James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 24 September 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (American Philosophical Society). In JM’s hand, except for signatures of Joseph Jones, Arthur Lee, and Theodorick Bland. Cover missing but contents make certain that the letter was addressed to Governor Harrison.

Philada. Sepr. 24th. 1782


Yesterday’s post brought us no letter from your Excellency.1 That of the 5th. instant which had not arrived at the date of our last was received a few days after.2

By the two Frigates mentioned in our last, Congress have received letters from Docr. Franklin & Mr. Jay who were at Versailles dated the 25 & 29 of June. The sum of the intelligence which they bring concerning negociations for peace, is that the sincerity manifested at one period by the Court of London in her advances towards a pacification had been succeeded by an apparent design to draw the negociations into length with a hope of such further advantages during the campaign as would enable her to rise in her demands.3 Some communications which have been made to Congress by the French Minister present the same idea.4

The loss sustained in the French Frigate which had got aground in Delaware bay proves to be greater than was at first reported. The Enemy have succeeded in their attempts to float her, and have5 taken in her besides a considerable quantity of Merchandise nearly 50,000 Dollars.6

The paper No. 1. herewith inclosed, being an Extract of a letter from Docr. Franklin to the Superintendant of Finance will inform your Excellency of some further tokens of friendship which the United States have received from their Ally.7

The paper No. 2. contains an answer from Congress to the Resolution of the Assembly of the 2d. of July last.8

We have the honor to be with great esteem Yr. Excll’s Obt. & hble servants

J Madison Jr.

Jos: Jones.

A. Lee

Theok: Bland Jr.

2JM should have written “6th” rather than “5th. instant,” unless the recipient’s copy was dated a day earlier than the file copy. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 6 September; and Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 17 September 1782, and n. 7.

4On the date of the present letter a committee of five delegates, including Joseph Jones and Theodorick Bland, reported to Congress upon their conference with La Luzerne the day before. Having received dispatches from the Comte de Vergennes, the minister plenipotentiary of France informed the committee of the course of peace negotiations between 9 April and 28 June 1782.

Although Vergennes reaffirmed the determination of France to make no separate peace with Great Britain and to require the latter to acknowledge the independence of the United States prior to the opening of formal negotiations, he pointed out that the preliminary negotiations had been suspended by the British in June, probably because of a disagreement between Shelburne and Fox over the terms. Congress therefore should be especially wary of “British emissaries on the continent of America,” should “prevent with all care their admission,” should “recommend the same measure to the several legislatures,” and should avoid all peace parleys except by the commissioners in Paris. If a “bad situation of affairs” arose, Vergennes continued, the ultimatums of Congress which reflected only a desirable “convenience” rather than “justice and rigour” might have to be moderated. He warned that, if Great Britain was successful in her new military policy of suspending offensive operations on land in order to prosecute them more vigorously at sea, she would “return against the United States with redoubled efforts.” On 24 September Congress referred this report for consideration by a new committee with James Duane as chairman and JM as one of the other four members (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 594, 596–603). See also Conversation between Livingston and La Luzerne, 23 September 1782.

5After this word, JM wrote and deleted “carried her to New York.”

7The delegates enclosed an extract from Franklin’s letter of 25 June 1782 informing Robert Morris that King Louis XVI had considerably eased the terms originally prescribed for the repayment of loans, totaling $18,000,000, to Congress from the royal treasury. The extract is published in Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 325–26; cf. Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 513–16. See also JM to Pendleton, 24 September 1782, and n. 7.

8The enclosure is missing, but see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 16 August 1782, and n. 4.

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