James Madison Papers

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison, 23 August 1783

Virginia Delegates to Benjamin Harrison

RC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Theodorick Bland. Docketed, “Letter Hon Virga Del: 23d August 83.” A different hand, possibly that of an unknown archivist, continued the docket: “1783 Aug: 23d Containing among other Matters, Sir Guy Carletons reasons for delaying the evacuation of. and informing the Govr. that Congress by resolution had demanded the records and State papers pertaining to Virginia from Great Britain.” For the absence of JM’s signature, see JM to Randolph, 8 July 1783, and n. 2.

Prince Town Augt. 23d 1783


We have been honor’d with Yrs. of the 9th Inst.1

Sr. Guy Carleton writes in a letter to Congress dated Augt. 17th. that the June Packet lately arrived has brought him orders for evacuating that Place, and that he shall loose no time in fulfilling his Majesty’s commands, but he adds, that notwithstanding his orders are urgent to accelerate the Total evacuation, the difficulty of assigning the Precise time for that event is of late greatly encreased, which he attributes to the effects which the Proceedings of the Committes &.c. have had on the Loyalists, who concieve, he says, the safety both of their property and their lives depends on their being removed by him. for this he appeals to the Gazettes, and daily publications in the U. S. and he further adds, he should shew an Indifference to the feelings of humanity as well as to the honor and Interest of the Nation he serves to leave any of the Loyalists that are desirous to quit the Country, a prey to the violence they concieve they have so much reason to apprehend, on which grounds he appears to Justify himself for any delay in the evacuation which may take place. he also expresses his Surprise that Congress have not officially interposed their authority to restrain the Violences he speaks of, and taken other steps to carry into execution the terms of the Treaty.2 he appears however to think that no blame is imputable to himself, in the glaring infringement of the 7th Article in suffering so large a Number of Negroes to be carried off under the flimsy pretext that they were declared free by the Proclamation of his predecessors, previous to his arrival and the Signature of the treaty from whence he draws this Singular conclusion that they could not possibly be the objects of the negotiation.3 The official information of the evacuation being soon to take place however, suggested to us the propriety of hastening a demand of the records, papers &.c. belonging to our State and its Citizens, which Congress agreed to in the form of a General resolution comprizing those of all the other States[.] we have no doubt but yr. Excelly. will take the necessary steps to avail Yr self of the demand as far as it concerns the State of Virginia4

There seems to be no expectations of the difinitive treaty being speedily concluded.5 The Powers of Europe seem to have their attention fixd on the War between the two Imperial Courts and the Porte,6 and on forming Peace establishments, which indeed are so large with respect to their Marine that it may be calld, not improperly Arming for peace.

With respect to the return of Congress to Philadelphia which Yr. Excelly. seems to fear, I believe you may be perfectly at ease on that score, as all Ideas of that sort seem to have vanished, since the great Majority appeard on the Vote we had the honor to transmit you on that Question in our last.7 we have the Honor to be

Yr. Excellys. most obedt. Servts

Theok: Bland jr.   J. F. Mercer   A. Lee


We are this day honord with the Compy. of his Excelly Genl. Washington, who will remain some time here at the request of Congress.8

We could wish yr. Excelly. wd. be pleased to transmit a Succinct State of the Sums Granted by our assembly to Congress, together with Sessions or dates of each grant, and the requisitions under which they were granted, and the purposes to which they have been appropriated in the several grants9

Theok: Bland jr.


2Bland accurately summarized Carleton’s letter to President Elias Boudinot, enclosing copies of depositions from Loyalists and of letters dating between April and July 1783 from Washington, Governor George Clinton of New York, and Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, tending to support Carleton’s charges that, contrary to the provisional articles of peace and in spite of the “pacific” disposition “of the Court of Great Britain,” Congress and the state governments seemed unwilling or unable to prevent “Committees formed in various Towns, Cities and districts, and even in Philadelphia” from “barbarous menaces” to the property and often to the lives of “their Countrymen” who had not favored the American cause but wished to remain in the United States. Carleton pointed out that this emigration, which he was resolved to facilitate, could be greatly lessened, and thereby the evacuation of British troops could be much expedited, if Congress and the state executives would fulfill their duty to protect these Loyalists (NA: PCC, No. 52, fols. 217–23, 225–67).

If Carleton had wished to document his mention of “the Proceedings of the Committes &.c.,” he needed only to cite many of the issues of the Pennsylvania Packet between April and July, both inclusive. For Portsmouth, N.H., see the issue of 24 July; for Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Malden, Marblehead, Roxbury, and Worcester, Mass., the issues of 15 and 29 April, 20 May, and 5, 10, 19, and 28 June; for Newport, R.I.. the issue of 24 May; for New Haven, Conn., the issues of 22 and 29 April; for Amenia, Cambridge, the Canajoharie and Mohawk districts of Tryon County, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck. and Scarsdale Manor, N.Y., the issues of 20 May, 3 and 26 June, and 3, 15, and 19 July; for Bucks County, Germantown, and Philadelphia, Pa., the issues of 24 and 31 May, 17 and 19 June, and 8 July; for the militia of Kent County, Del., the issue of 26 June; for Baltimore and Elk-Ridge, Md., the issues of 26 June and 8 July; for Portsmouth, Va., and the proclamation on 2 July of Governor Harrison, the issues of 17 June and 17 July; and for Charleston, S.C.. the issue of 24 July 1783. See also Pendleton to JM, 10 May, and n. 4; Jones to JM, 21 June, and n. 20; 28 June; 21 July, n. 6; Randolph to JM, 12 July, and n. 2; 18 July 1783, and nn. 5. 6

4JM to Randolph, 8 July, and citations in n. 13; Livingston to JM, 19 July, and n. 10; Harrison to Delegates 9 Aug., and nn. 4, 5; 13 Sept. 1783, and n. 3. On 21 August Congress adopted, after amendment, two resolutions, introduced by Arthur Lee and seconded by Bland, to request the British commanders-in-chief in New York and Quebec “to order the immediate delivery to persons authorized to receive them, of all archives, records. deeds and papers belonging to any of the United States or to any of their Citizens which may have fallen into the hands of any of his Britannic Majesty’s Officers during the course of the war.” These resolutions, which Congress directed to be sent to the several states. also requested Washington “to make application” to the two British commanders-in-chief for the return of the manuscripts (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 517–18, 518, n. 1). As early as 28 April, by instructions from General Sir Guy Carleton, Adjutant General Oliver De Lancey, Jr., had called upon “all persons” having papers of the types just mentioned to deposit them in the secretary’s office of the army’s headquarters in New York City (Pa. Packet, 6 May 1783).

6For the war against Turkey by the “Imperial Courts” of Russia and Austria, see 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 , IV, 97; 99, nn. 7, 9, 12; Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 23 and 30 Aug., 6, and 13 Sept. 1783.

7Delegates to Harrison, 14–15 Aug., and n. 7; JM to Randolph, 18 Aug. 1783, and nn. 3, 4. On 25 August Congress referred to a committee, James Duane, chairman, and JM among the other four members, resolutions of “Inhabitants of Elizabethtown,” N.J., offering that town as the site of the capital of the United States. The committee reported on 10 September (NA: PCC, No. 46, fol. 103; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 548). See also Jones to JM, 14 July 1783, n. 2.

8JM to Jefferson, 11 Aug. 1783, and n. 13. Rockingham, the residence provided by Congress for Washington’s use during his stay from 23 August to 9 November 1783, was a house of twenty rooms, situated on an estate of 120 acres fronting the Millstone River at Rocky Hill, about five miles from Princeton (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 , XXVII, 114–237, passim; Pa. Packet, 28 Sept. 1783).

9Harrison to Delegates, 10 Oct. 1783. The wish of the delegates to be provided with these data recalls the request of the Virginia General Assembly to be furnished with a detailed financial accounting by Robert Morris, superintendent of finance (Instruction to Delegates, 4 and 7 June, and n. 1; Harrison to Delegates, 20 June 1783, and n. 4).

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