James Madison Papers

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 13 September 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Samuel Patteson. Addressed to “The Honorable Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Council Chamber September 13th. 1783.


I arrived here yesterday after a very pleasant trip of a fortnight which has perfectly restored my health.1 It gives me pleasure to find by your favor that positive orders are given to General Carelton to remove from New York, the sooner he goes the better, as I never can think an unrestrained intercourse ought to take place till he is gone.2 I shall take proper steps to recover our records &c. if they are not destroyed which I think is the case as the whole conduct of the enemy whilst in this State was a series of wanton cruelty.3 We have had no late arrivals nor is there a word of domestic news except that I have received intelligence which I can depend on that the indians tho’ much inclined to peace will continue the war at every hazard if the Pensylvanians carry on their settlements beyond the ohio. if my advice had been followed, to Keep them within their real chartered bounds they would not have had it in their power thus to disturb the quiet of their neighbors.4

I am &.


2Delegates to Harrison, 23 Aug. 1783, and n. 2. Harrison undoubtedly believed that “unrestrained intercourse” with the enemy contained elements of danger. As late as 20 October 1783 he advised the Virginia General Assembly that the British were still powerful in New York City and, with an unfavorable turn of events in Europe, might constitute a renewed military menace (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 214, MS in Va. State Library).

3Delegates to Harrison, 23 Aug. 1783, and n. 4. Although the destruction of public records rather than their sequestration had characterized the British invasions of the state between 1779 and 1781, one of Governor Jefferson’s letter books found its way to London (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 , I, 284, n. 4; II, 288, n. 3; III, 59, n. 4; 183, n. 27; 272, n. 4; IV, 378, and n. 6; V, 284, n. 9; 350, n. 19; 459; Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum in the Years MDCCCCXI–MDCCCCXV [London, 1925], p. 176).

4General William Irvine had charged Virginians rather than “Pensylvanians” with aggravating Indians to the point of war by moving north and west of the Ohio River (Delegates to Harrison, 8 Sept. 1783, and n. 2). This factual disagreement partially stemmed from Irvine’s designation of at least some of the white intruders as Virginians because, having originally settled in Yohogania County, Va., they declined to continue living there after an allegedly inaccurate survey of the southwestern and western boundary of Pennsylvania had placed them under the jurisdiction of that state—thus imperiling their political privileges and the validity of their land titles.

Governor Harrison contended that if the surveyors, in determining the southwestern boundary of Pennsylvania, had measured, as the Pennsylvania charter of 1681 appeared to intend, five degrees of longitude due west from the meanders of the Delaware River rather than from its most westerly bend, almost all the settlers along the Youghiogheny River would have been found to live within Virginia’s rightful jurisdiction. Furthermore, in Harrison’s view, many of the trespassers along the Ohio River below Fort Pitt should have been restrained by the government of Pennsylvania, for they were agents of land speculators resident in Philadelphia (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 143, 153–55, 179, 193–95, 197–98, MS in Va. State Library; 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, 520–21; McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 351; Pa. Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., IX, 564–66, 585; X, 56, 72, 95–96; Colonial Records of Pa., XIII, 644–45, 685–86; 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 , I, map facing p. 212; V, 74; 75, nn. 10, 11; 276; 277, nn. 4, 5, 8, 9; 440; Jones to JM, 31 May, n. 17; Harrison to Delegates, 19 Sept.; 26 Sept. 1783).

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