James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 20 March 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas Meriwether. Addressed to “The Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

In Council March 20th. 1783


Your acceptable favor of the 12th. Instant1 reached me last Evening, the acknowledgement of our Independence gives me great Pleasure, for tho’ the Peace is not finally concluded, yet we may safely look on that Part of it, as certain and not to be retracted. I shall make such Parts of your Letter public as may be necessary for the Information of the Public who the Speculators of your Town intended to have imposed on, by dispatching an Express to Nelson of this Place informing him that Doctor Franklin had declared to Congress that all Negotiations were at an End and that there would be another Campaign at least.2

I understand the Treasurer made you a remittance last Week. I shall nevertheless send him your Letter and call on him to make it more ample.3

Will you be so obliging as to send us Hutchings’s new Map of America which we want exceedingly.4 I am with great respect

Yrs: &c.

B. H.

1Q.v., and n. 24.

2Harrison to Delegates, 31 Jan.; JM to Randolph, 13 Feb., and n. 3; Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783. The Virginia Gazette of 22 March 1783 printed a summary of the terms of the provisional peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States. The issue of 29 March carried the entire text, except the secret article. The same paper on 15 March had mentioned the alleged letter of Franklin, said to have been received on 26 December 1782 by “an American gentleman in public character at l’Orient,” stating “that all hopes of peace were at an end.”

Nelson was probably Alexander Nelson (1749–1834), a native of Ireland who came as a boy to Philadelphia, where he was patronized by Robert Morris. Moving to Virginia during the Revolution, Nelson became a partner in the Richmond merchant-shipping firm of Nelson, Heron, and Company (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 12 Apr., 19 Apr., 28 June 1783). Jefferson was told in 1785 that Nelson was an unusually able businessman of “unsullied Reputation” (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VIII, 646). Nelson later resided about six miles from Staunton in Augusta County (Jos. A. Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia … [Richmond, 1886], p. 225; Olive Nelson Gibson, Descendants of John Nelson, Sr.—Mary Toby, Stafford County, Virginia, 1740–1959 … [Redlands, Calif., 1961], p. 14).

3Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 3. Jacquelin Ambler’s letter of “last Week” has not been found, but it was addressed to JM and enclosed bills on Philadelphia for £500 Virginia currency for apportionment among the Virginia delegates as they should see fit. See Ambler to JM, 22 Mar.; also George Webb to Theodorick Bland, 14 Mar. (MS in Charles Campbell Collection of Bland Papers in Va. Historical Society) and James Mercer to John Francis Mercer, Apr. 1783, in Va. Mag. Hist. and Biog., LIX (1951), 94.

4This request seems neither to have been fulfilled by the delegates nor mentioned again by Governor Harrison. For the possibility that his letter was lost in transmission, see their letter of 1 April 1783 to Harrison. In 1780 Thomas Hutchins (1730–1789), a native of New Jersey, had resigned his commission as a captain in the British army because “he would not bear arms against his countrymen.” On 11 July 1781, about two months after Congress appointed him “geographer to the southern army,” his title and that of “the geographer to the main army” were altered by Congress to “Geographer to the United States of America” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 436, 738).

Governor Harrison was referring to “A New Map of the Western Parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina; Comprehending the Rivers Ohio, and all Rivers, which Fall into It; Part of the River Missis[s]ippi, the Whole of the Illinois River, Lake Erie; Part of the Lakes Huron, Michigan &c. And All the Country Bordering on These Lakes and Rivers.” Hutchins had folded this map in his A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina, Comprehending the Rivers Ohio, Kenhawa, S[c]ioto, Cherokee, Wabash, Illinois, Missis[s]ippi, & c. (London, 1778), based on his surveys made during and just after the French and Indian War. In 1781 JM had procured a copy of this work for Jefferson (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, 98, n. 1). In the French edition of Hutchins’ little volume, published in Paris in 1781, his maps were much reduced in size.

In 1783 and 1784 Hutchins was a member of the commission appointed by Pennsylvania to determine the western portion of the boundary between that state and Virginia (Anna M. Quattrocchi, “Thomas Hutchins in Western Pennsylvania,” Pa. History, XVI [1949], 37–38).

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