To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked by “J. Madison Jr” and addressed by him to “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” Cover docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison. June 17. 1783.”
Philada. 17 June 1783.
My dear friend,
Your favor of the 4th., the second from Williamsburg,1 was rcd. yesterday. I have recd. nothing from Mr. Hay during your absence from Richmond, but the omission has been supplied by Mr. Ambler whose letter by yesterday’s mail inclosed the Journals from the beginning. perhaps this supply was known to Mr. H.2
The3 definitive Treaty is not yet on this side the wat[e]r; nor do we yet hear what stage it is in on the other side.4 Mr. Dana informs us in a letter of the 17 Feby. that in consequence of proper encouragement he had finally announced himself at the Court of Petersbg. but does not gratify us with a single circumstance that ensued.5 The gazette of this morning inclosed contains the latest intelligence from the British Parliamt. which I have seen.6
The measure of furloughing the troops enlisted for the war has been carried into effect with the main army, and will save a great expence to the public. The prospect which it presented to the officers who were to retire from their subsistance with out receivg. the means of subsistance [elsewhere]7 produced a very pathetic representation to the Commander in chief. His answer by rectifying some errors on which it dwelt, and explicitly giving it as his opinion that Congress had now done every thing wch. could be expected from them towards fulfilling the engagements of their Country, had the effect to which it was entitled.8 The troops in the barracks at this place, emboldened by the arrival of a furloughed Regt. returning to Maryland, Sent in a very mutinous remonstrance to Congress, signed by the non-commissioned officers in behalf of the whole. It painted the hardships which they had suffered in the defence of their country & the duty of their Country to reward them, demanding a satisfactory answer the afternoon on which it was sent in, with a threat of otherwise taking such measures as would right themselves. The prudent & soothing measures taken by the Secy. at war & Gl. Sinclair have I believe obviated the embarrassment.9
Another embarrassment, and that not a small one will soon be laid before them by a Committee. Genl. Washington, the Secy. at war and all the professional men who have been consulted, report, that at least 3 or 4 Regts. will be essential as a peace establishmt. for the U States, & that this establishmt. ought to be a Continental one. West point, the fronteir forts to the Westward, and a few garrisons on the Sea Shore, are conceived by them to be indispensable. Some Naval force is deemed at least equally so, with a few docks & protections for them.10 on looking into the articles of Confederation, the military power of Congress in time of peace, appears to be at least subject to be called in question. If Congress put a construction on them favorable to their own power, or even if they ask the States to sanction the exercise of the power, the present paroxism of jealousy may not only disappoint them, but may exert itself with more fatal effect on the Revenue propositions. On the other side to renounce such a construction, and refer the establishment to the separate & internal provision of the States will not only render the plan of defence either defective in a general view or oppressive to particular states, but may hereafter when the tide of prejudice may be flowing in a contrary direction, expose them to the reproach of unnecessarily t[hrowing] [a]way a power necessary for the good of the Union, and leaving the whole at the mercy of a single State. The only expedie[nt] for this dilemma seems to be delay;11 but even that is pregnant with difficulties equally great; since on the arrival of the definitive Treaty Congs must in pursuance of such a neutral plan suffer the whole military establishmt. to be dissolved, every garrisoned-post to be evacuated, and every strong hold to be dismantled; Their remaining ships of war too must be sold, and no preparatory steps taken for future emergencies on that side.12
I am exceedingly pleased to find Mr. Jeffersons’ name at the head of the new Delegation. I hope it has been placed there with his knowledge and acquiescence.13
The order of the day for electing a Secy. of F. Affairs was called for on Teusday last, but no nominations having been then made, the business was put off till the present day. The nominations since made are Mr. A. Lee by Mr. Bland—Mr. Jonathan Trumbell Jnr. by Mr. Higgenson—Col: Tilghman by Mr. Ghorum—Mr. George Clymer by Mr. Montgomery. Genl. Schyler has remained on the list since the fall, but was withdrawn by the Delegates of N. Jersey at the instance of Mr Hamilton. Mr. Jefferson was nominated by Mr. Ghorum, but withdrawn also on intimation that he would not undertake the service.14
If Mr. Jones sd. have quitted Richmond forward if you please his letter. It is addressed to you in his absence. It contains little which is omitted in this, but you may open it. If he sd. not be gone you will let him see this, as it is somewhat fuller than his.15
2. Randolph to JM, 24 May, and n. 12; Ambler to JM, 7 June. The “beginning” was 5 May 1783, “the day appointed by law, for the meeting of the General Assembly” (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 3).
3. Many years later JM or someone at his direction placed a bracket at the outset of this paragraph and another at the close of the next to last paragraph, thus designating the portion of the letter to be published in the first edition of his papers. See Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 547–50.
5. Although the fact is not mentioned in its journal, Congress on 17 June received dispatches dated 10 February, 25 February, 7 March, and 12 March 1783 from Francis Dana, minister-designate of the United States at the court of St. Petersburg (NA: PCC, No. 186, III, 67; Wharton, Revol. Dipl. Corr description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends ., VI, 248–50, 263–64, 275–76, 286–87). In his letter of 25 February, Dana stated he would follow the advice of the ambassador of King Louis XVI of France and delay seeking to be received in his official capacity by Tsarina Catherine the Great. On 7 March, however, trusting in what turned out to be delusive “assurances directly from the private cabinet of her Imperial Majesty that the way was perfectly clear,” Dana requested of Count Ivan Andreievich Osterman, the tsarina’s vice chancellor for foreign affairs, an audience for the purpose of presenting a copy of his letter of credence. If JM had read the dispatch of 12 March, he probably would have informed Randolph of the opening of the Lenten season in Russia as the reason given Dana by Osterman for delaying the submission of the letter of credence to the tsarina. Unknown to Dana, she had assured Sir James Harris, ambassador from the court of St. James, that she would not accord diplomatic recognition to the United States until the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace or until his own sovereign had received a minister from Congress (ibid., VI, 276 n.).
6. JM no doubt enclosed the Pennsylvania Packet of 17 June, for he was writing on Thursday, and the Pennsylvania Gazette, a weekly, appeared only on Wednesdays. That issue of the Packet printed an account of a debate, led by Charles James Fox, on 23 April in the House of Commons on a measure to vest in “his majesty in council” for six weeks the power to determine the “mode of entry of American vessels,” pending the conclusion of a treaty of commerce. Those who participated in the discussion differed only on matters of detail rather than on “the immediate necessity” of removing all prohibitions on trade with the Americans. See JM to Jefferson, 10 June 1783, and nn. 5, 6.
7. A tear in the fold of the manuscript has obliterated this word. It is taken from Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 547.
9. JM Notes, 13 June 1783, and n. 1. The “furloughed Regt. returning to Maryland” was a contingent of the state’s Third Regiment, commanded by Major Thomas Lansdale, which had left the main army on 5 June and arrived in Philadelphia a week later en route to Baltimore. Other Maryland troops, from the southern army, disembarked in Philadelphia on 15 June (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, 468, 470; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 189, n. 4, 247). JM soon discovered that his optimism was not warranted. See JM Notes, 19 June 1783.
10. On 4 April 1783 Congress had appointed a committee, Hamilton, chairman, and JM one of its other four members, to propose “the proper arrangements to be taken in consequence of peace.” These arrangements included the “military & naval peace establishments” (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 432–33; 434, n. 9). Among the other “professional men” consulted by Hamilton on behalf of the committee were Major General Benjamin Lincoln, secretary at war, Governor George Clinton of New York, and Washington. On 2 May Washington sent Hamilton a document entitled “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment,” written after he had asked at least nine army officers or civil leaders with military experience to share their views with him (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, 321, 322, 331–32; 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, 374–98, 398, n. 31). To the committee on 12 June Congress referred Washington’s letter of 7 June urging that priority in western garrisons be given to the forts at Oswego, Niagara, and Detroit, and enclosing Brigadier General Louis Lebègue Duportail’s “Observations Respecting the Fortifications Necessary for the United States” (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 67; No. 186, fol. 107; 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, 479–80; 480, n. 25).
Although the committee’s report, drafted by Hamilton was submitted to Congress on 18 June, it was not spread on the journal until 23 October 1783 (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, 378–97, 378, n. 1; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 722–44). By then Hamilton had long since returned to New York, Washington had expressed disagreement with some of the recommendations, and JM was about to leave Congress until February 1787. See also Delegates to Harrison, 1 Nov. 1783 (1st letter), and n. 8.
The committee recommended a “Military peace establishment” of “four regiments of infantry” and “one of Artillery incorporated in a corps of Engineers, with the denomination of the corps of Engineers.” The personnel of each infantry regiment should total 601; of the corps of engineers, 636; and of a “corps of Artificers,” 189 (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, 383, 384–87). The committee favored the establishment of “Arsenals and magazines,” equipped to outfit 30,000 men for three years, at Springfield, Mass., “West Point & its dependencies,” Carlisle, Pa., Camden, S.C., and at “Some convenient position on James River to be reconnoitered for that purpose” (ibid., III, 391). Neither Hamilton’s draft of the report nor the extended version of 23 October was explicit as to the number of warships required, but both deemed “a fleet of the United States” to be “indispensable,” as well as “fortified harbors” for its “reception and protection” (ibid., III, 382; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 725).
11. The bracketed letters are taken from Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 549. Although the first four paragraphs of the committee’s report are almost exclusively devoted to a defense of the constitutional power of Congress, based on the sixth and ninth articles of the Articles of Confederation, to have an army and navy in peacetime, the last of these paragraphs closes by stating: “The Committee however submit to Congress, (in conformity to that spirit of Candour and to that respect for the sense of their constituents, which ought ever to characterize their proceedings) the propriety of transmitting the plan which they may adopt to the several states to afford an opportunity of signifying their sentiments previous to its final execution” (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton, III, 380–81).
12. Following a defense of the constitutionality of a peacetime army and navy, the committee continued its report with the words: “if there is a constitutional power in the United States” there are “conclusive reasons in favour of fœderal in preference to state establishments.” These “reasons” were then set forth in a sequence of six numbered paragraphs, but they did not include the persuasive ones conveyed by JM to Randolph (ibid., III, 381–82).
15. JM’s letter, probably dated 17 June, reached Jones in Richmond but has not been found (JM Notes, 19 June, and n. 9). Among the topics mentioned in it, other than those in the present letter, may have been a reference to Henry Laurens’ dispatch of 15 March, received by Congress on 10 June. Jones left Richmond on 28 June (Jones to JM, 28 June 1783, and n. 15).