James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 30 December 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked by “J. Madison Jr” and addressed by him to “Edmund Randolph Esqr Richmond.” Randolph docketed the cover, “Decr. 30. 1782. J Madison.” Except for “May” in the fourth paragraph, the words italicized are those written by JM in the Randolph code. See Randolph to JM, 22 November 1782, and n. 1.

Philada. Decr. 30th. 1782

My dear Sir

Your favor of the 13th. instant arrived a few minutes after I sealed my last.1 That of the 20th2 came duly to hand yesterday. The sensations excited in Mr. Jones and myself by the Repeal of the law in favor of the Impost were such as you anticipated. Previous to the receipt of your information a letter from Mr. Pendleton to me had suspended the progress of the Deputies of Rhode Island. Yours put an entire stop to the mission, untill the plan or some other can be extended to the case of Virga.3 The letter from the Govr. of the same date with your last, gives a hope that our representations may regain her support to the Impost, without further steps from Congress.4 Your doubt as to her power of revoking her accession, would I think have been better founded, if she had not been virtually absolved by the definitive rejection by Rho: Island; altho’ that rejection ought perhaps to have been previously authenticated to her.5 I beg you to be circumstancial on this subject especially as to the parties and motives which led to the repeal, and may oppose a reconsideration.

Mr. Jefferson arrived here on friday last,6 and is industriously arming himself for the field of negociation. The commission issued to Mr. Oswald impresses him with a hope that he may have nothing to do on his arrival7 but join in the celebrations of victory & peace. Congress however anxiously espouse the expediency of his hastening to his destination.

General McDougal, Col. Ogden & Col Brooks arrived yesterday on a mission from the army to Congress. The representations with which they are charged have not yet been handed in but I am told they breathe a proper spirit and are full of good sense.8 I presume they will furnish new topics in favor of the Impost which alone promises a chance of establishing that credit, by which alone the inadequacy of taxation can be supplied.9

The French fleet and army sailed a few days ago from Boston for the West Indies10 A Storm happened soon after their departure from which it is feared they may have suffered.11

The Ship South Carolina procured in Europe for the State after wch. she was called was taken by three British Ships & carried into N. Y. a few days ago.12 Besides the loss sustained by those interested immediately in her, her fitness for annoying our trade renders the capture a general misfortune.

The Instructions referred to in your last favor relative to a union of Councils with our ally and to confiscated property were not transmitted as you supposed.13 The first I imagine was intended to guard against any possibility of misconstruing a late incident.14

I will comply with your desire as to the extract from Mr. Jefferson’s observations, as soon as possible, perhaps by the next post, but more [prob]ably by the succeeding one.15

Mr. Ambler has not yet supplied me with answers to any of the queries. His apology is a satisfactory one, but I wish you to urge & assist his speedy compliance.16

The Lawyers, some of them at least have I hear returned from Trenton, from which it is inferred that it only remains for the Court to frame & promulge its decree.17 My next will probably transmit the tenor of it. You have not I hope forgot your promise of the case agitated so much in Virga. Mr. Pendleton’s state of it has been recd. by Mr. Jones and has increased my curiosity to see yours.18


4By “our representations,” JM referred to the dispatch of the Virginia delegates to Governor Harrison on 10 December (q.v., and n. 8), in which they explained the critical need of Congress for “some more effectual provision” to “be made for public credit” and asked him to lay the matter before the legislature. For the governor’s reply, received by JM and Joseph Jones shortly before JM wrote the present letter to Randolph, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 21 December; also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 31 December 1782.

5See Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782, n. 26. The Virginia legislature had repealed its ratification of the impost amendment on 6 and 7 December before being officially notified of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s unanimous reaffirmation of its earlier disapproval of that amendment. See Notes on Debates, 6 December 1782, and n. 29. On the other hand, the fact that dependable unofficial word of what Rhode Island had done was known in Richmond by 6 December could be cited as a justification of Virginia’s hasty action. To alter the Articles of Confederation required the approval of all thirteen state legislatures. Consequently Virginia had only rejected an amendment which already had been dealt a fatal blow by Rhode Island.

6That is, 27 December. JM erred in encoding the “so” in “Jefferson” by using the cipher 228, meaning “second,” rather than 248.

7In Paris. For Oswald’s commission and Jefferson’s election as a peace commissioner, see Motion To Renew Jefferson’s Appointment, 12 November, and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 17 December, and n. 17; Notes on Debates, 23 December 1782, and n. 4.

8JM interlineated “with.” For Major General Alexander McDougall of New York, 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 , III, 24, n. 12; and for Colonel Matthias Ogden, commander of the 1st New Jersey Regiment, see ibid., I, 159, n. 6. Lieutenant Colonel Commandant John Brooks (1752–1825), of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment, continental line, had risen to his present rank from that of captain of colonial minutemen in 1775. After the war he resumed the practice of medicine, but political and military affairs continued to engross his attention. He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1785–1786, of the state convention that ratified the Federal Constitution, 1788, and of the Massachusetts Senate, 1791. President Washington appointed him federal marshal for the District of Massachusetts in 1791 and the next year brigadier general of the United States Army—a rank he held until he resigned in 1796. He was state adjutant general of Massachusetts from 1812 to 1816, and governor from 1816 to 1822.

The “Address and Petition,” dated “December 1782” at “Cantonments, Hudson River,” was signed on behalf of the commissioned personnel of Washington’s main army and “our brethren the soldiers” by the ranking officer or officers of the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey continental lines, and of the Hospital Department and Canadian Regiment. After describing “hardships,” much greater than those borne by civilians, in the form of “hunger,” “nakedness,” consequent illnesses, and an acute lack of cash for “years,” resulting from no pay whatsoever or pay in virtually worthless certificates, the petitioners “earnestly” begged Congress to send money “as soon as possible.” “We complain,” they wrote, “that Shadows have been offered to us, while the Substance has been gleaned by others…. The uneasiness of the Soldiers, for want of pay, is great and dangerous—, any further experiments on their patience, may have fatal effects” (NA: PCC, No. 42, VI, 61–64).

JM probably had been told by Joseph Jones that, in a letter of 14 December to him from Washington, the commander-in-chief characterized the “Address” as “couched in very respectful terms” and hoped Congress would respond to it “with soothing measures” (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, 430–41). Upon receiving the “Address” on 6 January 1783, Congress referred it to a grand committee, including JM as the Virginia member (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 51; No. 186, fol. 78; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 846).

10See Notes on Debates, 21 December, and n. 5. On 29 December 1782 Livingston informed President Boudinot that La Luzerne wished Congress to be told of the departure of the French troops five days before and of the assurance of King Louis XVI that they would “always be ready to return when they could be used to advantage.” The next day Boudinot fulfilled La Luzerne’s request (NA: PCC, No. 79, II, 444–45).

11JM was correct concerning the “Storm.” He may have learned about it from a vessel putting in to Philadelphia. One of the frigates lost her main topmast and several other ships of the French fleet were stripped of considerable canvas as the result of gales and heavy seas continuing from 25 December 1782 to 3 January 1783 (Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , pp. 277–81).

12JM interlineated “Ships” and “ago.” For the “South Carolina,” 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, 112, n. 6. On 19 December this 40-gun vessel, having 450 men in her crew and proceeding from Philadelphia to cruise off the Carolina coast, was captured near the Delaware capes by the “Quebec,” “Astrea,” and Diomede,” and taken into New York Harbor three days later (Pennsylvania Packet, 28 and 31 December 1782; 2 January 1783).

14JM referred to the Arthur Lee–Mann Page issue in the Virginia House of Delegates. See Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782, and nn. 9, 11–13.

15The bracketed syllable signifies that a small piece of the manuscript is missing at the fold. See Memorandum for Barbé-Marbois, 1 August, and ed. n.; Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782. Shortly before 7 February 1783 Randolph seems to have received from JM a copy of a portion of the notes which he had taken on Jefferson’s memorandum for Barbé-Marbois (JM to Randolph, 18 February 1783, in LC: Madison Papers).

17Between “the” and “Court,” JM canceled “Judges.” The Pennsylvania Packet of 28 December 1782 announced that the argument of counsel in the hearing at Trenton of the Pennsylvania-Connecticut boundary controversy had been completed four days ago, and the judges would probably announce their decision “next week.” See JM to Randolph, 19 November, and nn. 12, 17; 17 December 1782, and n. 23.

18See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 3; 26 October, and nn. 9, 10; Pendleton to JM, 9 December 1782, and n. 4.

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