To Edmund Randolph
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover franked “J. Madison Jr.,” and addressed by him to “Edmund [Rand]olph Esqr. Richmond.” The brackets enclose a syllable which has faded out except for the first stroke of the “R.” Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison July 28 1783.”
[Philadelphia, July 28, 1783]1
My dear Sir
Yesterday’s mail brought me no letter from you.2 The Address from the Citizens of Pa. came before Congs. on thursday and was referred to a Comme. of 5 members. The answer will probably be a very civil one, but will leave open the question touching the return of Congs.3 This question if decided at all in the affirmative must be preceded by despair of some of the competitors for the permanent residence, almost all of whom now make a common cause agst. Philada.4 It is not improbable that when the urgency of the scanty accomodations at Princeton comes to be more fully felt,5 with the difficulty of selecting a final Seat, among the numerous offers, that N.Y. in case of its evacuation6 may be brought into rivalship with Philada. for the temporary residence of Congress. My own opinion is that it would be less eligible as removing everything connected with Congs. not only farther from the South but farther from the Center, and making a removal to a Southern position finally more difficult, than it would be from Philada. Williamsbg. seems to have a very slender chance as far as I can discover. Annapolis, I apprehend wd. have a greater no. of advocates. But the best chance both for Maryland & Virga. will be to unite in offering a double jurisdiction on the Potowmack.7 The only dangerous rival in that case will be a like offer from N.J. & Pa. on the Delaware;8 unless indeed Congs. sd. be carried into N. York befo[re] a final choice be made in which case it wd. be difficult to get them out of the State.
In order to prepare the way to their permanent residence Congs. have appd. a Come. to define the jurisdiction proper for them to be invested with. Williamsbg. has asked our ex[planation] on this point. The nearer the subject is viewed the less easy it is found to mark the just boundary between the authority of C[ongs.] & that of the State on one side & on the other between the former & the privileges of the inhabitants. May it not also be made a question whether in constitutional strictness the gift of any Sta[te] without the Concurrence of all the rest, can authorize Congs. to exercise any power not delegated by the Confederation! As Congs. it would seem they are incompetent to every act not warranted by that instrument or some other flowing from the same source.9 I wish you could spare a little attention to this su[bject] & transmit your ideas [on i]t.10 Contrary to my intention I shall be detained here several weeks yet by a disappointmt. in some circumstances which must precede my setting out for Vrg[a.]11
There is considerable ground to believe that Carlton is possessed of the definitive Treaty.12 He has lately sent Congs. several depositions relative to forgeries of Mr. Morris’ Notes, the authors of which he has confined in N. York & has requested that persons may be sent in to attend the examination.13
The Court Martial is still proceeding in the inves[tigation of] the Mutiny but have disclosed no result.14
1. If JM wrote this superscription, it has now faded entirely from the manuscript. Henry D. Gilpin, the editor of the first extensive edition of Madison’s writings, perhaps copied this place and date from the manuscript as it appeared in 1840. For this reason the present editors have followed his version. Owing also to fading and to overly close cropping of the right margins of the letter’s three pages, the editors, as signified by the brackets in the text, have relied further upon Gilpin, even though he usually extended Madison’s abbreviations, added or deleted capitalizations, and altered punctuation.
3. JM to Mercer, 16 July, and n. 4; to Jefferson, 17 July. The brief acknowledgment by Congress of the “Address” was in the form of a resolution, adopted on 28 July 1783, expressing “great satisfaction in reviewing the spirited and patriotic exertions which have been made by the government and citizens of Pensylvania, in the course of the late glorious war,” and in being assured by the citizens of Philadelphia of their readiness “to aid in all measures which may have a tendency to support the national honor and dignity” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 452; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 241, 253–54). See also JM to Randolph, 5 Aug. 1783, and n. 3.
4. Jones to JM, 14 July, n. 6; JM to Jefferson, 17 July, and nn. 7–9; Delegates to Harrison, 14–15 Aug. 1783; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 240, 250, 252, 263.
5. Even for the nineteen delegates attending Congress on 30 July, comfortable “accomodations” in the “small Country village,” as President Elias Boudinot later described Princeton, were difficult to find. This lack, of course, became almost intolerable with the coming of winter and with the arrival, in response to Boudinot’s plea, of more delegates. See Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 229, and second n. 2, 231, 251; JM to Randolph, 5 Aug.; 30 Aug. 1783.
8. JM to Randolph, 13 Oct. 1783; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 202–3, 326.
9. JM to Pendleton, 28 July, and nn. 3, 5; to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1783; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 250, 302, n. 6.
10. Randolph apparently did not comply with this request.
11. The “disappointmt.” may have been caused by a letter from Catherine Floyd withdrawing from, or manifesting indecision about continuing, her engagement to marry JM. If he thereupon asked her by letter to renew her promise, he could not expect to receive her reply before “several weeks” had elapsed. See Jefferson to JM, 7 May, n. 16; JM to Jefferson, 17 July, and n. 10; 11 Aug. 1783.
12. Pendleton to JM, 4 May, and n. 6; Delegates to Harrison, 26 July 1783. The “considerable ground” for believing that Carleton had the treaty was a letter to Ralph Izard, written on 21 July by James Rivington, proprietor of the Royal Gazette of New York City, stating that the British frigate “Mercury” had brought a copy of the definitive treaty of peace and orders for the British armed forces to evacuate the city and the neighboring waters immediately (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, xxvi, 231, 232, 236, 242–43; Pa. Packet, 24 July; 26 July; Delegates to Harrison, 1 Aug. 1783).