Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison
RC (Virginia State Library). In JM’s hand. The cover is franked by “J. Madison Jr.,” addressed to “His Excellency Benjamin Harrison Esqr. Richmond,” and docketed, “Letter from Virg Dels Decr. 3d. 82.” The words italicized in the letter are those written by JM in the official cipher.
Philada. Decr. 3d. 1782.
From a consultation with the Secy at War1 we concluded that it would be fruitless, and therefore unadvisable to solicit either a repayment or sale of powder from the Magazines of the U. States.2 We were informed by him however that there are in the magazine3 within Virginia three hundred thirty six barrels of loose powder and seventy of fixed ammunition: that additional supplies will be forwarded as prudence may suggest; that this resource will on all emergencies be open to the State, and to ensure it the more satisfactorily that orders will be given to the Keepers in cases of invasion particularly, to comply with requisitions from the Executive.4 The Secy. added a request to be informed through us of the productiveness of the Lead Mines in their present State, with an intimation that powder may perhaps be obtained from the general Stock by barter for any surplus of that article.5 We have judged it prudent to suspend making a purchase here from individuals, untill the Executive can decide how far the expediency of such a measure may be superceded by the foregoing information; supposing it to be neither for the interest of Virginia nor of the U. States, that the resources should be superfluously expended in Stores, and that it is particularly against the interest of the former to take upon herself a burden which ought & probably will be borne by the latter. Should the Executive view the subject differently We shall readily conform to their original plan.6
That we might not unnecessarily repeat our solicitations to the Chevr. de la Luzerne with respect to the transportation of the arms & ammunition from France, We thought it best to confer in the first instance with Mr. Morris on the chance of effecting it under his auspices. We found that a previous application from your Excellency had led his thoughts to the same subject. It is uncertain as yet how far this channel is to be relied on.7 By the next post we hope to be able to give you more satisfactory information.8
Your Excellency’s favor of the 23d. Ulto.9 has come duly to hand. An omission of the paper referred to as inclosed renders the first paragraph unintelligible, and consequently an answer to it must be postponed untill the omission shall be supplied.10 Our last will have given you information from the War office relative to cloathing for the troops.11 Our attention to that essential point will not however be discontinued. The letters of Marque shall be duly forwarded.12
With sentiments of great esteem We have the honor to be Yr. Excellency’s Mo: obt. & hble servants
J Madison Jr.
P. S. The inclosed note just recd. from Genl. Lincoln13 who undertook to procure for us the state & price of powder in private hands in this City, will complete our answer to your Excellency on that subject
1. Benjamin Lincoln.
3. Instead of writing 664, the cipher for “z.” JM wrote 631, the cipher for “x.” The continental magazine and laboratory were now at New London in Bedford County, Va. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 216; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 187, n. 34b; Janet Shaffer, “New London,” Virginia Cavalcade, XV, No. 3 [Winter 1966], 22–29).
4. The expression “fixed ammunition” means cartridges. The chief of the “Keepers” was Captain Nathaniel Irish (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 , II, 292, n. 4; 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, 227).
5. For the lead mines in Virginia, 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 , I, 250; III, 69, n. 5. On 18 December 1782 the Governor in Council, with authorization of the General Assembly, decided to sell all the public property at the mines, “except the Negroes” who had been working there, and to contract with a private operator to supply the state with 50,000 pounds of lead during “the ensuing year” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, pp. 46, 56, 60; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 195; 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, 422, 426).
13. Not found.