From the Reverend James Madison
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Madison Js. Revd Jany. 16. 1783.”
Jany. 16th. 1783
I recd yesterday your’s of the 24th. Ulto.2 and am much obliged for the part you have taken in both the affairs mentioned. As the Price is so high, I am not very much disappointed at the Want of Ingredients:3 As to the Seal, we shall take it very kind of you to forward it as soon as convenient. The Money shall be paid by a Bill without Delay. Opportunities to Richmond probably are much more frequent than to this Place, & will answer nearly as well.4
It appears, I think now, that the principal Stumbling Block is removed. The Commission you mention, certainly promises a Solicitude on the Part of Britain, at least, for Negotiation, if it has not in Fact; given up the grand Point for wh. we contend.5 No Country ever stood more in Need of Peace than this. Virginia, wh. ought by Nature, & wh. a Peace will prove it to be, the most flourishing of the Union, is now almost a sapless Trunk. Our Money continually drained from among us, centers elsewhere, we have not eno’ for common purposes, & even this little is every Day growing less & less. But, I fear, from a Copy of a late Letter wh. is now generally circulated, that Obstacles to Peace will still arise, wh. the unsuspecting did not foresee. The Authority upon wh. it rests, is that of our public Ministers abroad. It’s Contents are now no Secret to the World. They are in the Mouth of every Body, & whether true or not, seem to have excited a general Alarm.6
A Question was asked by the Author of the Letter before alluded to, before a Committee of the House, & a large Concourse of Strangers, was asked too of a Member of C. itself, “Do you not know that a Majority of C. are under the Influence of the French Minister?”7 If this really be the Case, perhaps Peace, and even honle. Peace, will in vain hold out the Olive to America herself. I hope however that you are not under this Influence. If you are, the World does you great Injustice, for you are not even suspected.8 But it was certainly a curious Question, considering from whence it came & to whom it was directed, & withall the Occasion on wh. it was proposed. You know probably the Circumstances wh. called forth all this Matter allud[ed to] in our Assembly. If you do not, I do not feel myself disposed to enter into a Detail, as I am sure, it wd give you little Satisfact[ion.] It may serve however hereafter for the curious Retailer of historical Affairs to make many sage Reflections upon.
I once more take the Liberty to inclose a Letter in yours. I would not omit answering one recd from Dr Coste,9 & it appeared the best Channel to forward it to him, as you probably have frequen[t] Communication with the F. Army. I shall not however make a practice of this, nor even now shd not impose[?] it, but that I apprehended, it wd. not otherwise get to him.
Many friends here wish you all Happiness & no one more sincerely than
If the Doct has left Ama. the Letter may be burnt—10
1. For JM’s appointment as a colonel of the militia of Orange County, Va., see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 163.
2. Not found.
3. What article was priced “so high” has not been identified. Perhaps JM, in his missing letter of 24 December, informed the Reverend James Madison about the cost of making “Cakes for Electrical” experiments, which had interested the clergyman in his letter of 3 October to JM. If this surmise is accurate, the “Ingredients” would correspond with “the other Parts of the Apparatus” mentioned in that letter (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 179; 180, n. 5).
4. Although the College of William and Mary already had a seal, and the faculty minutes omit mention of the need for another, the Reverend James Madison no doubt referred to a second seal being made for the college of which he was the president. See Jones to JM, 25 May, and Receipt of Robert Scot, engraver, 16 June 1783 (LC: Madison Papers). To desire a private carrier to deliver the seal is understandable, for a package weighing only a pound would have cost nearly $15.00, if sent by the continental postal service from Philadelphia to either Richmond or Williamsburg (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 676–77).
5. In his missing letter of 24 December 1782 to the Reverend James Madison, JM evidently had included at least most of the information mentioned in the first paragraph of his letter on the same day to Edmund Randolph (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 448). Richard Oswald’s revised “Commission,” by authorizing him as a representative of King George III to treat for peace with the commissioners “of the thirteen United States of America” rather than with thirteen “colonies or plantations,” conceded the “grand Point for wh. we contend” and thus removed the “principal Stumbling Block” on the road to peace (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., V, 613–14, 748–50; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 415–16; 418, n. 17).
6. The “late Letter” almost certainly was that of Arthur Lee to Mann Page, Jr. See ibid., V, 184, and n. 4. The “Contents” of this letter and even its exact date are unknown. The Reverend James Madison probably meant that France, chiefly because of unfulfilled obligations to her ally Spain, was putting “Obstacles” in the way of peace between the United States and Great Britain. Lee’s letter to Page had been written in September or October 1782, or before dispatches from John Jay and John Adams, warning against the allegedly devious course of France in the peace negotiations, had reached Congress. On the other hand, friends of Lee in Massachusetts appear to have kept him informed about the anti-French comments of John Adams in his private letters (Richard Henry Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, LL.D. [2 vols.; Boston, 1829], II, 277–78). Included in the Virginia Gazette of 11 January 1783 is an “Extract of a letter from Paris, October 18” reporting offers by Great Britain to cede territory in North America to France if she would withdraw from her alliance with the United States.
7. For the inquiry by a committee of the Virginia House of Delegates occasioned by Arthur Lee’s letter to Mann Page, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 184, and n. 4; 339, and n. 7; 400; 403, nn. 9–14; 404, nn. 16–19; Randolph to JM, 15 Jan. 1783, n. 13. The “Member” of Congress whom Lee addressed was Theodorick Bland (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 341; 401; 404, n. 17). The “French Minister” to the United States was the Chevalier de La Luzerne. For other apparent evidences of his “Influence,” see Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 460–61; William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 47–50; 62–65, and nn.
8. This sentence and the expression of “hope” may have been the clergyman’s tactfully humorous way of suggesting that a report had reached him of JM’s and La Luzerne’s friendship. For examples of it, but especially of the cordial relations between JM and Barbé-Marbois, secretary of the French legation, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 114–16; 116, n. 1; IV, 288; 326–30; 334; 403–4; V, 102; 103, n. 10; 152.
10. Dr. Coste possibly had left the United States either on 24 December 1782, when the French army began its voyage from Boston to the West Indies, but he more likely did so on 7 January 1783, when the Comte de Rochambeau and members of his staff sailed from Annapolis for France. Rochambeau and Dr. Coste were close friends. See ibid., V, 344, n. 7; 429, n. 5; 443, n. 3; Jean-Edmond Weelen, Rochambeau, Father and Son (New York, 1936), pp. 122, 186, 270.