-office certificates “so that they might be able to have influence on all the legislatures in the several 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, 302 n., 321, 329, and n., 352, and n., 365, and n.; XXIII, 553–55; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 442–43; Pennsylvania Packet, 4 and 6 July 1782; William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 191–92; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 123–24).
14. 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, 303–4; III, 13, n. 11; 77–78; 128, n. 5.
15. JM substituted this word for a deleted “benefit.”
16. For Virginia’s “limitations” upon her acceptance of the impost amendment, see ibid., III, 349, n. 7. The act of the Maryland General Assembly, which was not presented to Congress until 15 July 1782, was “clogged” with similar provisos (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 388: NA:PCC, No. 70, fol. 509; W. H. Browne et al., eds., Archives of Maryland, XLVIII, 158, 213).
17. In the dispatch sent to Randolph, JM wrote only “D——or W——n.” Many years later, while preparing the letter for publication, JM filled out the abbreviations (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 145–47).
18. See Motion Concerning Peace Negotiations, 17 June 1782, and n. 1.
19. See Report on Instructions on Peace Negotiations, 7 January 1782, editorial note, and n. 30. The “report” to which JM refers was entitled “Facts and Observations in support of the several Claims of the United States not included in their Ultimatum of the 15th of June, 1781.” This lengthy essay had been drafted by Randolph with help from JM’s Report on Instructions on Peace Negotiations, 7 January 1782. As early as 22 April 1782 Randolph had written Governor Harrison: “I was instructed by my brethren in the delegation to obtain access to the entries of the council before the revolution. A report is prepared for congress in the form of an instruction to the ministers of the united states, who are to negotiate peace, in which the affair of western territory is pretty fully discussed. But we supposed, that the subject would receive considerable illustration, by consulting those entries. With the permission of the executive therefore I will collect such information from them, as applies to the present case” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 332).
20. The Battle of the Saints.
21. Following “it,” JM wrote and struck out “must.”
22. In accordance with the ninth article of the Articles of Confederation, Congress on 14 November 1781 had adopted a committee report, drafted by Randolph, calling upon Pennsylvania and Connecticut to send agents to Congress on 24 June 1782 for the purpose of presenting the respective claims of their states to the Wyoming Valley, located in that part of Northampton County which was to become Luzerne County in 1786 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1115–16). Although the four “counsellors and agents” and the “solicitor” of Pennsylvania appeared on the appointed day, Eliphalet Dyer was the only one of the three Connecticut agents on hand. He was also a delegate from his state in Congress (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 345–47). See JM to Randolph, 16 July 1782, n. 22.
Congress waited for two days and then took two motions under advisement—one by Dyer to postpone the hearing until “the 25 or 26 of July,” and the other by Thomas Smith of the Pennsylvania delegation, reading “That the State of Connecticut, not having appeared by their lawful agents, agreeably to the resolution of the 14th day of November last, therefore Congress will, on the day of next, proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, in order that due proceedings may be had on the dispute mentioned in the said resolution, agreeably to the 9th Article of Confederation” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 351–52). On the following day, with the Connecticut delegation alone in dissent, Congress refused to postpone a decision of the controversy “until after the termination of the present war,” as requested by “the governor and company of the State of Connecticut.” Thereupon, Bland moved “That the sense of the house be taken, whether the reasons for the nonattendance of the agents from Connecticut & be sufficient.” No doubt JM would have supported this motion, but it never came to a vote (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 355–57, 359, 361). Connecticut, it will be recalled, was opposing Virginia’s title to the Northwest Territory. See Observations Relating to the Influence of Vermont and Territorial Claims, 1 May 1782.
The delegates from Connecticut succeeded in preventing a further consideration of the issue until 16 July 1782. This was the day after Jesse Root, who served Connecticut both as a delegate and agent, had resumed his seat in Congress (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 376–77; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 386, 389). See also Report on Mission To Inform States of Financial Crisis, 22 May 1782, and n. 2.