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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 11 September, 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed by JM to “Edmund Randolph Esqr Richmond.” Docketed by Randolph, “JMadison Sept: 11. 1782.” Accompanying this manuscript in the Library of Congress is a copy of the letter, apparently made by a clerk, with a few corrections and comments in the hand of William C. Rives, author of the first major biography of JM.

Sepr. 11. 4 oClock1

Dear Sir

The Gentleman2 by whom I wrote this morning havg. waited till I had the opportunity of knowing the contents of the dispatches from Holland, I take advantage of it to add that we are disappointed by their silence with regard to peace. Those from Mr. Adams relate cheifly to his transactions with the States General.3 A letter from Mr. Laurens of the 30th. of May informs us that he is returning to U. S. having declined the service of Minister for peace. He appears to have been very unhandsomely dealt with by Mr. A. with respect to his Comission for Holland, which will no doubt be the foundation of mutual enmity.4 There is5 an uninteresting part of a letter from Mr. Dana, the first pages of it having been omitted.6 Mr. Berkeley writes on the 13th. of July7 that the Mail from England subsequent to the resignation of Fox Burke &c. breathes war.8 He confirms the success of the combined fleets agst. the Qubec &c.9 & the sailing of a fleet from the Texel consisting of 11 Sail of line, 5 or 6 frigates, &c, to cruise in the N. Seas, & the retreat of Adml Howe into Port.10 A N. Y. pape[r of th]e11 7. contains a very interesting conversation on [the 10]th. July in House of Lords between Shelburne & th[e Duke o]f Richmond on the subject of Ministerial politics, in which the latter assigns his reasons for not following the example of Fox &c: and both their sentiments with respect to American Independence. The Duke of Richmond seems tolerably well reconciled to it but Shelburnes speaks out his antipathy without depriving himself of the plea of necessity. He professes to adhere however to the principles which the administration carried into office relative to the war agst. America.12 I have written this in extreme haste. you will be very sensible of it by its incorrectness.

Adieu

J Madison Jr.

1JM wrote this date and hour at the close of the letter.

2See JM to Randolph, 11 September 1782, A.M., n. 1. Many years later JM, or someone by his direction, placed a bracket at the opening and the close of this paragraph to designate it for inclusion in the first edition of his writings (Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends [Gilpin ed.], I, 168–69).

3The dispatches included John Adams’ of 19, 22, and 23 April, 16 May, and 9 and 14 June, and 5 July; Henry Laurens’ of 30–31 May; the Amsterdam merchants’ of 11 July; and “five several contracts or engagements” concluded by Adams on 11 June for a loan to the United States of five million guilders, which had been negotiated by the merchants with Dutch “money lenders.” Adams’ letters of April informed Congress of the recognition of the independence of the United States by the States-General of the Netherlands and of the prospects for concluding a commercial treaty between the two countries (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 14; No. 186, fol. 54; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 315–20, 325–26, 420–23, 454–59, 482–83, 493–94, 594–95; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 579–81).

4In his letter to the president of Congress, written at Amsterdam on 30–31 May 1782, Henry Laurens declined to serve on the peace commission, owing to ill health brought on by the rigors of “close confinement” in the Tower of London for nearly fourteen months, and because he thought his presence on a commission containing four other capable plenipotentiaries unnecessary. At The Hague, though commissioned by Congress in October 1779 to negotiate a loan from the Netherlands, he was informed by John Adams that “necessary measures” already had been taken. Concluding that, in Adams’ view, his continuance in the Netherlands “could only be productive of unnecessary expense to the public,” Laurens reported to Congress that he was going to southern France to recover his health. Upon his return to America he would, “if required,” present Congress with “a more minute account” of his conduct (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 454–59; 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, 233 n.; 322–23; IV, 282, n. 18; JM to Randolph, 9 August, n. 5; 13 August 1782, n. 5; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XV, 1196–98, 1209–10, 1230; XVII, 534–37).

John Adams apparently was unaware that he had “unhandsomely dealt” with Laurens. In a letter of 9 June 1782 to Livingston, Adams referred to Laurens’ visit by writing, “I had great pleasure in seeing my old friend perfectly at liberty and perfectly just in his political opinions. Neither the air of England, nor the seducing address of her inhabitants, nor the terrors of the Tower have made any change in him” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 483).

5JM wrote and deleted “part of.” He then interlineated “part of a” after “uninteresting.”

6Unidentified, but Adams may have enclosed to Congress a part of the letter of 23 April 1782 to him from Francis Dana at St. Petersburg stating that he was making no headway in securing recognition of the independence of the United States by the tsarina Catherine II (ibid., V, 322–24). See also 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, 265, n. 2; IV, 182, n. 14; 274, ed. n.; 275, n. 1.

7This letter of Thomas Barclay, consul of the United States in France, has not been found. The dispatch was probably directed to Robert Morris and mailed to him from Amsterdam.

8See JM to Randolph, 10 September, and n. 33; and letter of 11 September 1782, A.M., n. 2. Upon the formation of the ministry of the Earl of Shelburne, Edmund Burke had resigned as paymaster general of the forces.

9See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 3 September, and n. 4; Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 September; Pennsylvania Packet, 12 September 1782.

10See JM’s letter of 11 September 1782, A.M., to Randolph, and nn. 6, and 7. JM interlineated “5 or.”

11Within the three pairs of brackets in this sentence is what JM probably wrote. By breaking the seal, Randolph evidently made holes in the page.

12This “conversation” was printed in the Royal Gazette (New York, Rivington) of 7 September 1782 and copied in a “Postscript” of the Pennsylvania Packet five days later. Charles Lennox, third Duke of Richmond, who had been head of ordnance in the ministry of the Marquis of Rockingham, explained why he continued to occupy the office after the marquis’ death. He stated that the primary mission of the Rockingham ministry always had been to end “the mad war” with America, and that to acknowledge the independence of the United States was “founded in right and justice.” The duke added that he would withdraw from the administration if the new prime minister, the Earl of Shelburne, deviated from that mission. Shelburne replied that Charles James Fox’s “early declarations of readiness to accede to American independency” would prove “to have done infinite mischief both here and in America.” Although Shelburne agreed that his aim, like that of Rockingham, was to end the war, he denied that the situation was so desperate as to compel Great Britain to accept terms of peace dictated by France and including a recognition of American independence.

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