James Madison Papers

Account with the Commonwealth of Virginia, [20 April] 1787

Account with the Commonwealth of Virginia

Editorial Note

By an act of the October 1785 session of the Virginia assembly, delegates to Congress from Virginia were allowed a salary of “six dollars per day while attending on, travelling to, and returning from Congress,” to be paid quarterly (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 48–49). Computation of the wages due was complicated by the conversion of Virginia currency into pounds. The ratio of pounds to Virginia dollars was three-tenths, or three and one-third dollars to the pound (New-York Directory, 1786, pp. 16–17). The amount in pounds was determined by multiplying the number of dollars by three-tenths. Thus the factor “3” in the manuscript is really 0.3, which gives a sum in pounds and tenths of pounds. The tenths of pounds was then converted to shillings. The clerk who prepared JM’s account below did not write down the intermediate steps in the conversion. As an example from the document: $542 multiplied by 0.3 equals 162.6. Six-tenths of a pound equals 12 shillings. The final figure, £162.12.0, is the correct equivalent of $542.

[20 April 1787]


Dr. Js. Madison Jr. in Account with the Commonwealth of Virginia Cr.

To advance on the 12th. of Jany.
under Auditors warrant.—164.0.0
By wages due for Travelling to and attending on Congress, from Jany. 21. to April 20 inclusive, 90 days at 6 drs. per day Dollars
162. 0

E[rror]s E[xcepte]d Js. Madison Jr.

To advance of one quarter, as     Delegation — £162. 0. 0
a delegate commencing on the     Js. Madison — 174.12. 02
20th. of April 1787—Ds. 542    

E. E. Js. Madison Jr

Ms (Vi). Partly in JM’s hand. Docketed on cover: “Accot The Honble Jas. Madison £174.12.0: Upon Accot: from 21st Jany. to the 20th Apl. 1787. Entd. 24 Apl. 1787.” JM made various calculations in the lower left-hand corner of the document.

1This should be £324.12.0.

2By a mistake of the clerk, this sum was £14 more than was due JM. The advance of £164 on 12 Jan. was £2 more than was due JM for that quarter, so that JM’s wages for the second quarter should have been only £160.12.0. Compensation for the error was not made until later in the year (John Pendleton to JM, 24 Apr. 1787 and n. 4).

3JM’s wages should have been $552, or £165.12.0, but the error was not corrected until JM’s entire account for his service in Congress was computed in 1789. In the interim, subsequent calculations were based on this figure of £162.12.0. Apparently, quarterly wages were calculated on the basis of a 366-day year (James Madison, Balance of Credits, 20 May 1789 [Vi]).

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