Notes on Debates
MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, 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, 231–34.
The Committee report to Congs. the alterations yesterday agreed on with respect to the 5 PerCt. Impost.1
The deputy Secy. at War2 reported to Congress the result of the enquiry directed by them on the day of 3 into the siesure of goods destined for the British Prisoners of war under passport from Genl Washington. From this report it appeared that some of the Siezors had pursued their claim under the law of the State & that in consequence the goods had been condemned & ordered for sale. The papers were referred to a Come consisting of Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Ghorum & Mr. Lee, who after havg. retired for a few moments reported, that the Secy at War should be authorised & directed to cause the goods to be taken from the places where they had been deposited,4 to employ such force as wd. be sufficient, and that the Duke de Lauzun whose Legion was in the neighborhood,5 should be requested to give the Secy. such aid as he might apply for.
This report was generally regarded by Congs. as intemperate, and the proposed recourse to the French Legion as flagrantly imprudent. Mr. Hamilton said that if the object had been to embroil this Country wth. their allies the expedient would have been well conceived.*6 He added that the exertion of force would not under these circumstances meet the sense of the people at large. Mr. Ghorum sd. he denied this with respect to the people of Massachusetts.7
Mr. Lee on the part of the Come. said that the D. de Lauzun had been recurred to as being in the neighbourhood & having Cavalry under his Command which would best answer the occasion; and that the report was founded on wise & proper considerations.
Mr. Mercer, Mr. Williamson Mr. Ramsay & Mr. Wilson & Mr Madison strenuously opposed the Report, as improper altogether as far it related to the French Legion, and in other respects so until the State of Pa. sd. on a summons refuse to restore the articles seized.8
Mr. Rutledge with equal warmth contends for the expediency of the measures reported.
Mr. Mercer & Mr. Madison at length proposed that Congress sd. assert the right on this subject & summon the State of Pena. to redress the wrong immediately. The Report was recommitted, with this proposition & Mr. Wilson & Mr. Mercer added to the Com[e.]9
The Speech of the K. of G. B. on the 5th Dcr. 1782. arrived & produced great joy in general except among the Merchts. who had great quantities of merchandise in Store the price of which immediately & materially fell.10 The most judicious members of Congs. however suffered a great diminution of their joy from the impossibility of discharging the arrears & claims of the army & their apprehension of new difficulties from that quarter.11
1. JM Notes, 12 Feb. 1783, and n. 15. The undated report of the committee of the whole is in NA: PCC, No. 36, II, 79. See also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 128, and n. 1. No journal was kept of the session of 13 February.
3. On 24 January 1783. See JM Notes, 24 Jan., and nn. 14, 15. With his report, Major Jackson enclosed a printed notice of 10 February by John Gardner, the sheriff of Chester County, Pa., proclaiming an auction on 3 March 1783 of the supplies seized and condemned from the cargo of the flag-of-truce ship “Amazon” (NA: PCC, No. 149, II, 229–68, and esp. 229–30, 243, 245).
4. For the committee’s report, written by Nathaniel Gorham, see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 128 n. Most of the “goods” were at “Mr. Ezekiel Webb’s Tavern” and Caleb Taylor’s home in Birmingham township, Chester County, Pa. (NA: PCC, No. 149, II, 233–40, 243). The secretary at war was Major General Benjamin Lincoln.
5. For the Duc de Lauzun and his legion, 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 , III, 277, n. 4. He and his command were quartered at Burlington, N.J., on the eastern shore of the Delaware River about forty miles from Chester, Pa. (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, 433).
8. Intervention by foreign soldiers obviously would exasperate the government of Pennsylvania beyond need, even granting that the Duc de Lauzun should consent to have his legion employed except against the British. Lee’s recommendation sharply contrasts with his usual opposition to any encroachment upon the sovereignty of a state.
10. An unofficial copy of the speech of King George III, announcing to Parliament the signing on 30 November 1782 of a preliminary peace treaty between the United States and Great Britain, had reached Philadelphia from New York City on 12 February 1783. As quoted by the Pennsylvania Packet of 15 February, King George had stated: “I did not hesitate to go the full length of the powers vested in me, and offer to declare them free and independent states, by an article to be inserted in the Treaty of Peace. Provisional articles are agreed upon to take effect whenever terms of peace shall be finally settled with the Court of France.” See also Pa. Journal, 15 Feb. 1783. For the effect of the news of peace upon the price of merchandise, see Delegates to Harrison, 11 Feb., and n. 4; JM to Randolph, 11 Feb. 1783, and n. 11. See also 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, 111, n. 8.