To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Docketed by Randolph, “James Madison Feby. 11 1783.”
Philada. Feby. 11. 1783
My dear friend
I am particularly indebted to you for your favor of the 1st. inst. which you were obliged to forward through so many obstacles.1 Your idea of going into the legislative councils gives me peculiar satisfaction, & I anxiously wish the arrangements on which it depends may not miscarry.2 Indeed I think it is a duty to which you owe some sacrifices, greater than I sd. suppose the difference between the profits of your office, & those from which it excludes you, can amount to.3 of this difference you are the best judge; but in my position I undertake to say, your view of our affairs would furnish still more cogent motives than those you now feel. The valuation of the lands of the U.S. as directed by the articles of Union has employed & puzzled Congress for the past week; and after all the projects & discussions which have taken place, we seem only to have gone round in a circle to the point at which we set out. The only point on which Congress are generally agreed is that something ought to be attempted, but what that something ought to be, is a theorem not solved alike by scarcely any two members: and yet a solution of it seems to be made an indispensible preliminary to other essays for the public relief.4 The Deputation from the army is waiting the upshot of all these delays and dilemmas.5
When I mentioned to you the subject of your conversation with Dr. McC[l]urg, I ought to have added that one reason which influenced the resignation of Mr. Livingston was an expence experienced of 3 thousand dollrs. beyond the salary. I wish this circumstance not to be withheld as it must be material in the case, and it would be a real affliction to me to be accessary to a disappointment.6 For the same reason it is incumbent on me to observe that I hold it to be very uncertain whether the place in question will be within the option of our friend, as I hold indeed the continuance of the place itself to be a little precarious.7
Mr. J. is detained at Baltimore by the danger which besets the capes. This situation he writes me is far from being a pleasant one and yet I fear the avidity and vigilance of the Enemy will prevent his being quickly relieved from it.8 Mr. Mercer filled up the remaining blank in the Delegation on Wednesday last.9
This City is full of reports concerning peace, but they all come by the way of the W.I. and are the more uncertain as they come too thro’ mercantile channels.10 The fall of goods which is taking place augurs well however.11
3. As attorney general, Randolph’s salary was £300 specie a year, but he supplemented this income with fees of a growing but unknown amount from private clients (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 , X, 493; 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; V, 50, n. 1; 308). Members of the Virginia legislature were compensated with the value in money, as determined by “the grand jury at each and every of the four annual sessions of the general court,” of “fifty pounds of neat tobacco by the day for attendance on assembly, two pounds of the like tobacco for every mile they must necessarily travel going to or from the same together with their ferriages” (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 , X, 104, 229). If a hundredweight of tobacco was worth an average of 20s. specie, the per diem salary of a member of the House of Delegates was about 10s., or £75 for the approximate 150 days during which the legislature was in session annually (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, 150–51, 168–69).
JM appears to mean that, although the increased fees from private clients which Randolph could anticipate if he resigned as attorney general and entered the House of Delegates probably would not make up the difference between £75 and whatever total the £300 and his income as a practicing lawyer amounted to annually, he should count the monetary “sacrifices” as more than overbalanced by the opportunities he would have as a delegate to render conspicuous public service to both Virginia and the United States. 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, 30; JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb. 1783, and n. 14.
5. JM Notes, 7 Jan., and n. 6; 4 Feb., and nn. 7, 13–15; 18 Feb. 1783, and n. 3. Of the “Deputation,” Colonel John Brooks left Philadelphia about 8 February to return to Washington’s army. Colonel Matthias Ogden also went to New Jersey at about the same time but never returned to active duty. Continuing to press Congress for a favorable answer to the memorial of the army, General Alexander McDougall remained in Philadelphia until late in May 1783 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 35–36 n., 50, n. 3, 72–73 n., 150–51 n., 175, n. 3; 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 , XXVI, 169, 274, 340).
6. 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, 338, n. 4; Randolph to JM, 1 Feb. 1783, and n. 8.
7. Both on grounds of economy and as an evidence of the determination of the United States to isolate itself from overseas politics, an increasing number of delegates in Congress believed that, following the conclusion of peace, the foreign service should be reduced at least to a few consuls and chargés d’affaires in the principal ports and capitals of western Europe, respectively. By so doing, the office of secretary for foreign affairs also could be abolished. After the resignation of Robert R. Livingston became effective on 5 June 1783, that office remained vacant until his successor, John Jay, arrived on 21 December 1784. During the interim, committees of Congress handled important matters of diplomacy while the routine duties were performed by Henry Remsen, Jr., a clerk until Congress on 2 March 1784 appointed him undersecretary in charge of “the papers belonging to the Office for foreign affairs” (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, 428, n. 5; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 524 and n. 1; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 118, 146, 154, 184, 186). See also JM to Randolph, 12 Mar. 1783, n. 13.
11. In the Philadelphia newspapers during the first two weeks of February, the increasing number of advertisements by merchants who had foreign wares to sell at “cheap” or “reasonable” prices probably reflected their expectation that official word of peace, followed closely by large importations of goods from Europe, would soon arrive. See JM Notes, 13 Feb. 1783.