From Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed to “The honble James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “Feby—7—1783.” Words or parts of words enciphered in the Randolph code are italicized. See JM to Randolph, 7 Jan., and hdn.; 4 Feb. 1783, and n. 10.
Richmond feby. 7. 1783.
My dear friend
The fatal repeal1 is wrapt up in more than common mystery; the motives being various, as assigned by different persons. Some said, that congress ought not to raise a revenue by other means, than those, prescribed in the confederation;2 that the sufferance of a deviation from that mode will ultimately lead to an assessment of the quota of Virginia, according to the poll, that a fund, thus independent of her annual grant, will capacitate the U.S. to execute schemes of territorial injury against her.3 Others affected to penetrate into the most baneful consequences to trade; and rendered their wisdom eminent indeed by foreseeing great superiority, to be obtained by the other states over ours.4 In what proportion these abominable ideas operated upon the assembly, I cannot particularly learn. But the opinion of an attentive observer of legislative movements is, that the situation of America was not duly reflected on, and thereby an opportunity was presented to the L——s of piquing Morris5 The tenor of their daily language justifies the suspicion. Their character for malice confirms it. But I rejoice that they will not retain their fangs, to be able to destroy the U. S, if the next assembly be composed of sound Whigs.6
The Executive have contrived means to appease the murmurs of our state officers on the subject of pay. A large number of horses belonging to the country, were yesterday sold; and the warrants of these gentlemen were admitted as cash.7 Would god, that similar success could be obtained by you.8
The scarcity of cash is here is greater than ever. The cause is supposed to be found in the late draught for raising money for enlistment; not a shilling of which scarcely has been as yet restored to circulation, being still in the hands of the county lieutenants,9 as I am informed.
Your favor by yesterday’s post would increase my importunity for a transcript of your extract from Mr. J——s remarks, if I could assign a better apology for not sending you a state of the great question, than you can for not sending the transcript.10 But circumstanced, as we are in the bosom of urgent business, we must do these works at leisure.
2. That is, by Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 217).
3. If a levy should be apportioned among the states on the basis of a census, Virginia would have the largest quota, especially if a slave were weighted as one person in the count. Even amid the economically depressed conditions of 1783, Virginians might have been unpleasantly surprised by the outcome if Congress had used the comparative value of real and personal property in the thirteen states as a basis for gauging tax quotas. According to the federal census of 1790, the per capita wealth of the free population in the southern states was $217.07, in the middle states $145.41, and in New England $137.98 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, A Century of Population Growth: From the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–1900 [Washington, 1909], p. 144).
4. Randolph’s personal view is disclosed by his irony.
5. For the hostility of the Lees toward Robert Morris, see Harrison to JM, 4 Jan. 1783, and nn. 3, 4. Certainly in a position to be an “attentive observer” was John Beckley, clerk of the House of Delegates, who was living in the same house with Charles Hay, Randolph’s law clerk (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, 340, n. 14; 426, n. 3).
9. That is, the funds entrusted to the county lieutenants for paying the recruits money bonuses and the recruiting officers’ fees, as stipulated in the statute of 2 July 1782 (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, p. 86, MS in Va. State Library; 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, 14–20; 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, 362, n. 48; V, 92; 93, n. 9).
10. The latter portion of the sentence refers to a promise by Randolph to send a copy of his argument in the “Case of the Prisoners” (Caton v. Commonwealth) to JM. 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, 217–18; 218, n. 9; 263; 265, n. 7; 290; 382; 384, n. 4; 474.
12. Randolph probably had in mind Ralph Wormeley, Jr. (1744–1806). After several years of study at Eton College and Cambridge University, Ralph, Jr., returned to Rosegill, his father’s plantation fronting the Rappahannock River in Middlesex County. In 1775, having served for four years in the Governor’s Council and being critical of both the Loyalists and their opponents, Ralph, Jr., was haled before the Virginia Convention of May 1776. This assemblage, after noting that he had manifested “great contrition for his unworthy conduct,” ordered him to stay within the bounds of his family’s estates in Berkeley and Frederick counties (The Proceedings of the Convention of Delegates Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, in the Colony of Virginia, on Monday, the 6th of May, 1776 [Richmond, 1816], pp. 7, 13, 15; H[amilton] J[ames] Eckenrode, The Revolution in Virginia [Boston, 1916], pp. 144–47). During his “exile” there, he believed his “Life endangered” by “sundry Persons” who acted “in a riotous and tumultuous manner” (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 , I, 91–92). Pleading for “Justice” rather than an “act of grace,” he assured his brother-in-law, Mann Page, Jr., in a letter of 11 May 1778, that he had never “levied war against any of these States, or adhered to, aided or abetted the enemy” (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 , I, 300–301). It was probably Page, a member of the House of Delegates, who persuaded the Virginia General Assembly on 30 May of that year to “discharge” Wormeley “from his present confinement” and permit him to reside again at Rosegill (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 , May 1778, pp. 29, 33).
On 4–5 June 1781 the crew of a Loyalist privateer plundered that plantation and carried off thirty-six slaves and much other property (Va. Mag. Hist. and Biog., XVIII , 373–77; 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, 404–5). For seeking through correspondence with the British commander at Portsmouth, Va., to recover their slaves, Ralph, Jr., and his father were arrested by Governor Thomas Nelson’s order for “Conduct which manifests Disaffection to this Government & the Interest of the United States” (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, 50, 55–56; 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, 171–72, 549). They appear to have been incarcerated only briefly, if at all, but they were embarrassed again in November 1782 by the premature attempt of Ralph, Jr.’s brother John, a captain in the British army, to return to Rosegill (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, 281–82; 286, n. 14). Ralph, Jr.’s letters of this period evidence no desire to participate in politics (Letter Book of Ralph Wormeley, of Rosegill, Va., 16 February 1782–23 January 1802, MS transcript, 434 pp., in Va. Historical Society), but he was a member of the House of Delegates in 1787, 1789, and 1790, and of the Virginia Convention of 1788 which ratified the Federal Constitution (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 28, 31, 33; 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 , VII, 456–57).