James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 3 September 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (New York Public Library). Unsigned letter in JM’s hand. JM franked the letter and addressed it to “The honble Edmund Pendleton Esqr. Caroline County Virginia.” Docketed by Pendleton, “James Madison jr. Esq. Sepr. 3d. 1782.” An unknown hand, seemingly contemporaneous, lightly sketched in ink in the center of the page an unhappy British lion courant being pursued by an Indian, probably representing America, armed with a trident.

Philada. Sepr. 3. 1782.

Dear Sir

The cautious ear which your favr. of the 26 Aug.1 shews that you gave to the communications of Genl Carlton is fully justified by the insidious marks they bear as well as by the general tenor of British proceedings. I am sorry that I am obliged to repeat2 my inability to add any new lights from Europe on this interesting subject. We are unhappily left exposed to all the misrepresentations which the Enemy may please to practise upon us.

It appears from a New York paper that the British Commander in Charleston had given notice3 on the 7th. Ulto: to the Inhabitants that he meant speedily to evacuate that Garrison; with an offer to transport to Augustine or elsewhere such as chose to adhere to the British cause.4 This information will probably have reached you before this does.5 The fermentation at New York is said to be much increased by it.6 We have no other materials for ascertaining the probability of an evacuation of the latter port than you will be possessed of.7

I have seen nothing of the man in pursuit of your Nephews slave, from which as the French troops are now passing thro’ this place, I infer that he has fulfilled his mission & returned.8 A slight indisposition for some days past9 has kept me from being about as much as I otherwise should I have however made application to Mr. de Marbois10 for his advice as to the most proper Course to be pursued; and he thinks it will be best to postpone a search under the orders of the Commanders11 till the army shall be stationary again. This will not I suppose12 be the case till they reach their destination.13 At present they march in several divisions and halt but one day here. The implication which the frequent applications of this sort14 carry of at least a defect of vigilan[c]e against an illicit resort of slaves to the army15 renders them I believe rather unpleasant. If the overseer should not have recovered the slave & you have no acquaintances where the Army may finally halt, I will take every step in my power to have him found out & secured.

The effects of the dry weather here although less than you describe them in Virginia are very considerable already in the markets, and particularly in the article of forage. On the other side the rumors of peace have produced some abatement in the prices of imported articles.

Mr. Jones & his lady are mending fast but are not yet sufficiently recovered to remove from their present salubrious situation into the City.16

I forgot to mention the unlucky accident which had happened to a ship of the line belonging to our Allies in Boston Harbour. As I observe however that it is published in the gazette, I need only confirm the fact.17


2That is, in his letter of 20 August (q.v.) and probably also in the missing one of 27 August, which Pendleton acknowledged in his own letter of 9 September 1782 to JM (q.v.).

3Written by JM above a deleted “orders.”

4JM evidently is reporting what he had read in the Pennsylvania Packet of 31 August 1782. He of course meant St. Augustine, Fla., by “Augustine.” The British did not evacuate Charleston until 14 December 1782.

5The Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends and the Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser, which JM may have had in mind, published this “information” in their issues of 14 September. One or both of the papers probably reached Pendleton after he had received the present letter.

6The Pennsylvania Packet of 31 August mentioned the great discontent of the New York City Loyalists but did not specifically attribute it to the report that the British garrison would be soon withdrawn from Charleston.

7JM interlineated “the latter.” The evacuation of New York City and its environs by the British armed forces took place gradually during most of 1783 and was not completed until 25 November of that year (Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Father Knickerbocker Rebels, pp. 263–67).

9JM interlineated “slight.” JM had voted in Congress on 29 August, and would vote there on 6 September, after apparently being absent on the fifth. The journal of Congress records no tallied vote on 30 August and 3 and 4 September. Judging from the journal, Congress did not convene on Saturday, 31 August, and Monday, 2 September 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, 538–53).

10François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, secretary of the French legation and consul general of France. He and JM were friends (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, 326, ed. n.).

11JM wrote and deleted “french” before “Commanders.”

12JM interlineated “I suppose.”

13Although Rochambeau’s orders, which he probably had not yet received, led him and his troops by December 1782 to Boston, their immediate destination was the Hudson River above New York City, so as to join Washington’s army. This rendezvous was effected near Peekskill on the eastern bank of the Hudson on 14 September. The French resumed their march toward Boston on 25 October 1782 (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXV, 157 n., 181, 297).

14JM interlineated “frequent” and “of this sort.”

15After writing “to them” instead of “to the army,” JM struck out the “m” of “them” and interlineated “army.”

17See Motion Concerning the “America,” 3 September 1782, and ed. n. Unless JM predated his letter by one day, he must have waited to seal it until 4 September, because that issue of the Pennsylvania Journal was the first of the Philadelphia newspapers to report the loss of the “Magnifique.”

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