James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 1 October 1782

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). In JM’s hand, except for the signatures of Joseph Jones and Arthur Lee. Addressed by JM to “His Excelly. Govr. Harrison.” Docketed, “Lr frm Virga Delegates Oct. 1. 82.”

Philada. Ocr. 1. 1782.


Your Excellency’s favor of the 20th. of Sepr. was recd. yesterday. Whatever curiosity or wonder might be excited by the letter in the post office addressed to you from Sr. G. Carlton with an endorsement by the Commander in chief, we cannot suppose that they had any other object than the views of the Writer, or that they included the slightest jealousy of your Excellencys patriotism.1

The paper No. 1 herewith inclosed is a copy intelligence transmitted to Congress by Genl Washington, and leaves us nothing to add under that head.2 No. 2 is an extract from the proceedings of Congress which may throw some light on the probable event of the territorial Cessions:3

The situation to which we are reduced by the impossibility of negociating bills on Virginia obliges us to renew our intreaties that some effectual & speedy steps may be taken for adequate remittances to us. It is unnecessary We are persuaded to multiply words on this subject to your Excellency who will so readily conceive the cruel distress which must attend a disappointment, and who is so much disposed to obviate it.

We have the honor to be Yr. Excelly’s obt. & hble servts.

J. Madison Jr.

Jos: Jones.

A. Lee

1See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 20 September, and nn. 4, 8, 9, 13, 14; Randolph to JM, 20 September 1782. JM used the word “jealousy” in the sense of “distrust” or “apprehension.”

2“The paper No. 1,” in JM’s hand, is divided into two sections. Of these, the first is entitled: “Intelligence recd. on the 18th. of Sepr. by the Commander in chief from a person immediately from N. York,” and the second: “Intelligence recd. by Genl Washington from Canada dated Sepr. 3. 1782 and judged by him to bear marks of great authenticity.” These headings and the text under each of them are approximately verbatim copies of Washington’s two enclosures in his most recent dispatches to President John Hanson. The earlier of these, dated 22 September, had been read on the twenty-eighth in Congress (NA: PCC, No. 152, X, 735–40; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 609, n. 1). On 1 October Congress listened to the other dispatch, written on 26 September (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 629, n. 1; NA: PCC, No. 152, X, 743–46).

Washington called the report accompanying his letter of 22 September, “the most direct & perfect Information I have been able to obtain.” It gave assurance, in spite of rumors about an early attack to be launched against “the French Fleet at Boston, or those at Portsmouth” by an expedition from New York, that no “offensive operations” would be undertaken by the enemy in that city. On the contrary, some of the ships in its harbor would soon go “to Charleston to bring off the garrison,” and others would “transport a no. of Refugees” to Nova Scotia. Enemy headquarters in New York had “under consideration to send off all the British Troops to the W. Indies & to garrison the City till Spring with the Foreign troops & loyalists.” General Carleton believed it “not improbable” that he soon would be ordered by London to withdraw altogether from New York.

The enclosure in Washington’s dispatch of 26 September reported from Canada that the enemy’s fortifications there, in upper New York, and in the Old Northwest were to be strengthened and manned with more soldiers. Three or four thousand were expected “from Europe and about 1500 of the foreign troops from N York.” This reinforcement, however, seemed to be only a holding operation, because the British apparently planned “to point the whole force of the nation agst. the French & Spanish settlements in the W. Indies.” A “large supply” of provisions would soon arrive in Canada from Ireland. The British in Canada had forbidden their Indian allies to make further raids against the Americans. This restraining order greatly offended the Iroquois. A “Seneca Sachem,” according to a secret American agent who had been present at a meeting between the Indians and a spokesman from enemy headquarters in Canada, declared that the British had misled his people by “lies” about winning the war and were now abandoning them to “be sacrificed or submit to the Americans.” The “Sachem” was probably the intractable and eloquent Sagoyewatha (Red Jacket) (ca. 1756–1830) (Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association, XI [1930], 341, n. 2). See also JM to Pendleton, 1 October 1782, and nn. 4 and 5.

3“No. 2,” comprising four pages, is in the hand of, and signed by, George Bond, “Depy Secy” of Congress, who, in view of the docket—reading “Mr. Madison Sept. 25th 1782”—had probably prepared the copy at JM’s request. Bond copied the report made on that day by a committee comprising John Witherspoon as chairman and JM and three other members, and the two tallies of votes taken during the debate on the report (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 604–6). For the report, see JM to Randolph, 10 September 1782, and nn. 12–17.

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