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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 8 October 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by Randolph, “J Madison Octob: 8, 1782.” Letter unsigned and cover missing. Probably many years afterward, when the letter was returned to JM, he added to the docket, “contains Lovell’s cypher. E Randolph Esqr.” Late in his life JM or someone at his direction bracketed the text to indicate that all but the final sentence of the postscript should be included in the first comprehensive edition of his writings; but possibly because he could not decode the Lovell cipher, Henry D. Gilpin published only the first two paragraphs (Madison, Papers description begins (Gilpin ed.). Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends [Gilpin ed.], I, 180). Words or parts of words encoded by JM are italicized in the present copy.

Philadelphia, Ocr. 8. 1782.

My dear friend

Your favor of the 27th. of Sepr.1 came to hand yesterday and is a fresh instance of the friendly part you take in my necessities. In consequence of the hint in your last2 of a pressing representation to the Executive, our public letter of last week3 touched on that subject; but the letter recd. yesterday from the Govnr. which seems to chide our urgency forbids much expectation from such an expedient.4 The letter from Mr. A. inclosed for me a 2d. bill on Mr. Holker for 200 Dollars, which very seasonably enabled me to replace a loan by which I had anticipated it!5 About 350 more (& not less)6 would redeem me compleatly from the class of debtors.

I omitted in my late letters to inform you that the Sweedish Minister at Versailles had announced to Doctor Franklin the wish of his king to become an ally of the Uni. States and that the treaty might be negociated with the doctor in particular A Plenipotentiary commission has in consequence issued for that purpose The model transmitted by Congress is pretty analogous to the treaty with France but is limited in duration to twelve years7

Mr. L——l.8 Notwithstanding the particular desire of the king of Sweden9Lee—Izzard and Bland particularly the first & last, struggled violently to deprive the doctor of the honour intended him Their struggles and manoevres however had no other effect than to display their extreme enmity10

I have put the above article of intelligence in cypher because secrecy was requested by the doctor The request has not I find been very scrupulously attended to by others.11

A letter was red. yesterday from Mr. Dana, bearing date the beginning of March. He had not then committed the step of which he had rendered us apprehensive, and assigns as the reason of the delay,12 the incompatibility of the mediatorial character of the Empress with its success You will recollect the doctrine maintained in his former letters on this subject.13

In the answer to the communications of the French Minister relative to the current negociations at Versailles, Congress after renewing their usual assurances took occasion to press upon his M.C.M. in very strong terms the objects confided to his discretion including expressly the free navigation of the Mississippi14 This I hope has appeased in some the rage for varying the plan of our ultimatum15 How far it will be acceptable at Versailles I can not say. When that paragraph of the answer was read [in] public [to]16 the minister here by the committee, his emotion was expressed by a strong & universal suffusion of the face17 The Declaration of Congress published in the inclosed paper will however sweeten the pill Such a Declaration altho’ in some respects objectionable was judged upon the whole advisable at the present juncture18 Our ministers in Europe particularly Jay urged it much. Commissrs. Emissaries & Spies are announced in all their letters as the probable vehikles of British poison.19 We all know that this poison requires no antidote here. But we can not contest the judgment20 of our ministers in Europe as to what may be best calculated for that meridian

Docr. Lee set out the day before yesterday for Virga.21 His arrival at Richmond will give you access to such of the transactions of Congress as I may have from time to time omitted.

L——l.22 He left this place I believe in not the best of humours In Congress he has been frustrated in several favorite objects23 and from the press he has been most rudely handled The paper of Saturday is a mild sample of his sufferings24 Whether the charge upon which these attacks are made be true or not I can not decide On the first supposition, my feelings would have been irritated into a disavowal & the general comment on his silence shews that prudence would not have repressed them25

In the paper which I inclose to Mr. A. is the act enabling the King to conclude a peace or truce with the colonies. at the date of the late despatches from France, the passing of the bill was disbelieved, and the supposed delay of it till the next session considered as one index of the hostile views of British Court. As there are 2 papers which come out now on Teusdays I shall divide them between you & Mr. A. so that an interchange will supply you both with the whole of the news.26

We have not a word further from N York. At the meeting of the Comrs. for settling a cartel, a remonstrance was presented by those on the part of the U. S. on the subject of accts. &c. The Comrs. on the other part refused to receive it or to send it [to] Sr. G. Carlton. Genl Washington has inclosed it to him in a letter which has not yet been answered.27 This is all we as yet know of the negociation.

I hope you will execute your plan of penning a fresh Cypher. In case of a conveyance I will send the printed sheets I promised.28 But do not suffer this expectation to interfere with your own purpose.

Farewell

Genl. Lee died here on wednesday last after a short illness.29

Penet we hear from Mr. de Marbois has become a bankrupt, of which the State of Virga. will take notice.30

1Q.v.

3See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 1 October 1782. JM interlineated “of last week.”

4See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 28 September 1782. JM encoded in the official cipher and interlineated the words which are italicized in this sentence.

5See Ambler to JM, 5 October 1782, and n. 1.

6JM interlineated this expression and placed it in parentheses.

7In this paragraph JM used the official cipher to encode the words and parts of words which here are italicized. Although JM may have intended to encode “twelve,” which by Congress’ instructions to Franklin was to be the duration of the proposed treaty, he wrote 731 14 109, signifying a meaningless “niften.” Under 731, Randolph wrote “(735 fi),” evidently assuming that JM had meant to encode “fifteen.” By a coincidence, the treaty as finally ratified was limited to fifteen years rather than twelve. See Instructions in re Treaty with Sweden, 28 September 1782, and ed. n., and n. 3.

8JM here and also at the outset of a later paragraph in this letter abbreviated Lovell’s name to indicate use of his cipher in encoding. 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, 396; 398, nn. 17, 19, 20. The words or parts of words italicized are those enciphered in the manuscript.

9JM erroneously encoded a “c” for the first “e” in “Sweden.”

10See Instructions in re Treaty with Sweden, 28 September 1782, ed. n. For Arthur Lee’s and Theodorick Bland’s “enmity” toward Benjamin Franklin (“the doctor”), 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, 179, n. 10; 250, nn. 13, 17; 408–9; 419; 435; 442; Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 8 August, ed. n.; JM to Randolph, 20 August; Motion on Expenditures of U.S. Ministers Abroad, 14 September 1782, n. 1. For Ralph Izard’s more restrained dislike of Franklin, 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, 334; 408–9; 435.

11As in the preceding paragraph, “the doctor” is Franklin, who had cautioned, “This affair should be talked of as little as possible till completed” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 512). Among the “others,” then or later, were David Howell and Abraham Clark. See Notes on Debates, 6 and 13 December 1782.

12These four italicized words were underlined and not encoded by JM.

13The italicized nine words were written in the official cipher. Although unnoted in the printed journal, the dispatch written on 5 March to Robert R. Livingston by Francis Dana, minister-designate at the court of the tsarina Catherine II, was read in Congress on 7 October 1782 (NA: PCC, No. 185, III, 44). In this dispatch Dana altered the tenor of his earlier communications by affirming that it would not be “prudent” for him to make any “open advances” to the tsarina for her recognition of the independence of the United States as long as she persisted in what to him were her futile efforts to mediate between the European belligerents. On the other hand, continued Dana, if he should become so pessimistic as to conclude that she would never extend recognition as long as it was withheld by Great Britain, he would abandon his mission, “not thinking it conformable to the views of Congress to support a minister at a court which should adopt and be likely to persevere in such a system” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 223–25). For Dana’s former “doctrine” which had made “us apprehensive,” 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, 265, n. 2; IV, 181; 182, n. 14; 274–75; 275, n. 1; JM to Randolph, 11 September 1782, P.M., n. 6.

14The words and initials italicized in this paragraph were in the official cipher. For La Luzerne’s “communications” and the “answer,” see Conversation between Livingston and La Luzerne, 23 September, and ed. n., and n. 6; JM to Randolph, 24 September, and n. 9; Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, ed. n. The reply of Congress on 3 October 1782 to La Luzerne included: “That Congress place the utmost confidence in his Majesty’s assurances, that he will readily employ his good offices in support of the United States in all points relative to their prosperity; and considering the territorial claims of these states as heretofore made, their participation of the fisheries, and of the free navigation of the Mississippi, not only as their indubitable rights, but as essential to their prosperity, they trust that his Majesty’s efforts will be succesfully employed to obtain a sufficient provision and security for those rights” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 633–34).

15For “some,” who wished to “vary the plan of our ultimatum,” see Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 2 August, and nn. 3 and 4; 8 August, and ed. n., and n. 9; JM to Randolph, 5–6 August, and n. 6; 24 September 1782, n. 9.

16JM omitted “in” and “to,” probably inadvertently.

17For the “committee,” see Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 24 September 1782, n. 4. As a member of the committee, JM no doubt had witnessed La Luzerne’s countenance flush with annoyance or anger when the minister heard that Congress had explicitly misinterpreted King Louis XVI’s assurance that he would support the United States “in all points relative to their prosperity” to include the fisheries and freedom to navigate the full length of the Mississippi River. See n. 14, above; 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, 230, n. 19.

18In the 5 October issue of the Pennsylvania Packet, which JM enclosed (n. 26, below), are the resolutions of Congress adopted on 4 October. For a summary of them, see Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, and ed. n., and n. 5. The “resolutions” only repeated an assurance already given by Congress (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; 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, 102; 147; IV, 303–4). Hence they had an “objectionable” aspect for, although France herself had invited them (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 599–600), they might signify to persons overseas that division in the United States about the matter had mainly impelled Congress publicly to reaffirm its intention.

19JM referred especially to Jay’s letter of 28 June to Livingston, calling his attention to a widely held opinion in Paris that “a considerable number” of Americans, “though resolved on independence, would nevertheless prefer an alliance with England to one with France.” Jay warned that any British “commissions” or “emissaries” sent to the United States were bent only on “intrigue” and should not “at this very critical juncture” be permitted “either in an avowed or in a private character” to travel outside the limits controlled by the British army. “A mild and yet firm resolution on the impropriety and inexpediency of any negociation for peace in America,” continued Jay, “would give great satisfaction to our friends and confirm their confidence in us” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 527–28). Franklin in his letters of 25 and 29 June and Lafayette in his letter of 25 June were almost as emphatic as Jay on this subject (ibid., V, 515–16, 520, 534). See also Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 24 September, n. 4; Instruction in re Peace Negotiations, 17 December 1782.

20In this sentence, JM interlineated “We all know that” above a deleted “If” and drew a line through an immediately repeated “judgment.”

21Although Lee left Philadelphia on Sunday, 6 October, two days after he had been granted a leave of absence by Congress, he did not appear in Richmond until 31 October. See Randolph to JM, 2 November 1782.

22See n. 8, above.

23For an excellent summary of how Lee’s aims in Congress had been thwarted by JM between July and October 1782, see Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 193–98. See also Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 8 August, ed. n.; JM to Randolph, 20 August; Instructions in re Treaty with Sweden, 28 September 1782, ed. n.

24In Francis Bailey’s Freeman’s Journal: or, the North-American Intelligencer (Philadelphia) of 7 August, Arthur Lee, writing under the pseudonym “Virginius,” had, in Irving Brant’s words, thrust “his hand into the buzz saw of Pennsylvania politics” by excoriating leading Philadelphians for political corruption and softness toward Loyalists. Thereafter, until the Philadelphia county and city elections of 8 October, Lee, whose identity was known, was made the target of savage vituperation in a newspaper battle involving several anonymous writers, including Dr. Benjamin Rush (ibid., 28 August, 25 September, and 2 October; Pennsylvania Gazette, 4 and 18 September, 2 October; Pennsylvania Journal, 5 October; Independent Gazetteer; or, the Chronicle of Freedom, 5 October 1782; L[yman] H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush [2 vols.; Princeton, N.J., 1951], I, 286). With the present letter, JM enclosed a copy of the newspaper last cited. See Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 198–99; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 499, n. 8. See also n. 26, below.

25In this sentence JM appears to mean that many people were interpreting Arthur Lee’s silence in the face of the attacks as equivalent to an admission of the truth of the charges against him. JM added that, if he had been Lee and even if the indictment was warranted, the vehemence of the assault would have irritated him to the point of abandoning prudence and denying the truth of the accusations.

The “charges” appear mainly to have been (1) prevaricating in regard to the matters mentioned in n. 24 (q.v.); (2) libeling Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, speaker of the Pennsylvania General Assembly; (3) misinterpreting “shamefully” and from “base motives” several of the transactions of that assembly and especially of its Committee on the Philadelphia Elections; and (4) “maliciously” calling into question the honesty and patriotism of leading Philadelphians who had entertained him in their homes (Pennsylvania Gazette, 4 and 18 September, 4 October 1782).

26JM was writing on Tuesday, the post day. The only two Philadelphia newspapers which regularly appeared each week on that day were the Pennsylvania Packet and the Independent Gazetteer (Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, II, 888–964, and especially 919–21 and 942–44). Although JM evidently enclosed the 8 October issues of these papers, he must also have included, for transmittal to Jacquelin Ambler, the Packet of 5 October, which printed the “act enabling the King to conclude a peace or truce.” For this statute of Parliament, 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, 242, n. 3; Conversation between Livingston and La Luzerne, 23 September 1782. See also nn. 18 and 24, above.

27In a letter of 2 October to General Sir Guy Carleton, Washington protested against the refusal of Carleton’s commissioners on a general cartel to accept from their American counterparts a remonstrance concerning the delinquency in compensating the United States for its “immense expence” in caring for “so great a number of British Prisoners.” Washington enclosed the remonstrance to Carleton and warned him that if not heeded, “it will be high time to take measures however disagreeable for diminishing a Burthen which is become intolerable” (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 , XXV, 231–32, 233, n. 45). A copy of Washington’s letter to Carleton was laid before Congress on 7 October (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 641, n. 3). See also Notes on Debates, 5 November, n. 11; 8 November 1782, and n. 18.

28See 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, 417; 419, n. 4; JM to Randolph, 20 August, and n. 1; Randolph to JM, 27 September 1782, and n. 11.

29Charles Lee, formerly a major general in the continental army, died on 2 October 1782.

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