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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 13 August 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). JM addressed the cover, “The honble Edmund Randolph Esqr. Richmond.” The docket, in Randolph’s hand, reads “J. Madison Jr April 13. 1782.” Except where otherwise noted, words italicized in the letter were written by JM in the official cipher. Subsequent to his recovery of the letter in 1821, JM lined through “April 13” with ink and beneath it wrote “August 13.” Besides amending the docket, he also changed the “April 13” to “13 August” on the roster of letters entitled “JM to Randolph,” which he prepared late in his life (LC: Madison Papers, XIII, 24–26). On this calendar he summarized the contents of the letter as “vote for peace in Brit. Cab: by majority of 2 voices only—verbal communication from Mr Laurens thro Mr. Blake & from Carlton who held out the surrender of Canada as a 14th. State—Back lands—Resol submitting to Fren: advice—Convention with B. Commrs in 1651—concerning boundaries of Virga.” See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 100–101.

Philada. Aug: 13th. 1782

Dear Sir

The post is come a second time without a line from you. From a letter from the Presidt. of Wm. & Mary, I infer that you are more profitably employed.1

I2 transmitted to you a few days ago by express the contents of a letter from Genl Carlton & Admiral Digby to Genl Washington, announcing the purpose of the British court to acknowledge the Independence of the 13 Provinces. Our expected advices on this head from Europe are not yet arrived.3 A Mr. Blake an opulent Citizen of So. Carolina who came from G. B. under a passport from Mr. Laurens to New York & thence hither4 assures us that the Administration are serious with respect to peace & the independence of this Country, that the point however was carried in the Cabinet by a majority of two voices only,5 that their finances are so disordered that a continuance of the war is in a manner impracticable, that the Militia at N. York have been thanked for their past services & told explicitly that they would not be wanted in future,6 that the evacuation of the U. S. will certainly take place this fall7 & that a large no. of transports are coming from England to remove the B. garrisons probably to the W. Indies, that these transports will contain about 2500 Germans who it is supposed in case of such of an evacuation will have the same destination,8 that Carlton told him & desired him [to] mention it at large that he was a real friend to America, and wished her to be powerful rich, united & happy, and secure agst. all her Enemies, that he also intimated in the course of conversation that Canada would probably be given up as a 14th. member of the confederacy.9 You will draw such conclusions from these particulars as you think fit. The Gentlemen of So. Carolina10 vouch for the veracity of Mr. Blake. It appears to me much more clear that the Ministry really mean to subscribe to our independence, than that they have renouncd the hope of seducing us from the French connection.

The motion for revoking11 the power given to France has been made again and pushed with the expected earnestness but was parried and will issue I believe in an adoption of your report with a representation thereupon to the court of France.12

The Controversy between Connecticut & Pennsylvania is in a promising train for adjudication; The Agents having agreed on the Commissioners to whom it is to be submitted.13

Among other means of revenue the back lands have on several late occasions been referred to, and at length recommended by a Grand Committee to the Consideration of Congress. A motion for assigning a day to take up the report was negatived by a smal[l] majority The report has been repeated by the committtee but a second experiment has not been made in Congress14 Several of the middle states seem to be facing about Maryland however preserves its wonted jealousy and obstinacy15

In compiling the evidence of our title, I suppose you will of course be furnished with all Mr. Jefferson’s lights.16 I have lately seen a fact stated by him w[h]ich s[he]ws clearly the ideas entertained in Virga. with respect to her territorial limits subsequent to the resumption of the Charter. In the convention between Commissrs. on the part of the Commonwealth of England & of the Grand Assembly of Virga. in 1651. by which the latter submit to the new Govt. it is stipulated that Virga. shall enjoy the antient bounds & limits granted by the Charters of the former Kings & that a new Charter shall be sought[?] from the Parliament agst. any that shall have intrenched [up]on the rights thereof.17

I forgot to mention to you by the last post that as Congress have adopted a scheme of settling the Accts. of the several Departments and of the Hospital among the rest by an itinerant Commissr. specially appointed for each, the Accts. of your friend Dr. Carter can not be audited here, but must be sent back to him.18

We have no very recent in[t]elligence from the French Squadron. They are probably bearing towards Boston whither it is the current opinion that they are destined.19 It does not appear that they have as yet made any prizes, except a recapture of a Frigate which had struck to the Sta. Margarita, a British-[S]panish Ship of superior force.20

You will observe that I venture more tha[n]21   with respect to uncyphered comm[uni]cations. To this I am led not only by a scarcity of time, but by the diminution of the danger occasioned by the apprehension of 13 or 14 of the gang of mail robbers who are now in the gaol of this City.22

1See the Reverend James Madison to JM, 2 August 1782. JM evidently had not yet received Randolph’s letter of 6 August (q.v.). Fees from a growing number of private clients supplemented Randolph’s yearly stipend of £300 specie as attorney general of Virginia (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 , X, 493). JM underlined “profitably.”

2By enclosing in brackets this paragraph and the next, and also the fifth and sixth paragraphs, JM or someone at his bidding designated many years later the portion of this letter which he wished to be published in the first edition of his writings. See Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends (Gilpin ed.), I, 158–60.

3See JM to Randolph, 9 August 1782; and Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 450, n. 17.

4When William Blake (1739–1803) was in South Carolina, he usually resided at Newington, his plantation fronting the Ashley River. He owned much other landed property in that state and also in England, where he lived during most of the Revolution and frequently thereafter. Although influential friends and kinsfolk, especially the Izard and Middleton families, seem to have prevented Blake’s estates in South Carolina from being confiscated, the General Assembly amerced them with a fine of 12 per cent ad valorem in 1781 (South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, I [1900], 161–62; XX [1919], 164; XXXIV [1933], 199). On 6 May 1782 in London a passport was issued to Blake by Henry Laurens, who designated himself as “formerly President of Congress—now an American Commissioner for treating with the Court of London” (NA: PCC, No. X, 675; 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 , XXIV, 464 n., 466–67; XXVII, 182; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (17 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , XI, 520).

5In London Henry Laurens had been assured by Sir John Sinclair that many of his fellow members of the House of Commons strongly desired to end the war with the United States (The Correspondence of the Right Honourable Sir John Sinclair, Bart.… [2 vols.; London, 1831], I, 78–81; Ian R. Christie, The End of North’s Ministry, 1780–1782 [London, 1958], pp. 353–36). Laurens probably conveyed this information to Blake.

In a “Minute of Cabinet,” dated 18 May 1782, a decision was recorded “to direct Mr. Fox to instruct Mr. Grenville to make propositions of Peace to the belligerent Powers upon the basis of Independence to the thirteen Colonies in N. America, and of the Treaty of Paris [1763].” Ten members of Rockingham’s ministry attended the meeting but the “Minute” fails to mention how they divided on this issue. On the same day word first reached London of Admiral Rodney’s victory in the Battle of the Saints on 12 April (Sir John Fortescue, ed., The Correspondence of King George the Third from 1760 to December 1783 [6 vols.; London, 1927–28], VI, 32).

6“The militia, who have been performing the military duties of the Crown,” wrote a Loyalist in New York City on 7 August, “have declined further service … and went to their different homes to console their wretched fates” (Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Father Knickerbocker Rebels, p. 251).

7See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August 1782, and n. 13. A cabinet meeting on 2 August 1782 had decided that General Carleton should be ordered to “prepare his Garrison for Embarkation,” that part of the troops should be taken to Barbados and the rest to Halifax, and that he, in co-operation with Admiral Digby, should drive the Spanish from New Providence Island in the Bahamas (Sir John Fortescue, ed., Correspondence of King George the Third, VI, 93–94). Carleton and his army evacuated New York City on 25 November 1783.

8Early in August Hessian troops, reportedly in excess of two thousand, who had embarked about 1 June on British transports at Bremerhaven, reached Halifax, Nova Scotia (Pennsylvania Packet, 13 and 28 August 1782).

9On 18 April in one of his unofficial discussions with Richard Oswald, agent of the Earl of Shelburne, Benjamin Franklin had broached the subject of Great Britain’s ceding Canada to the United States but was careful not to share his suggestion with Vergennes. Although Shelburne had wished to keep the proposal a secret from Charles James Fox, Oswald revealed it to Fox’s agent, Thomas Grenville, with the result that the rift between the two secretaries of state widened (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 476, 484–85, 497–98, 542–44, 547–49, 585).

10The delegates in Congress from South Carolina were John Lewis Gervais, Ralph Izard, Arthur Middleton, David Ramsay, and John Rutledge.

11After this word JM drew a heavy ink line through what appear to have been “Instructions” followed by two shorter words.

12See Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 2 August, and ed. n., and nn. 3, 4; 8 August, and ed. n., and nn. 8, 9; 15 August, and ed. n. For “your report,” see JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, and n. 13.

13See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 144, n. 2; 389, n. 22; 421, n. 22. On 12 August Congress was informed by a joint report of the agents for Connecticut and those for Pennsylvania that they had agreed that seven men, or “any five or more” of them, should “constitute a court, and have authority to proceed and determine the matter and difference between the said states.” Among the seven were Cyrus Griffin, Joseph Jones, and, by 23 August, Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia. The report requested Congress to determine what, “in what manner and by whom,” these commissioners should be paid. Congress referred the report to a committee with John Morin Scott (N.Y.) as its chairman and JM and John Witherspoon as the other members (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 461, and n., 528). This committee, in a report drafted by Scott and submitted to Congress on 14 August, advised that, although the United States had no constitutional authority to assume the cost of the adjudication, the two “Sovereign and Independent States” should agree to divide the cost equally, no matter what the verdict of the commissioners might be (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 466–68). On 28 August, after the agents of the two states had accepted this advice and proposed that the adjudication should begin at Trenton, N.J., on 12 November 1782, Congress issued combined commissions and instructions to the seven commissioners (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 528–29, 533–36). See also JM to Randolph, 19 November 1782, and nn. 12–17.

14See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 200–202; 202, nn. 2 and 9; 206, n. 2; and, especially, Randolph to JM, 6 August 1782, and n. 23. When the grand committee’s report of 31 July was “repeated” is not stated in the printed journal of Congress. Robert Morris’ lengthy analysis of the public debt and of methods which might be adopted to restore public credit and provide revenue had been referred to this committee on 5 August. Although he discounted the importance of “the Back Lands” as a quick or remunerative source either of credit or public income and warned that “hasty decisions” about the West might increase “intestine commotions,” he affirmed his belief that ultimately the interest of “the whole nation” and of each state would be served if Congress had “the entire disposition of these lands” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 429–46, 446 n.).

15See JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, and n. 14. For the opposition of Maryland to Virginia’s title to the Northwest Territory, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 74–77; 301, n. 4; IV, 179, nn. 7 and 8; 200–201; 221, n. 11; 341, n. 6.

16See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 306, n. 3.

17See Memorandum for Barbé-Marbois, 1 August 1782, and ed. n. Between “that” and “Virga.” JM crossed out, “the parliament shall recognize.” He quoted with approximate accuracy the fourth article of the agreement between “the Commissioners of the Council of State by authority of the Parliament of England and by the Grand Assembly of the Governor, Council and Burgesses” of Virginia (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 , I, 363–65; Lothrop Withington, “Surrender of Virginia to the Parliamentary Commissioners, March, 1651–2,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XI [1903–4], 32–41).

18JM substituted “sent back” for a canceled “remitted.” See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 67–68; 68, n. 2. Congress had authorized Robert Morris on 27 February to nominate commissioners for the settlement of accounts, but he delayed until 11 October 1782 before recommending a commissioner to audit the books of the hospital department (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 645). For Dr. William Carter, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 423–24; 426, n. 15.

20Off Cape Henry, Virginia, on 29 July 1782, the 44-gun “Santa Margaretta,” which the British had captured in 1779 from the Spanish, forced the 36-gun French frigate “L’Amazone” to strike her colors. The “Margaretta” was soon obliged to cut the tow line to her prize, in order to escape the pursuing fleet commanded by the Marquis de Vaudreuil (Pennsylvania Packet, 8 August 1782; W[illia]m Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present [7 vols.; Boston, 1897–1903], IV, 45–46, 83–84). Vaudreuil brought “L’Amazone” into Boston Harbor on 11 August (Pennsylvania Journal, 28 August 1782).

21After “tha,” a completely blank space may have originally been filled with a word or two. The space is followed by what appear to be three words, struck through with ink so heavily as to be illegible.

22See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 13 August 1782, and n. 12; Colonial Records of Pennsylvania (16 vols.; Harrisburg, 1851–53), XIII, 342–44, 349, 372–73; Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., IX, 596–606, 608–17, 628, 634.

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