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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, [16]–17 September 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned letter in JM’s hand. Cover missing but letter docketed by Randolph, “17 Sept. 82.” The date line originally read “Philada. Sepr. 1782.” Many years later JM inserted “[17]” between the month and the year. In view of his “Sepr. 17.” at the beginning of the seventh paragraph, this insert almost certainly should have been [16]. The italicized words are those written by JM in the official cipher.

Philada. Sepr: [16] 17821

My dear Sir

My2 letters by a private hand subsequent to the last post have anticipated the cheif intelligence from Holland which I had allotted for the post of this week.3 I have however one important article which at that date lay under an injunction of secrecy which has been since taken off. Mr. Adams we are informed has contracted with a mercantile House in Holland for the negociation of a loan of 5 million of guilders, or about 10 million of livres, for which he is to give 5 perCt. interest, and 1½ perCt. for commission & other douceurs & charges, which will raise the interest4 to about 6 perCt. The Principal is to be discharged in five annual payments, commencing with the 10th year from the date of the loan. When the dispatches left Holland, upwards of 1½ million of guilders had been subscribed, and upwards of 1 million actually received.5 The contractors however made it a condition that none of the money should be paid to the U. S. until the contract should be ratified by Congress. This ratification passed on Saturday6 and, its arrival in Holland will place under7 the orders of Mr. M. the money which shall then have been procured. How far the amount will by that time have augmented is uncertain. The Contractors seemed to be tolearbly sanguine but not absolutely sure, of getting the whole sum.8 The partial subscription already secured, is a most seasonable relief to the department of finance which was struggling under the most critical difficulties.

In addition to the preceding fund Congress have been led by a desp[a]ir of supplies from the states to sue for a further loan of four million dollars for the service of the ensuing and the deficiencies of the present years9 This demand will be addressed in the first instance to the court of France. In case of miscarriage there an experiment will be made on the liberality of our new friends10

The Legislature of Rhode Island has broke up without acceding to the impost of 5 pCt.11 Congress have apportioned 1,200,00012 Dollars on the States for the payment of interest to the public creditors. Virga. is rated somewhat lower in this requisition than in the last; not however without complaints from some quarters.13 On these subjects you will have full information from Mr. Lee who will set off in a few days he says for Virga. in order to be at the October Session.14

I should have told you that some progress had been made by Mr. Adams in the Treaty of Amity & Commerce with their High Mightinesses. His propositions with the remarks & amendments of the College of Admiralty had been taken ad referendum. It is somewhat extraordinary that he should omit to send us a copy of those propositions & remarks. He had taken no steps towards a treaty of allyance15

The debates and explanations produced by the resignation of Mr. Fox and his adherents, have unveiled some of the arcana of the British Cabinet. I inclose them for you complete, as far as they have been published here. If there be any sincerity in the party remaining in office it would seem that the war is not [to] be pursued against the U. S., nor their independence suffered to be a bar to peace. We shall be able to judge better of that sincerity when the proceedings of Mr. Grenville come to our knowledge.16

Mr. Cowhan has advanced me £50. of this curren[c]y which he says is the utmost that his engagements & the scarcity of money will permit. I have given him an order on you for that sum, in favr. of his partner at Richmond.17

Sepr. 17.

On Friday two large French frigates bringing money &c for the French army & despatches for Congress & the F. Minister came into Deleaware bay. For want of Pilots in-time they got entangled among the bars which perplex the navigation of this bay. The appearance & bearing of the British fleet after pilots were obtained rendered it impossible for them to return into the proper channel. The only expedient that remained was to push forward & attempt under the advantage of high water to force a passage throught the shoal which obstructed them. In this attempt one of them succeded. The other stuck in the sand, and was lost. All the public stores, particularly the money on board have however been fortunately saved. The Capt: & Crew we fear have fallen into the hands of the Enemy. The ship it is supposed can18 not be raised by them, having been skuttled before they took possession of her. The Frigate which escaped is up at Chester.19 We expect the Despatches will be here to day.20 The Marquis Viominil and 20 or 30 other French officers have returned in these ships.21

The Post is not yet come in.22 Your trip to Wmsbg.23 I supposed prevented you from writing by him. We can not tell whether he is sick or has been intercepted. The former is the most probable supposition.

1See headnote.

2Many years after writing the letter JM or someone at his direction placed a bracket at the opening of this paragraph and another at the close of the next to the last paragraph, thus designating the portion to be published. 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, 170–73.

4JM interlineated “the interest” above a deleted “it.”

5JM substituted “received” for a word too heavily canceled to be legible.

6See JM to Randolph, 11 September 1782, P.M., n. 3. For the terms of these loans and John Adams’ difficulties in arranging them, see Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 420–21, 482–83. Adams asked Robert R. Livingston in a letter of 5 July to “entreat” the members of Congress “not to draw until they receive information from the directors of the loan how much money they are sure of, and then to draw immediately upon them” (ibid., V, 594–95). Congress ratified “the contract” on Saturday, 14 September 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 579–80).

7JM wrote this word above a deleted “within.”

8As late as 6 November 1782 Adams expressed “fear” that “not more than one and a half” million guilders were available for Robert Morris’ use (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 858).

9On 14 September Congress resolved to seek up to four million dollars in Europe, “exclusive of the money which Mr. Adams may obtain by the loan now negotiating in Holland.” JM had co-operated with John Rutledge and James Duane in having the expression “exclusive of” replace “including,” as at first proposed (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 577–80). See also Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 771–75.

10That is, the States-General of the Netherlands or perhaps a further loan from Dutch bankers. In respect to France, see Motion Concerning the “America,” 3 September 1782, ed. n.

11Although Robert Morris on 2 August had written to Governor William Greene about the financial plight of Congress and hence about the urgent need for the impost amendment to be ratified, the Rhode Island General Assembly adjourned early in September without heeding Morris’ plea (John Russell Bartlett, ed., Records of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England [10 vols.; Providence, 1856–65; in title, “State” was “Colony” in Vols. I–VII], IX, 580–87; William R. Staples, Rhode Island in the Continental Congress, with the Journal of the Convention that Adopted the Constitution, 1765–1790 [Providence, 1870], pp. 387–90). 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 , IV, 388, n. 13; JM to Randolph, 19 November 1782, and n. 9.

12JM inadvertently wrote “1,2,00,000.”

13In his lengthy financial report of 29 July, Robert Morris had estimated that between $1,800,000 and $2,000,000 would be needed to pay the annual interest on the public debt, including “what it may be necessary to borrow for the year 1783.” When he submitted this report to Congress on 5 August 1782, he knew that the three delegates in Congress from Georgia favored the impost and hence was sanguine that their state as well as Rhode Island would ratify the amendment (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, 388, n. 13; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 399; JM to Randolph, 13 August 1782, n. 14; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 437, 439; XXIII, 643; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 639; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, p. 129).

Upon the recommendation of the grand committee to which Morris’ report had been referred, Congress on 4 September decided that the budget figure of $8,000,000 for 1782, already apportioned among the states, should be supplemented by $1,200,000—a sum deemed sufficient to pay the interest on the domestic debt in 1783 (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, 301, n. 2; IV, 123, n. 3; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 407; XXIII, 545; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 454). Under instruction from Congress the grand committee suggested on 10 September how much of the $1,200,000 each state should be requested to contribute. After unsuccessful efforts by eight states to have their quotas reduced, including an attempt by Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, acting separately, to transfer some of their recommended burdens to Virginia, Congress adopted the committee’s report on the same day (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 564–71). Virginia’s quota of $174,000 was 14.5 per cent of the total sum, in contrast to over 16 per cent of the $8,000,000.

14Arthur Lee left Philadelphia on 6 October. See JM to Randolph, 8 October 1782; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 639. The General Assembly convened on 21 October, but the House of Delegates did not have a quorum until 9 November 1782 (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, pp. 3, 9).

15See 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, 403, n. 3; 404; 410–11; JM to Randolph, 11 September 1782, P.M., n. 3. In the present letter JM was reporting what John Adams had written in the first two paragraphs of his letter of 9 June 1782 to Livingston (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 482). See also ibid., V, 325.

Instead of “College of Admiralty,” JM should have written either “colleges of admiralty” or more appropriately “The admiralty,” as the term appears in Adams’ letter of 9 June. The primary administration of the navy, other admiralty affairs, and custom duties in the Netherlands was divided among five colleges, each with jurisdiction over a distinct geographic area. When the members of these five colleges met together as the “Council of Admiralty” or “Admiralty,” their presiding officer was the “Admiral-General,” the Prince of Orange and Nassau (George Edmundson, History of Holland [Cambridge, England, 1922], pp. 117–18; James Brown Scott, ed., The Armed Neutralities of 1780 and 1800 [New York, 1918], pp. 358–64).

16Probably enclosed with this letter were copies of the Pennsylvania Packet for 12, 14, and 17 September 1782. These issues published the discussions about American affairs in the House of Commons as late as 10 July, and also news from Paris of the conferences about peace between Thomas Grenville and the Comte de Vergennes, under date lines of 11, 16, and 24 June. See also JM to Randolph, 5–6 August, n. 9; 10 September, and n. 33; 11 September, P.M., and n. 12; 30 September, and n. 13; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 9 August 1782, n. 1.

18This word is written above a deleted “will.”

19On 13 September four British men-of-war, commanded by Captain George Keith Elphinstone, entered Delaware Bay in pursuit of the French frigates “L’Aigle” and “La Gloire.” “L’Aigle” ran hard aground, thus enabling the British to capture her entire complement, including Vice Admiral Louis-René-Madeleine le Vassor, Comte de La Touche-Tréville. Aboard the severely damaged vessel, which the British succeeded in floating and taking to sea, were much money and valuable “public stores.” “La Gloire” and her prize, the “Charming Sally,” reached Philadelphia on 18 September (Wm. L. Clowes, Royal Navy, IV, 89; Pennsylvania Packet, 17 and 19 September; JM to Randolph, 24 September 1782).

20On 17 September Congress received Benjamin Franklin’s letters of 25 and 29 June, John Jay’s letter of 25 June, and Lafayette’s of 25–29 June. On 18 September a second dispatch of 25 June from Franklin reached Congress (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 42; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 510–21, 533–35). See also JM to Randolph, 24 September 1782.

21Major General Antoine Charles du Houx (1728–1792), Baron de Vioménil, was Rochambeau’s second in command. After rendering distinguished service at the siege of Yorktown, he had returned to France in the winter of 1781–1782 (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 , XXI, 8, n. 16; XXIII, 245–46, 446–47; Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution [Chicago, 1942], pp. 199, 317; [Roger,] Comte de Montmort, Antoine Charles du Houx, Baron de Vioménil, trans. by John Francis Gough [Baltimore, 1935], pp. 3, 9–14, 25).

22Mail from Virginia was scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia on every Tuesday, as, for example, on 17 September.

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