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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 30 September 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Docketed by Randolph, “J Madison, September 30. 1782.” On the cover, of which only a fragment is extant, is “andolph Esqr. Richmond.”

September 30. 1782.

Dear Sir

The letter from the Govr. to the Delegation recd. yesterday along with yours of the 20th. inst: expresses some agitation at the supposed effects of the letters to him from Genl Carlton. Whatever curiosity might be excited by the circumstances attending those letters, or whatever suspicions might arise relative to the views of Carlton, they were un[accompanied as] far as I know, with the slightest imputations on his patriotism.1

The2 remittance to Col: Bland is a source of hope to his brethren.3 I am almost ashamed to reiterate my wants so incessantly to you, but they begin to be so urgent that it is impossible to suppress them. The kindness of our little friend in Front Street near the Coffee House4 is a fund which will preserve me from extremities, but I never resort to it without great mortification, as he obstinately rejects all recompense. The price of money is so usurious that he thinks it ought to be extorted from none but those who aim at profitable speculations. To a necessitous Delegate he gratuitously spares a supply out of his private stock.

I conceive very readily the affliction & anguish which our friend at Monticello must experience at his irreparable loss. But his philosophical temper renders the circulating rumor which you mention altogether incredible.5 Perhaps this domestic catastrophe may prove in its operation beneficial to his country by weaning him from those attachments which deprived it of his services. The vacancy occasioned by his refusal of a particular service, you need not be informed, still subsists.6 As soon as his sensibility will bear a subject of such a nature, will you undertake to obtain his sentiments thereupon, and let me know whether or not his aversion is still insuperable?7 Before he be enlisted in that service it will be fair I think to let him know the circumstances under whch it is to be executed. I mean those which drew from Mr. J. the observations which you will recollect.8

No addition has been made to our stock of intelligenc[e] from Europe since the arrival of the Frigates.9 Some letters from the Marquis de la Fayette10 & others have since come to hand but they are all of the same date with the [despatches then received. One]11 of the Marquis’s paragraphs indeed specifies the tergiversation of Mr. Grenville which had been only in general mentioned to us before. On the communication made by this gentleman to the Ct. de Vergennes of the object of his Mission, he proposed verbally the unconditional acknowledgment of American Independance as a point to which the King had agreed. The Ct. de Vergennes immediately wrote it down & requested him to put his name to the declaration. Mr. G. drew back & refused to abide by any thing more than that the King was disposed to grant American Independance.12 This illustrates the shade of difference between Shelburne & Fox.13

Having inclosed to the Govr. a transcript of the intelligence recd. from N. Y. & Canada & which is pretty lenghty you will excuse my referring you to that source. I take the same liberty with respect to some further proceedings in Congress relative to the back lands, of which the Govr. is furnished with a copy which needs no explanation.14

You do not inform me whether the copy of my private Cypher answers the purpose for which it was sent.15

Mr. Livingston16 has it in view to compile & publish an American Kalendar. He has asked of me the names of the offices of Virginia of general jurisdiction, with the salaries allowed them. As this will be a very easy task to you, I must beg the favor of you to furnish me with an answer to the request.17

1See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 20 September, and nn. 9, 11, 13, and 14; Randolph to JM, 20 September 1782. A tear in the page at the fold obliges the bracketed words to be only a surmise of what JM wrote.

2Many years later JM or some one at his direction enclosed this paragraph and the fourth paragraph in brackets to designate the portion of the letter selected for publication in the first edition of his papers (Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends [Gilpin ed.], I, 178–79).

4Haym Salomon. 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, 108, n. 2.

6JM referred to Jefferson’s declination on 4 August 1781 of an appointment as an American peace commissioner. 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, 348; IV, 13, n. 3; 22; 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 , VI, 94–95, 113. The possibility that Henry Laurens of South Carolina would stand firm upon his refusal to be a peace commissioner made the delegates from the southern states the more eager to have their section represented in the negotiations. See JM’s letter of 11 September, P.M., to Randolph, and n. 4; 24 September; Comments and Motion in re Laurens, 19 September 1782, and n. 1.

7As late as his letter to JM on 8 November 1782 (q.v.), Randolph was unable to fulfill this mission. Four days thereafter Congress adopted JM’s motion (q.v.) to renew the appointment of Jefferson as “a minister plenipotentiary for negotiating peace” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 720).

8Perhaps Randolph could not “recollect,” because he had left Philadelphia for Virginia on 18 March 1782, the day on which John Jay’s (“Mr. J.”) “observations” in his dispatch of 20 September 1781 had been read in Congress (NA: PCC, No. 186, fols. 17, 18; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 140; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 716–17; 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, 90, n. 4). In his dispatch, Jay had proferred his resignation as a peace commissioner rather than be bound by the instructions of Congress, adopted on 15 June 1781, requiring the American commissioners in negotiating a peace or truce to manifest at all times their reliance upon the influence of King Louis XVI, to hold nothing in confidence from their French counterparts, and to act only with their concurrence (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XX, 651–52).

11A tear in the page at the fold renders the bracketed words illegible. They are copied from Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends (Gilpin ed.), I, 179.

12Lafayette’s letter of 25–29 June and Jay’s dispatch of 28 June were read in Congress on 30 September 1782 and referred to the Duane committee, mentioned in Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 24 September 1782, n. 4. See also NA: PCC, No. 156, fols. 282–92; No. 185, III, fols. 42, 43; No. 186, fol. 59; Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 517–21, and especially 519, 527–28; Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, and ed. n. JM underlined “disposed” and also “shade” in the next sentence.

13JM was suggesting ironically the contrast between Charles James Fox’s point of view as revealed by the conduct in Paris of his agent, Thomas Grenville, and as expounded in a speech during a debate in the House of Commons on 9 July. Having sent with his letter of 16 September to Randolph (q.v., and n. 16) a copy of the Pennsylvania Packet of 14 September, which reported that debate, JM assumed that his friend would have Fox’s words in mind. They were spoken in reply to the Earl of Shelburne who had mentioned the “shade of difference of opinion” over foreign policy which caused several members of the cabinet to resign when he became prime minister. Fox retorted that although Shelburne was determined “to make independence the price of peace,” he (Fox) “maintained that American independence, in all its extent must be first declared, and that then overtures toward peace might be made. He could not call this contrariety of opinion by such gentle name as a shade of difference, for he verily believed, that on the determination of this one point depended peace or war, depended therefore the ruin or salvation of these empires.” To JM, who for long had been predisposed to suspect the British of duplicity, Fox’s obvious instructions to Grenville made clear the insincerity of his words and hence did reduce the difference between his peace policy and Shelburne’s to an almost inconsequential “shade.” See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 9 August, n. 1; 13 August 1782.

14Although JM wrote as though these enclosures had already been mailed to Governor Harrison, they were sent to him with the delegates’ letter of 1 October 1782 (q.v.). This dispatch probably was written by JM at least a day before it was dated.

15JM referred to his letter of 27 August 1782 to Randolph (q.v.) enclosing the Lovell cipher.

16Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs.

17For Randolph’s compliance, see his letter of 8 November 1782 to JM. JM underlined “general” to emphasize that the only “offices” desired were those of statewide jurisdiction.

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