To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked by him and addressed to “Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “J Madison July 8. 1783.”
Philada. July 8. 1783.
My dear friend
Yours of the 28. of June like the preceding one1 found me at this place, where my preparations for leaving Congs. will keep me much of the remainder of my time.2 The footing on which the Impost is placed by the Assembly is not an eligible one, but preferable to a total rejection.3 It is to be regretted that immediate use was not made of the impression of the letter from Genl. W.4 The interval preceding the next Session will give full scope to malignant insinuations. The reversal of the award in the case of Nathan may possibly be just in itself, but it will require all your eloquence I fear to sheild the honor of the State from its effects. The Agency which the Delegation had in the affair will impart no small share of the mortification to them. I suppose the feelings of Mr. Jefferson & Mr. Harrison also will not be much delighted by it.5
Genl. How is here with a corps of N. England troops detached by Gl. W. for the purpose of quelling the Mutiny. His only employment will now be to detect & punish the promoters of it.6 Congs. remain at Princeton. Their removal from that place will soon become an interesting question.7 Not a few maintain strenuously the policy of returning to this City in order to obviate suspicions abroad of any disaffection in the mass of so important a State to the fœderal Govt. and to restore mutual confidence with a State which has of late been so firm in adhering to fœderal measures.8 It is supposed too that a freer choice might here be made amg the permanent seats offered by the States, than at a place where the necessity of a speedy removal wd. give undue advantage to an offer which happened to be in greatest readiness for immediate use.9 The Citizens here in general regret the departure of Congs. disavow the idea that they were unwilling to take arms in defence of Congs. and will probably enter into some declaration tending to invite their return.10
We hear nothing from our Ministers in Europe.11 The evacuation of N. York as to the time seems as problematical as ever.12 The sending off the negroes continues to take place under the eyes & remonstrances of the Inspectors of Embarkations.13
2. Although JM had an almost perfect record of attending Congress from 20 March 1780 to 24 June 1783, he was frequently absent from the sessions at Princeton during the remainder of his service as a delegate (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XVI, 268; JM Notes, 21 June 1783, n. 5). From 30 June, when a quorum first assembled in Princeton, to 31 October, when his term expired, Congress convened on 94 of the 107 days, not counting the seventeen Sundays. The journal records 94 tallied polls, all taken on 38 of the 94 days. Arthur Lee voted in 82 of the polls, Mercer in 80, Bland in 56, JM in 43, and Jones in 32. The journal and JM’s correspondence make clear that he rarely attended in July and August, except near the close of each of those months, and that in September and October he probably shared in congressional business only from 1 to 4 and 12 to 25 September and on 2, 6 to 13, 16 to 18, and 22 October.
Among the reasons impelling JM to spend so much time in Philadelphia, where he continued to keep all his “papers” and to stay in Mrs. House’s boardinghouse, were his wish or need to complete some “writing,” engage in “close reading,” transact “private business” preparatory to “leaving Congress,” enjoy as long as possible the “agreeable & even instructive society” of the city, and avoid the cramped quarters in which he was obliged to live when in Princeton (JM to Randolph, 15 July; 5 Aug.; 12 Aug.; 8 Sept.; 13 Sept.; from Jefferson, 7 May, and n. 14; to Jefferson, 17 July; 20 Sept.; to James Madison, Sr., 30 Aug.; 8 Sept.). The “thinness” of attendance in Congress during July and most of August blocked decisions on important issues; Virginia was always effectively represented by at least two delegates; and JM returned to Princeton upon notification that his presence in Congress would be “of essential utility” (JM to Jefferson, 17 July; 11 Aug.; to Randolph, 21 July; Hawkins to JM, 9 Aug.; Mercer to JM, 14 Aug.; JM to James Madison, Sr., 30 Aug. 1783).
5. At Harrison’s request, JM and the other Virginia delegates in Congress had arranged in Philadelphia for the arbitration of Simon Nathan’s financial claims against Virginia. The evidences of debt held by him were the outcome of contracts made with him and others by Jefferson when governor. The arbitrators’ decision, favorable to Nathan, had been rejected by the Virginia General Assembly. Harrison no doubt was mortified by the result of the arbitration—probably the more so because his own oversight had prevented an important document, adverse to Nathan’s claim, from reaching the arbitrators before they rendered their judgment. On 5 May 1783, having reviewed at length the case of Nathan in a letter addressed to the speaker of the House of Delegates, Harrison stated, “Tho’ I am dissatisfied with the Award yet I think we are now bound to pay it, and I hope the Assembly will provide a fund” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 110, MS in Va. State Library). See also 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, 14; 15, n. 8; 29–30; 30, nn. 4, 8; 154; 241; 307; 474; 475, n. 3; 502; Randolph to JM, 28 June 1783, and nn. 7, 8.
7. JM to Randolph, 30 June 1783, and n. 7; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 215–17, 217, n. 5.
9. 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, 447; 448, nn. 4–7; Harrison to Delegates, 17 May; 4 July, and n. 5; Delegates to Harrison, 27 May, and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 10 June, and n. 14; Instructions to Delegates, 28 June; Hamilton to JM, 6 July 1783, n. 6.
11. Subsequent to 8 July the first important dispatch from “our Ministers” was Franklin’s of 7 March, regarding the treaty with Sweden, received by Congress on 16 July (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 71). See also 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, 335; 339, n. 21; JM to Jefferson, 10 June, and n. 24; 17 July 1783, and n. 2.