James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 8 April 1783

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover addressed by him to “E. Randolph Esqr.” Carried to Richmond by “a private hand” (Delegates to Harrison, 10 Apr.; JM to Randolph, 15 Apr. 1783). Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison jr. April 8th. 1783.”

Philada. Apl. 8. 1783.

My dear Sir

Your favor of the 29th. ult:1 was duly recd. yesterday. Your apprehensions from the article in favor of British Creditors, correspond with those entertained by all whose remarks I have heard upon it. My hope is that in the definitive treaty the danger may be removed by a suspension of their demands for a reasonable term after peace.2

The publication of Mr. M’s letters was neither previously assented to nor known by Congress. Whether it was the act of Mr. M. himself is even unknown to them. After the injunction of secresy was taken off, the curiosity of any individual, or the interest of the printer might obtain copies for the press.3

The imperfect information brought by the French Cutter is all that we have yet recd. relative to peace. It is reported from N. York that similar intelligence has been brought thither by a vessel from Lisbon. Hostilities however continue to devour our commerce.4

The report on revenue of which I gave you the outlines5 is still in an unfinished State; but in a way I flatter myself of being ultimately & substantially adopted. The admission into the common mass, of all expences of the war not authorised by Congress is the remaining article of difficulty. Even this however under some qualifications is so respectably patronized & so intimately linked with the art[i]cle concerning the back lands that I do not despair altogether of seeing that also finally comprehended.6 A change of the valuation of the Lands for the number of Inhabitants deducting ⅖ of the Slaves, has recd. a tacit sanction & unless hereafter expunged will go forth in the general recommendation, as material to future harmony & justice among the members of the Confederacy. The deduction of ⅖ was a compromise between the wide opinions & demands of the Southern & other States.7

A letter was recd. yesterday from Genl Washington in answer to a notification from the Presidt. of the signing the Genl. preliminaries on the 20th Jany. expressing the joy of the army at the glorious event and the satisfaction they have recd. from the act of Congs. commuting the half pay &c.8

The Mission of Mr. Jefferson has been entirely superceded by the last advices. He will set out in a few days for Virga. and means to pass through Richmond.9 To his information I refer for details which my late correspondence may have omitted. As his services are not required, at least for the present, in Europe, it is to be most devoutly wished that they could be engaged at the present crisis at home.10


2Randolph to JM, 29 Mar. 1783, and nn. 9, 10. On 15 April and 6 August Congress and King George III, respectively, ratified the preliminary treaty of peace, including Article IV favoring British creditors. The provisions of this treaty and of the definitive treaty of peace, signed on 3 September, were identical. The American commissioners, who were instructed by Congress on 30 May 1783 to have Article IV amended so as to bar suits to recover debts until three years after the signing of the definitive treaty, found that this change could only be gained by surrendering more rights or privileges granted to the United States in the treaty than Congress would ever accept (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 569, 581, 602, 633, 646, 669; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 241–51, 369–76, 812; JM Notes, 14 Apr.; 15 Apr. 1783).

3On 26 February Congress had complied with the request of that day from Robert Morris that he be permitted to inform his creditors of his intention to resign on 31 May as superintendent of finance. Congress did not specifically authorize him to announce his intention in the newspapers, although making known the fact to all his creditors would be almost equivalent to its publication. What shocked Randolph was the appearance in the Pennsylvania Packet of 4 March and in the Pennsylvania Gazette of the next day of a copy of Morris’ letter of 24 January 1783 to Congress, stating that his “Ideas of Integrity” would compel him to retire from office unless Congress stopped incurring new debts before providing the means to pay old ones (JM Notes, 24 Jan., and n. 20; 26 Feb., and n. 14; 27 Feb.; 4–5 Mar., and n. 7; JM to Randolph, 4 Mar.; 11 Mar.; Randolph to JM, 29 Mar. 1783). Without revealing his source, the editor of the Packet expressed his happiness because, in view of the “much conversation” occasioned by the resignation, he was “able to furnish his customers” with copies of Morris’ two letters of resignation. According to his confidant Hamilton, it was Morris himself who caused these letters to be published (Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 170–71, 248, n. 23, 249, n. 25; Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (15 vols. to date; New York, 1961——). description ends , III, 319–20).

4Jefferson to JM, 7–8 Feb., and nn. 3, 4, 8; JM Notes, 31 Mar., and nn. 2, 4–6; Delegates to Harrison, 1 Apr., and n. 4; JM to Randolph, 1 Apr. 1783. JM must have been told orally of the arrival in New York Harbor early in the morning of 7 April of a ship from Lisbon. This news was first published in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 9 April. Captain Henry James Reynett, an aide-de-camp of General Sir Guy Carleton, reached Philadelphia on the evening of 8 April, bringing among other “authentic” documents confirming the cessation of hostilities between Great Britain, France, and Spain, a notification from Carleton and Admiral Digby that they had dispatched a vessel “to call in the British cruisers now on our coasts” (Worthington Chauncey Ford, comp., British Officers Serving in the American Revolution, 1774–1783 [Brooklyn, N. Y., 1897], p. 150; Pa. Packet, 10 Apr.; Pa. Journal, 12 Apr.). See also JM Notes, 10 April 1783; 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, 308.

6For Congress to assume the reasonable but unauthorized military expenses of the states and for Congress to urge states which claimed trans-Appalachian lands to cede them to the United States were “intimately linked” proposals of the “report on revenue.” Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, and North Carolina each asserted a valid title to western territory and also a right to be reimbursed for war costs. Virginia, for example, might find Congress more willing to admit her expenses “into the common mass” if she mitigated the provisos attached to her offer to cede her lands north and west of the Ohio River. 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 , IV, 221, n. 11; V, 119, n. 20; 246, n. 7; 292, n. 19; JM Notes, 26 Feb., and nn. 15–44; Memo. on Revenue Plan, 6 Mar., ed. n.; Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar. 1783, and n. 14.

8JM Notes, 7 Apr. 1783, and n. 5.

9JM Notes, 1 Apr., and n. 13. Jefferson left Philadelphia on 12 April (JM to Randolph, 15 Apr. 1783).

10Many years later JM or someone at his bidding placed a single bracket at the close of this sentence. Henry D. Gilpin, the editor of the first comprehensive edition of JM’s writings, interpreted the bracket as a clearance by JM to publish the entire letter (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed], I, 522–24). Shortly after his return to Monticello, Jefferson centered his attention upon drafting a new constitution for Virginia. He hoped that the General Assembly would find the outcome of his labors a decided improvement upon the Form of Government adopted in 1776 (Randolph to JM, 7 Mar. 1783, nn. 7, 8; 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 , II, 315; VI, 278–84, 294–308).

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