James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 10 April 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Theodorick Bland. Cover addressed by him to “His Excellency Benjn: Harrison Esqr. Governor of Virginia.” Bland also wrote on another fold of the cover, “Delegates—Apr. 10th.” At the opposite side of the same fold appears the docket, “Letter from the Delegates in Congress. April 10th 1783.”

Philadelphia April 10th 1783


We take the opportunity by a Gentn. who sets off to North Carolina tomorrow; and whose route lays through Richmond1 to Communicate to Yr. Excellency copies of Papers sent by Sr. Guy Carleton & Admiral Digby and brought by an Aid of the Former Yesterday to the Office of Foreign Affairs.2 we believe them to be Perfectly Authentic and as they are a full Confirmation of what we have before informd your Excelly3 they need no further Comment.

We sincerely congratulate Your Excelly and our fellow Citizens on the Happy Event

We take the liberty to inform Your Excelly that the State of New York has made an offer to Congress of a tract of land included in the boundaries of the Township of Kingston or Esopus on the North River, accompanied by a provisional act of Incorporation, granting certain Privilidges of Jurisdiction in civil matters—except in cases concerning the Property of the Soil &c. the Policy of which is to Induce Congress to fix their residence in that State.4

The Delegates of Virginia and Maryland,5 conceiving that a more Central Situation for Congress, accompanied with other equal or superior advantages might possibly be more agreeable, and that an Offer of a Small tract of Territory by Virginia & Maryland in the Neighbourhood of George Town on Potowmack might meet with the Acceptance of Congress in Preference to that offerd by New York, especially if a more ample and Enlarged Jurisdiction shd be Annexd thereto—have Conceived it their Duty to inform their states respectively of the steps taken by New York—that if they think proper they may Conjointly adopt such p[o]licy as they may deem most Eligible to Induce Congress to fix their Residence in a Place which we Humbly Conceive wd. be not only more Generally agreeable to the States, but wd. be so manifestly advantageous to the states Immediately in the Vicinage of the Seat of General Government.6

We shall endeavor to procure before the Assembly sits a copy of the Grant of New York with the Boundaries therein assigned for the Jurisdiction of Congress, which will be transmitted to your Excelly to be laid before them7

Since writing the above, Official dispatches from Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin & Mr. Jay, have arrived announcing the Signature & ratification of the Preliminary Articles by the Belligerent Powers, as mentiond in the Enclosed Proclamation, and an agreement between the Said Powers, to an Arm[i]stice, which we Expect will this day be Proclaimed by order of Congress and transmitted to the Respective States.8 the same dispatches inform us, that the Definitive treaty is not yet signed, the terms not yet having been adjusted between the Court of Great Britain & the Seven U. Provinces.9

The British Prints inform us that in a Division on a debate in their House of Commons, on a Paragraph in their address to their King for approving the Peace a Majority of Sixteen were against the approbation—North & Fox violently opposing the Ministry. the vote for approving was carried in the Lords. how this temper of the Commons may effect the Politics of Europe, or the Ministry of Great Britain time must determine10

with the most perfect respect we are Yr. Excelly’s most obedt. Serts.

(Signed in behalf and at the request of the Delegates)11

Theok. Bland jr.

1The “Gentn.” was a “Mr. Sitgreaves,” who also carried JM’s letter of the same date to Edmund Randolph (JM to Randolph, 10 Apr. 1783, hdn.). John Sitgreaves (1757–1802), English-born and a resident of New Bern, N. C., was a lawyer, a war veteran, and clerk of the state Senate from 1778 to 1779. While a member of the Commons House of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1784 and 1786–1789, he served as its speaker in 1787 and 1788. In 1785 he attended Congress briefly as a delegate. From 1789 until his death he was judge of the federal district court in North Carolina.

3Delegates to Harrison, 24 Mar., and n. 2; 25 Mar., and n. 4; 1 Apr. 1783, and n. 4.

4On 20 March 1783 Governor George Clinton, writing from the seat of New York’s government at Kingston, enclosed with his strong letter of endorsement to Elias Boudinot, president of Congress, (1) a copy of the resolutions of the “Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town[ship] of Kingston,” 7 March, offering Congress a “Mile Square, or an Equivalent Quantity in any part of the Common Lands”; (2) a map of that township, showing the many areas, even with a frontage along the North (Hudson) River, which were available for Congress to select as “a fixed residence,” because they were not privately owned; and (3) a copy of a joint resolution of both houses of the legislature on 12 and 14 March, pledging to incorporate any square mile or equivalent acreage which Congress might choose within that township, and guaranteeing “exempt jurisdiction” in almost all “civil matters” to the officials of Congress (NA: PCC, No. 46, fols. 1–13). Congress received these documents on 4 April and referred them to a committee, Rutledge chairman, three days later (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 229, n. 2).

5The Maryland delegates present in Congress on 9 April were Thomas Sim Lee and Daniel Carroll (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 233).

6Apparently this is the earliest suggestion of the site which eventually was chosen for the national capital.

7When Joseph Jones left Philadelphia on 6 or 7 May, he probably took the “copy” with him and gave it to Harrison upon arriving in Richmond two weeks later to attend the session of the Virginia legislature. The governor referred the papers to the House of Delegates on 12 June (JM to Randolph, 6 May 1783 in LC: Madison Papers; 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, 493; JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1783, p. 50).

8If Charles Thomson’s record of the dates on which dispatches arrived is complete and accurate, Congress received no dispatch from Jay along with the dispatches from Adams and Franklin, and neither had received nor would receive any communication from Jay for three or more weeks (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 56–57). Bland probably should have written “Mr. Laurens,” whose dispatch of 9 January, along with those from Adams and Franklin, was laid before Congress (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 61; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 200; JM Notes, 10 Apr. 1783, n. 2). The “Proclamation,” of which Bland enclosed a copy, was not adopted by Congress until 11 April (JM Notes, 11 Apr. 1783).

9In his dispatch of 22 January to Robert R. Livingston, Adams remarked: “The King of Great Britain has made a declaration concerning the terms that he will allow to the Dutch; but they are not such as will give satisfaction to that unfortunate nation” (Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 226). An article, dated at Leyden on 16 January and published in the Pennsylvania Packet of 12 April 1783, summarizes the contents of King George III’s “declaration” and why the States-General of the Netherlands would not accept its rigorous terms. For the preliminary treaty of peace of 2 September 1783 between Great Britain and the Netherlands, see Delegates to Harrison, 24 March 1783, n. 4.

10Besides London newspapers, “British Prints” may mean reprints in Rivington’s Royal Gazette of New York City. Extracts from the debates in each house of Parliament on 17 and 18 February appear in the Pennsylvania Packet of 15 April 1783. By a vote of 72 to 59 the House of Lords resolved to prepare “an humble address,” thanking the king for relieving his subjects of the “bothersome and expensive war.” In the House of Commons, after a nightlong discussion, the ministry of the Earl of Shelburne evidently decided to ward off defeat by not bringing to a vote an “address to the throne” of similar tenor.

The session closed with the opposition, comprising an unusual coalition of the adherents of Charles James Fox and Lord North, carrying by a vote of 224 to 208 an amendment to the proposed address, praying the king “to concert with his parliament” in measures to extend British commerce. A second amendment, begging the king to bestow his particular favor upon the American Loyalists, was also sponsored by the opposition and passed by an unrecorded vote (Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates description begins William Cobbett, ed., The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (36 vols.; London, 1806–20; continued as Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates). description ends , XVI, cols. 373–435, esp. cols. 374–75; cols. 436–93, esp. cols. 438–39, 493). For the ministry of the Earl of Shelburne, 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, 120, n. 33; 210; 211, nn. 17–23. For the resignation of Shelburne on 24 February, see JM to Randolph, 29 Apr. 1783, and n. 3.

11Joseph Jones, JM, and John Francis Mercer. Arthur Lee had left Philadelphia to return to Virginia (JM to Randolph, 1 Apr. 1783, n. 9).

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