From Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Letter unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed to “The honble James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia. To go by the post.” Docketed by JM on the right margin of the cover, “Richmond Feby. 1st. 83,” and on the left margin, “Feby. 1. 1783.”
Pettus’s1 near Richmond Feby. 1. 1783.
My dear friend
The death of my aunt2 unfortunately furnishes me with an apology for the late omissions in my correspondence. At this moment I am just returned from Wmsburg, and from the hurry of the post and the labour of getting a letter sent from hence to the mail thro’ a snow-storm, I can barely acknowledge the receipt of your great favors of the 7. 14. & 22. Ulto.3
So deeply am I impressed with the dismal effects of refusing the five per cent,4 that if I could accommodate some violent altercations, in which I am involved by the falling of my uncle’s estate into my hands and I supposed that incessant efforts would accomplish its revival, I would go into the assembly. But a curious incident has happened to me; my father, who is an alien, having an interest for life in the estate before it of right belongs to me, and his creditors, numerous and greedy, are pressing hard upon me for a delivery of the property to their use. Now if the laws were to justify me in the most exclusive appropriation of those funds to my own use, I would not so apply them: but I cannot bear the separation of negro-families. I have therefore taken a middle mode, to offer the creditors the neat profits during my father’s life. These deductions added to the certain necessity and obligation of supporting his family, will incumber me immensely. However if I can make a fortunate compromise, I may afford to resign my office and will go into the legislature.5
Our court of admiralty continues in its abhorrence of british goods. A flag vessel was fitted out from this state for carrying Colo. Simmons’s tobacco to New-York and on her return took in a few, very few trifles, But their insignificance did not protect them. No law exists for the condemnation of the vessel, and therefore she was acquitted.6
I wish, that our state would recollect the importance of providing for continental as well [as] local pay of officers. A large number of horses are to be sold and the warrants of the military officers of the state are to be received in payment, as I am informed. There is certainly much justice in this: but the grant of the 5 pr.ct. would render the public conduct one consistent plan of justice.7
In a conversation with McClurg, I mentioned the late arrangement, which was on the point of taking place, and prevented only by a critical retender of Mr. L’s services. Modesty would not suffer him to be direct; but it is clear, that he would be inlisted into public service.8 This winter will probably give a turn to his studies into the channel of politicks.
Be so good as to inform Dr. Shippen, that the death of Reuors put a stop to the suit of Cuthbert for a little time but that it is now going on with the fullest vigor, and shall in no manner be neglected. He has left property, I believe, sufficient for the debt.9
5. JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb., and n. 12; to Randolph, 11 Feb. 1783. The income from the estate of Randolph’s aunt, Elizabeth Harrison Randolph, was to be for the use of his father, John Randolph, a Loyalist living in England with his two daughters, Ariana and Susanna. Edmund Randolph necessarily had to assume, on behalf of his father and sisters, the administration of the estate and the task of paying the debts owed by his father when he left Virginia in 1775 (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 , IV, 162, n. 8).
In the issues of the Virginia Gazette of 1, 8, and 15 February 1783, Edmund Randolph published this notice: “The Creditors of my father, John Randolph, Esq; are requested to meet me, in person or by their Agents, in this City, on the first Monday in March next. It is my intention to propose to them a Mode of adjusting their several claims.” In the same issues of the Gazette, “The Executors” announced that in Williamsburg on 19 February, property of “the late Mrs. Betty Randolph,” including an eight-room house “on the great square,” furnishings, stables large enough for twelve horses and two carriages, and “several acres of pasture,” would be sold to the highest bidder. No slave in Mrs. Randolph’s estate was advertised for sale. See also Randolph to JM, 7 Mar.; 22 Mar. 1783; Moncure Daniel Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (New York, 1888), pp. 48–50.
6. Colonel Maurice Simons was commercial agent for Virginia in Charleston, S.C., from 15 November 1777 until the fall of the town to the British on 12 May 1780, whereafter he became commissioner for attending the needs of Virginia prisoners of war in that city (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, 227–28, 229, n. 2; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , II, 29, 38, 122–23). On 23 December 1781, then in Richmond, he requested authority to transport Virginia tobacco either to New York City or to Charleston “to discharge the debts contracted by the American Prisoners” (Cal. of Va. 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 , II, 669; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 11, 33). On 2 April 1782 Governor Harrison issued a proclamation stating that the Virginia-owned brig “Mentor” would sail to Charleston as a flag with 357 hogsheads of tobacco “for the proper account of Maurice Simmons” (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, 189, 190 n.). This transaction appears to have been completed satisfactorily; but in January 1783 the “Mentor” returned from New York City with “Goods” consigned, seemingly without Simons’ knowledge, to a citizen of Elizabeth City County who was suspected of being an “Enemy of his Country” (ibid., III, 433; Cal. of Va. 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, 287–89). Although the illicit portion of the cargo was condemned, there was, of course, “No law” by which Virginia could confiscate her own craft.
7. Randolph referred to the privilege granted “military officers” to buy with their pay warrants the surplus horses, especially those of Colonel Charles Dabney’s state “Legion” stationed at Yorktown. Lack of food threatened these animals with starvation (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 , IV, 406, n. 1; Cal. of Va. 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, 417, 420, 423, 450; 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, 398, 399, 417, 427–28, 435). On 28 December 1782 the Virginia General Assembly empowered “the governor, with the advice of council” to sell the horses “in case the said legion be reduced by enlisting into the continental or other service” (JHDV 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 , Oct. 1782, p. 91; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 170). In the Virginia Gazette of 25 January and 1 February, Captain Henry Young, quartermaster general of Virginia, announced that he would sell at auction on 7 February 1783 in Richmond “Upwards of One Hundred likely Horses” for specie, tobacco, or several types of Virginia warrants, including “warrants for interest due on military certificates.” See Randolph to JM, 7 Feb. 1783.
8. Dr. James McClurg, a member of the faculty of the College of William and Mary, had been mentioned by JM and Randolph as a possible successor to Robert R. Livingston as secretary for foreign affairs. 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, 296, n. 3; V, 201, n. 5; 343; 344, n. 5; 357–58; 402; 406, n. 34; Randolph to JM, 22 Feb. 1783.