James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 22 October 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Addressed by him to “The honble Edmd Randolph.” Cover missing. Docketed by Randolph, “J Madison. jr. Octob: 22. 1782.” Unless otherwise noted, the italicized passages are those encoded by JM in the official cipher.

Editorial Note

As JM stated in the first paragraph of this letter, his quotation from the commission of Alleyne Fitzherbert is only a “skeleton” of the whole document. With their dispatch of 22 October to Governor Harrison (q.v.), the Virginia delegates sent, as enclosure No. 1, a copy by JM of the full text of the commission. He docketed it, “Copy of Plenipo: Commission to Mr. Fitzherbert No. 1. [July 24. 1782.].” Filed with this manuscript in the Virginia State Library is Arthur Lee’s translation of the Latin text of the commission into English. In the footnotes below, the portions of the commission omitted or abbreviated by JM are taken from the copy he made for Harrison. Unless otherwise noted, the quotations in English in the footnotes are from Lee’s translation.

Philada. Ocr. 22d. 1782.

My dear Sir

By the vessel spoken of in my last1 Congress have recd. a letter from Mr. Adams dated Hague Aug: 18th. which inclosed a copy of the Plenipotentiary Commission issued to Mr. Fitzherbert2 the British Minister at Brussels. The following skeleton of the Commission will give you an idea of its aspect towards America. “Geo: tertius &c. omnibus &c. salutem.3 Cum belli incendio, jam nimis diu diversis orbis terrarum partibus flagrante, in id quam maxime incumbamus, ut tranquilitas publica, tot litibus4 &c. rite compositis, reduci &c. possit, cumque eâ de causa, virum quendam tanto negocio pacem, ad bonum fratrem nostrum, Regem Chrismum. mittere decrevimus—Sciatis igitur quod nos fide &c. Allieni Fitzherbert &c. confisi, eundem &c. nominavimus &c. nostrum Plenipotentiarum &c.5 dantes &c. eidem omnem potestatem &c. nec non mandatum generale pariter ac speciale &c. in aulâ prædicti bon: frat: Reg: Chrismi. pro nobis et nostro nomine, una cum6 Plenipotentiariis, tam Celsorem et Præpotentium Dominorum, ordinum Generalium Fœderati Belgii, quam quorumcunque Principum et Statuum quorum interesse poterit,7 sufficiente auctoritate instructis, tam singulatim ac divisim quam aggregatim ac conjunctim, congrediendi &c. atque cum ipsis di pace, concordia &c. restituendis, tractandi &c.8 In quorum fidem &c. præsentibus &c. &c. in palitio nostro &c. 24 Jul: 1782.9

The only further circumstance contained in his letter relative to the business of a pacification is the appointment of a Plenipo: by the States Genl. who was to set out for Paris in about three weeks after the date of the letter.10

The States of Holland & W. Friesland had determined upon the proposed Treaty of Commerce & Mr. A. expected to have a speedy conference with the States Genl. in order to bring it to a conclusion.11

The same conveyance brought Congress a letter from Mr. Dana dated June 28.12 It consists almost entirely of a dissertation on the commercial advantage of the Revolution to Russia, which had in consequence of his management been ultimately placed in the hands he wished. As a sample of his competency to the subject13 I subject the following paragraph “Besides, how is Russia paid for her productions &c.? Is it not by an exchange in a very great proportion for foreign commodities? Are not many of these for: comties:14 of the peculiar production or manufacture of America, such as Rice, Indigo, sugar coffee cocoanuts pimento cochineal and all sorts of dying woods15 Does it make no difference to the interests of Russia, whether she receives those articles directly from the countries which produce them, or in a circuitous voyage thro’ G. B. &c.”16

As a sample of his political talents here is another paragraph: “Immediately after we had rcd. intelligence here of the late important change in the Councils & in the System of G: B. I consulted my correspondent17 upon the expediency of discloseing my public character without further delay to her Majestys principal minister18 He gave me his opinion freely & candidly. For your information I need only say that it is the same in every respect with his former one &c:19 I can not take upon me to say that his opinion is not well founded My private sentiment then was that that event could not fail to occasion a correspondent change in her Majestys system also but I knew my means of information were not as good as those of my correspondent, and that tho’ every one seemed to think the Mediation of her Majesty between G. B. and Holland in effect at an end, yet in form it was still kept up; so that the reasons against &c. might still be supposed to have some influence. This determined me to conform to his advice20

The Secy. at War lately communicated to Congress an extract of a letter from Genl. Washington of a very unwelcome tenor It paints the discontents of the army in very unusual colours and surmises some dangerous eruption unless a payment can be effected within the present year The Secy. is gone to Head Quarters at the request of the general How far their joint precautions will calm the rising billows must be left to the result21

Congress have reduced the estimate for the ensuing year to 6,000,000 Drs. and the requisition on the States for the present to 1/3 of that sum. A call for the residue is suspended till the result of their application for loans shall be known.22

The Combined fleet have certainly gone to support the siege of Gibralter. The Dutch has returned to the Texel. According to the preconcerted plan it was to have proceeded North About after disposing of its Convoy and have reinforced the combined fleet. The disappointment is traced up to the machinations of the Prince of Orange whose attachment to the Enemies of the Republic seems to be fatal to all her exertions.23 For other particulars taken from foreign gazettes I refer to those herewith inclosed, and those inclosed to Mr. Ambler.24

Mr. Jones has not yet thoroughly recovered from his late indisposition. A partial relapse has detained him from Congress for several days. His lady is at present in a much better State.25 Col: Bland has also been on the list of Valetudinarians. He is at present out of Town, having made an excursion for the benefit of exercise & of country air.26

Yesterday’s post brought me no letter from you.

3Georgius Rex Georgius tertius dei gratiâ Magnae Britaniæ Franciæ et Hiberniæ rex, fidei Defensor, Dux Brunsvicensis &c. &c. omnibus et singulis ad quos presentes hae[c] litera pervenerint, Salutem.” “George Rex George the 3d., by the grace of God, of G. Britain France & Ireland King, Defender of the faith, Duke of Brunswick, &c. &c. to all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting.”

4From “Cum belli” to this point, JM follows the text faithfully. It reads from “litibus” to the dash: “controversiis rite compositis, reduci et stabiliri possit, cumque eâ de causa virum quendam tanto negocio pacem, ad bonum nostrum fratrem, Regum Christianissimum mittere, decrevimus.” “We being desirous of putting an end to the war now raging in so many parts of the world & that the various Disputes & claims may be settled & having for that reason determined to send a fit person to our good Brother the most Christian King.”

5Sciatis igitur quod nos, fide industriâ ingenii perspicacia et rerum usu, fidelis et dilecti nobis Allieni Fitzherbert Armigeri plurimum confisi, eundem nominavimus fecimus et constituimus, sicut per præsentes, nominamus facimus et constituimus nostrum verum certum et indubitatum commissarium, procuratorum et plenipotentarium” “Now—Know ye—that we trusting in the diligence & abilities of our most faithful & belovd Allen Fitzherbert Esqr. have namd, constituted & appointd & by these Presents do name, constitute & appoint the said Allen Fitzherbert our true, certain & undoubted Commissioner Plenipotentiary”

6dantes et concedentes eidem omnem et omnimodum potestatem facultatem auctoritatem que, nec non mandatum generale pariter ac speciale (ita tamen ut generale speciali non deroget nec e contra) in aulâ praedicti boni fratris nostri Regis Christianissimi, pro nobis et nostro nomine una cum” “giving & granting to the same; all & all manner of power, privilege, & authority, & also our general & special Instructions, (so that the general ones be not derogatory of the special ones & vice versâ) to meet & negociate in our name with”[.] Lee omitted, “at the aforesaid court of our good brother the most Christian king.”

7JM underlined the words which here are italicized. With the exception of the opening words, “Legatis Commissariis Deputatis et,” JM copied this passage in full. “all Ambassadors, Commissioners Deputies & Plenipotentiaries as well of the high & mighty Lords the States general as of all Princes & States whom it may concern.” JM no doubt wished especially to call Randolph’s attention to this passage as revealing the “aspect” of the commission toward the United States.

Although John Adams made no comment on this matter in his dispatch of 18 August transmitting a copy of the commission to Robert R. Livingston, he sent on the same day another copy to Henry Laurens in Nantes, asking him to forward it to Congress so “that it may go as many ways as possible.” In his covering letter to Laurens, Adams queried, “What think you of the words ’quorumcunque statuum quorum interesse poterit?’ If we should presume to think ourselves included in these words will Lord Shelburne be of the same mind?” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 667).

8In this passage from “sufficiente” through “pace” JM’s copy conforms with the one which he made for Governor Harrison, except that in the latter “et colloquendi” replaces the “&c.” after “congrediendi.” After “pace” JM omitted “firmâ et stabili, sinceruque amicitia et concordiâ, quantotius restituendis, conveniendi tractandi consulandi et concludendi eaque omnia, quae ita conventa et conclusa fuerint, pro nobis et nostro nomine subsignandi, superque conclusis Tractatum, Tractatusque, vel alia instrumenta quotquot, et qualia necessaria quae ad opus supradictum feliciter exequandum pertinent, transigendi tam amplis modo et formâ ac vi effectuque pari, ac nos, si interessemus, facere et praestare possemus, spondentes et in verbo regis promittentes, nos omnia et singula, quaecunque a dicto nostro Plenipotentiarii tranigi et concludi contigerint grata, rata et accepta, omni meliori modo, habituros, neque possesuros unquam, ut in toto vel in parte a quoniam violentur, aut ut iis in contrarium eatur[?].

In his translation Lee shortened the passage to read: “with each or with all of them, of a firm lasting & sincere friendship & peace; & promising in the name of a King to confirm & ratify all & every thing which shall be concluded in the premises by our said Plenipotentiary in our name, in full form & effect as if we ourselves had been present, & that we will not suffer it, to be infringd or contravend in whole or in part.”

9“In quorum majorem fidem et robur, præsentibus manu nostro signatis magnum nostrum Magnæ Britanicæ, sigillum appendi fecimus; quae debentur in palatio nostro Divi Jacobi vicesimo quarto die mensis Julii, anno Domini 1782. Regnique Nostri 22.” “In testimony whereof, we have signd these Presents & orderd them to be seald with our Great Seal of Great Britain,—Given in our Palace of St. James’s this 24th day of July An: Dom: 1782 & in the 22d year of our reign.”

12See Report on Alliance with the Netherlands, 22 October 1782, n. 1. Dana’s letter is in NA: PCC, No. 89, II, 624–31.

13The passages selected for encoding in this paragraph and the next scarcely involve confidential matters of state. JM chiefly wished to protect himself from having his scorn of Dana’s “talents” revealed to anyone who might intercept the letter. For earlier evidence of JM’s low estimate of Dana’s ability, 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, 181; 182, n. 14; 242; 274–75; 281, n. 13.

14These two abbreviations stand for “foreign commodities.”

15JM underlined as well as encoded the words which here are italicized. By “America,” Dana obviously meant Latin America as well as the United States. In Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 529, “cocoa-nuts” erroneously appears as “cocoa.”

16“G. B.,” of course, stands for Great Britain. After this sentence, Dana added: “Does not this course draw along with it: double Freight; double Insurance, double Commissions, and are not all the other charges attending a voyage (to say nothing of additional duties) ordinarily doubled by means of this circuitous course? Will not the price of such American commodities be increased by these means when they arrive in Russia, at the most moderate computation, at the rate of 25 pr. Centm?” (NA: PCC, No. 89, II, 626).

17Charles Olivier de Saint-Georges, Marquis de Vérac, French ambassador at the court of the tsarina Catherine II. 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, 182, n. 14.

18When encoding “Majestys” here, and also later in the paragraph, JM wrote 461, signifying “ay,” rather than 465, the cipher for “ma.” Dana’s reference to “principal minister” probably was to Ivan Andreievich, Count Osterman (1724–1811), imperial vice chancellor for foreign affairs.

19Papers 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, 182, n. 14.

20Ibid., IV, 101; 103, n. 7; 106, n. 3; 219; 220, n. 3; 386; 388, n. 11.

21On 15 October, upon receiving Secretary at War Benjamin Lincoln’s letter of 14 October transmitting the dispatch of 2 October to him from Washington, Congress granted Lincoln a leave of absence “to visit the Commander in Chief” and referred the two communications to a committee with Theodorick Bland as its chairman (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 657, n. 4).

In his letter Washington attributed “the discontents” of the officers and enlisted men principally to “the total want of Money, or the means of existing from One day to another, the heavy debts they have already incurred, the loss of Credit, the distress of their Families (i e such as are Maried) at home, and the prospect of Poverty and Misery before them,” and the realization that “those in the Civil walk of life” although “unacquainted with half the hardships,” were being “regularly paid.” Washington added, “there never was so great a spirit of Discontent as at this instant: While in the field, I think it may be kept from breaking out into Acts of Outrage, but when we retire into Winter Quarters (unless the Storm is previously dissipated) I cannot be at ease, respecting the consequences. It is high time for a Peace” (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, 226–29).

22See JM to Pendleton, 22 October 1782, and nn. 10 and 11.

23Ibid., and n. 14.

24Which newspapers JM enclosed is unknown, but the Pennsylvania Gazette of 16 October, the Pennsylvania Journal of 19 October, and the Pennsylvania Packet of 19 and 22 October contained news from Madrid as late as 21 June, from London as late as 29 July, and from Kingston, Jamaica, as late as 14 September 1782. JM’s letter, if any, to Ambler has not been found.

26The duration of Theodorick Bland’s “excursion” to Bethlehem, Pa., is not known. Apparently he was absent from Congress on 18 October, after being there three days before, and he returned “a few days” before 29 October. He attended Congress on 28 October (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 654–56, 665, 667–69, 690; JM to Randolph, 29 October 1782).

Index Entries