To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Docketed by Randolph, “J Madison.” Below this appears “March 18, 1783,” probably in the hand of Randolph’s clerk. In his old age JM added after his name on the docket, “X in part,” without further specifying what part of the letter he designated for later publication. In the earliest comprehensive edition of his writings, the first and last paragraphs of the letter are omitted (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 517–19). Italicized words are those which JM enciphered in the Randolph code. 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, 307; 309, n. 1; 339, n. 5.
Philada. March 18. 1783
My dear Sir
I recd. yesterday your favor of the 7. inst: together with that of the 22. Ulto. which ought to have been brought by the preceding mail.1 I regret much the uncertainty which attends your going into the Legislature. Is it possible that the difference between the amt. of your salary from the State and of the profits from which your office excludes you can form an essential article in your pecuniary plans? I am far from being singular in supposing that the business on the opposite side would be a much more productive fund.2
My letter by Express communicated to you the outlines of the intelligence brought by Capt: Barney from our Ministers in Europe.3 The tediousness of the Cypher does not permit me now to enter into detail.4 I can only add that notwithstanding the flattering aspect of the preliminary articles there are various circumstances which check our confidence in them, as there are some which will detract from our joy if they should be finally estableished5 To explain this it must suffice that The latest letters from our Ministers express the greatest jealousy of G B6 and secondly that the situation of France between the interfering claims of Spain & U S to which may perhaps be added some particular views of her own having carried her into a discounternance of claims,7 the suspicions of our ministers on that side gave an opportunity to British address to decoy them into a degree of confidence which seems to leave their own reputations as well as the safety of their country at the mercy of Shelburne8 In this business Jay has taken the lead & proceeded to a length of which you can form little idea. Adams has followed with cordiality. Franklin has been dragged into it.9 Laurens in his separate letter professes a violent suspicion of G B and good will & confidence toward France10 The dilemma to which Congress are reduced is infinitely perplexing If they abet the procedings of their ministers all confidence with France is at an end which in the event of a renewal of the war must be dreadfull as in that of peace it may be dishonourable. If they avow the conduct of their ministers by their usual frankness of communication the most serious inconveniences also present themselves. The torment of this dilemma can not be justly conveyed without a fuller recital of facts than is permitted. I wish you not to hazard even an interlined decypherment of those which I have deposited in your confidence.11
Despatches were yesterday recd. from Genl Washington which have revived & increased our apprehenseons on that side. There seems to be reason to suspect that the intriegues of the civil creditors fan the discontents of the army. The conduct of Washington does equal honor to his prudence and to his virtue12
The state of our foreign affairs and of the army combined with the difficulty and uncertainty of providing for justice & for our finances & with the approaching exit of Morris give a peculiar solemnity to the present moment God send us a Speedy & honourable deliverance from every danger.13 pray hasten the new Cypher which you have promised.14
I have not yet perused your notes but thank you for them.15 Mr. J.n is still left in dubio as to his destination. Before the next post the final decision of Congs. will probably take place.16 The paper inclosed to Mr. Ambler will give you the first part of the parliamentary debates, as the one herewith inclosed will the preliminary articles. The eagerness of the opposition for them portends violent altercations. The liberality of the articles to the U.S. will probably be the ground of Attack from the old Ministry; the omission of Commerce that of Fox’s division.17
6. JM erroneously encoded “sy” in “jealousy” as 246 symbolizing “sl.” Both here and later in the paragraph, JM underlined the ciphers for “G B.”
7. JM underlined the ciphers for “U S.” The antecedent of “her” is “France.” The misspelling of “discountenance” reflects JM’s coding of the word. Having failed in concert with Spain to drive the British from Gibraltar, France was the more obligated to support the claims of Spain to control the navigation of the Mississippi River and to possess the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi south of the Ohio River. John Jay and John Adams also suspected that Vergennes was the more willing to back Spain in these regards in order to assure that the United States would remain weak after the war and hence continue to be dependent upon France. 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, 416; 418, n. 19; 441–42; 443, n. 2; 444, n. 7; 467; 470, n. 16; JM Notes, 12–15 Mar., and n. 4; 19 Mar., and n. 24; Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 16.
8. JM Notes, 18 Mar., and n. 14; 19 Mar.; Delegates to Harrison, 18 Mar. 1783, and nn. 3, 4. In encoding “suspicions” and “side,” both in this sentence and later in the letter, JM used the cipher for “sw” rather than for “su” in the first of these words, and the cipher for “sl” rather than for “si” in the second.
9. 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, 172, n. 8; 418, n. 19; 438, nn. 5, 7, 9; 443, n. 2; JM Notes, 3 Jan., and n. 2; JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb., and n. 10; Jefferson to JM, 14 Feb. 1783 (2d letter), and n. 7.
10. Delegates to Harrison, 18 Mar. 1783, and nn. 2, 3. JM probably used the word “professes” because in the autumn of 1782 he had deemed Laurens to be too friendly toward the British (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, 140–41; 143–45; 159–60; 329–30). The ampersand between “good will” and “confidence” was interpolated by Randolph.
11. Disregarding JM’s wish, which might better have been expressed before he began enciphering, Randolph interlineated a decoding. In cautioning Randolph, who was no longer a delegate from Virginia, JM almost surely recalled his own criticism of David Howell for divulging information which Congress had designated confidential. 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, 372–73; 397; 398, n. 10; 419–20; 420, nn. 4, 6; 421, n. 10; JM Notes, 3 Jan., and n. 3; 9–10 Jan., and n. 21; 19 Mar., and n. 19; JM to Randolph, 14 Jan. 1783, n. 5.
12. JM Notes, 17 Mar. 1783, and nn. 1, 2. The misspellings of “apprehensions” and “intrigues” resulted from faulty encoding by JM. In encoding the first syllable of “Washington,” he wrote 491 symbolizing “way” rather than 490 for “wash.”
13. JM Notes, 24 Jan., and n. 20; 28 Jan., and n. 40; 26 Feb., and n. 14; 27 Feb.; 4–5 Mar., and nn. 3, 4, 7–9, 11, 12; JM to Randolph, 4 Mar.; 11 Mar., and n. 4; Randolph to JM, 15 Mar. 1783, and n. 4. JM encoded “approaching” as “approaccing” and underlined the ciphers for “honourable.”
14. Although Randolph did not comply, neither he nor JM found occasion to employ the cipher in their letters to each other during the remainder of the time-span of the present volume.
17. Jacquelin Ambler, the treasurer of Virginia. See JM Notes, 12–15 Mar., and n. 13; Delegates to Harrison, 18 Mar., and n. 4. The “old Ministry” was that of the Marquis of Rockingham, who died on 1 July, 1782. Charles James Fox, a Rockingham Whig, had declined to serve in the cabinet of the Earl of Shelburne (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, 211, n. 17). For the refusal of Shelburne to include an article on commerce in the preliminary treaty of peace, see Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 13.