George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Beverley Randolph, 4 August 1790

From Beverley Randolph

Richmond [Va.] August 4th 1790


I do myself the honour to forward to you a Copy of a letter with its inclosures received some time past from the Commissioner appointed in behalf of this State to settle her accounts with the United States.1

The subject of these papers sir, is of great moment to Virginia—altho’ we are sensible that public Servants should be treated with delicacy yet we feel ourselves bound upon the present occasion to declare, that the enclosed extract from a report made, by two of the Board of Commissioners, appointed for the settlement of Accounts between the United States and individual States, to the House of representatives during their present session, has destroyed all confidence in the impartiality of our Judges.

We wish not to enter into a lengthy discussion of this subject, but shall content ourselves with presenting to you the information which we have received, being well assured that should our jealousy appear to be well founded, care will be taken to remove every cause which may excite suspicion in any of the parties interested in this very important business.2 I have the honour to be with the highest respect your obedient Servant

Beverley Randolph

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, Vi: Executive Letter Book.

1See enclosure. Randolph’s letter and its enclosures concern Virginia’s reaction to a report of the United States commissioners for settling accounts with the states, submitted to Congress on 30 April 1790. For the background to the board of commissioners and its members, see the Commissioners for Settling Accounts to GW, 21 July 1790, n.1, and GW to the U.S. Senate, 9 Aug. 1790, source note. On 23 April 1790 the House of Representatives had ordered the commissioners to “report the amount of such claims of the States as have been offered to them since the time expired for receiving claims, specifying the principles on which the claims are founded, and distinguishing them from other claims.” A week later Speaker Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg laid before the House a letter and report from the commissioners, which were read and ordered to lay on the table (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 3:377–78, 390). The letter from William Davies, commissioner for Virginia, to Randolph enclosed that portion of the federal commissioners’ report that pertained to Virginia. The report was strongly critical of the procedures followed by Virginia in formulating the state’s accounts with the federal government, labeling them vague, disorderly, irregular, and probably exaggerated. “On this head the board feel themselves much at a loss to say any thing satisfactory, because they have not received from the District Commissioner any abstract that will give a precise idea of what the State does claim, nor can they obtain from the Agents of the State of Virginia a specification of her Claims in any other than general terms and those so couched as to conclude little or nothing, nor can the Commissioner of Army Accounts give any statement from the papers in his office; nor the Auditor from the papers in his office relative to specific supplies.” The extract enclosed by Davies is in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. Virginians received the report with dismay. “This paper,” Randolph wrote Madison shortly after receiving extracts of the preliminary report, “discovers such a Temper in the Judges as does not inspire us with confidence that their Judgments will be grounded upon Strict Principles of equity” (Randolph to Madison, 4 June 1790, in Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 13:238). Since the commissioners were scheduled for reappointment, Randolph’s letter to GW with its enclosures was, as he wrote Madison, designed to indicate Virginia’s lack of confidence in two of them, John Kean and John Taylor Gilman. “Should these Papers reach New York Time enough they may perhaps be thought sufficient ground for filling up the appointments with new men. But should they have arrived after the appointments were made, the Presidents Discretion will prevent their having an bad Effect” (Randolph to Madison, 10 Aug. 1790, ibid., 292). GW had, however, already reappointed Kean and Gilman. See also Commissioners for Settling Accounts to GW, 21 July 1790, nn.1 and 2, and GW to Randolph, 24 Aug. 1790.

2For GW’s reply, see his letter to Randolph, 24 Aug. 1790.

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