From Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Undocketed. Cover missing.
Richmond August 24. 1782.
I fear much from the insidious views of the enemy in the overtures of peace, communicated in your favors of the 12th1 and 13th.2 instant: both of which came to hand on the same day. Most people here flatter themselves with the hope of an immediate peace. To me it does not seem to be hastened an iota by the motions of Mr. Grenville,3 farther than that the time, which will be some day or other spent in attempts upon the fidelity of the allies, will now perhaps once for all be run over. He cannot be more than an exploring bird; sent out to inquire into the pretensions and weak sides of the belligerent parties. If immediate peace were intended, would Fox encourage his enemy by the boldness, with which he pourtrays the distresses of his nation?4 The resignation of Canada as a 14th. State is too magnificent for belief: and mars the rest of Mr. Blake’s account.5
But surely the king of Great Britain means nothing more, than to offer us his submission to our independence upon base terms and upon the rejection of the offer to make a forcible appeal to those, who sigh for peace. The fracture of the alliance is certainly the condition. Should France, altho’ at the commencement of the war her object was single,6 have extended her prospects, as she might rightfully do, during the various events of it,7 and demand the cession of territory to herself8—Europe and America will resound with invectives against the conversion of her former disinterestedness into an appetite for acquiring. The impression of these manoeuvres on the minds of the weak may perhaps be great.
Three days ago we were informed that a large fleet, consisting of no less than eighty sail, were seen within our capes. This story naturally brought to our recollection the embarkation at New York.9 But it cannot be said to have alarmed us. From the want of confirmation, I am well satisfied, that a speculator10 was concerned in its fabrication.
I cannot derive any aid from the treasury for you. Not intending to forbid the resources, contained in my two last letters,11 suffer me to add another. The inclosed note to a Jew,12 who lives at one Israel Myers’s13 in Market Street, will perhaps operate something. He knows me well and my punctuality too. His partner in Richmond14 knows me also.
I have heard nothing from Mr. Jefferson lately. The imminent danger of his lady must be the cause of his silence on the subject of western territory.15
Mr. Henry, it is said, is resolved not to return to the assembly, even at the next session. Draw from hence your own conclusions.16
Adieu, my dear friend; and attribute the barrenness of this letter to the scantiness of events. Remind Mr. Jones of my sincere esteem for him.17
1. Not found. JM did not list it on the calendar of his letters to Randolph which he made after recovering them in 1821. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 100–101.
6. Apparently used in the sense of “unselfish” or “high-minded,” connoting that France had entered the war in 1778 only to help the Americans win independence from Great Britain.
7. Randolph interlineated “it” above a deleted “the war.”
8. While by Article VI of the Treaty of Alliance between France and the United States Louis XVI renounced “for ever the possession of the islands of Bermudas” and any territory on the continent of North America belonging to the United States or to Great Britain, Article VII of that treaty stipulated: “If his most christian majesty shall think proper to attack any of the islands situated in the gulf of Mexico, or near that gulf, which are at present under the power of Great Britain, all the said isles, in case of success, shall appertain to the crown of France.” In Article XI, the United States guaranteed to France its “present possessions” in America, “as well as those which it may acquire by the future treaty of peace” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 450–51, 452).
9. This incorrect rumor may have been started by someone who saw a British fleet of twenty-six ships off the Chesapeake Capes on its way from New York City to Charleston (Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 9 August, and n. 3; Pendleton to JM, 26 August 1782). The Richmond weekly newspapers, issued on the day Randolph wrote, do not mention the matter.
10. By inventing a story that Virginia was threatened anew with British invaders, a speculator might hope to depress the value of paper currency or the price of tobacco, flour, and other commodities, so that he could buy them more cheaply until the falsity of the rumor became evident. For an earlier surmise of a like “Mercantile Maneuver,” see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 43; 44, n. 7; 63–64.
12. Not found but no doubt addressed to Jacob Cohen, of Richmond, who spent much time in 1782 in Philadelphia, probably as a buyer for the new Richmond firm of Isaacs, Cohen and Company. Cohen loaned £50 to JM, who in turn gave an order in favor of Isaiah Isaacs (d. 1806), Cohen’s partner in Richmond (Jacob Rader Marcus, Early American Jewry [2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1951–53], II, 185, 187; Isaac Landman, ed., The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia [10 vols.; New York, 1939–43], V, 598). See also JM to Randolph, 3, 10, and 16–17 September 1782.
13. Israel Myers, prominent in the business life of Philadelphia, lived in its Lower Delaware ward in 1782 (Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 3d ser., XVI, 293).
14. See n. 12, above; also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 208, n. 3; Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 29 June 1782; Herbert T. Ezekiel and Gaston Lichtenstein, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917 (Richmond, 1917), pp. 15, 18, 19.
15. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 249, n. 6; 395.
16. Although Patrick Henry was one of the two delegates from Henry County, and Jefferson one of the two from Albemarle County, neither would attend the October 1782 session of the General Assembly. Randolph probably expected JM to conclude that with these two leaders absent, the Lees would dominate the Assembly. Consequently it might send instructions which would be unwelcome to JM and Jones of the Virginia delegation in Congress. See Randolph to JM, 2 November 1782.
17. Returning from Virginia, Jones reached Philadelphia on 25 August, but illness prevented him from resuming his seat in Congress until 5 September (JM to Randolph, 27 August 1782; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 547).