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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 27 December 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed by him to “The honble James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed, “Decr. 27. 1782,” by JM. Portions of the third and fourth paragraphs encoded in the Randolph cipher are here italicized.

Richmond Decr. 27. 1782.

My dear friend

Colo. Mercer, your new colleague, will leave this country for Philadelphia in about twenty days. He wishes to become an associate with you at Mrs. House’s, and desires me to procure your influence towards his admission.1

Our revenue will be considerably increased by the act of yesterday. Half a per cent was added to the impost on land.2 This will, I hope, enable the receiver of the continental income to publish a monthly certificate less jejune, than his former advertisements have been. But I do not see a prospect of arrearages to the U.S. being diminished.3

The attack, which I hinted at in my last, as being made upon Mr. L——, was pushed with great vigour.4 Upon the question for his recal, the ayes were 39, and the noes 41.5 His defence was pathetic   It called upon the assembly to remember his services [and] to protect his honour and not to put it out of his power to profit his country by his laboours6 The failure of some of his enemys to attend alone saved him   Should Henry come to the next session it seems impossible that he should be again elected7

Much to the honor of the assembly, they have breathed throughout their whole proceedings a firm and unremitted hatred to Great Britain. Even if this should be the only good of this session, it is a substantial one. They have recommended to the electors of the different counties to send no man to represent them, who from birth, education or mercantile connection has rendered himself suspicious. A happy declaration against a growing evil!8 They have passed a law too for giving effect to the former act against British goods.9 This cuts off all hope of the wicked and designing partizans of G.B, as far as Virginia is concerned. The assembly will certainly rise to morrow: the membe[rs] being an[x]ious to return to their families. This will occasion so[me] business of consequence, ‘tho’ of the lesser sort, to be postponed u[n]til the next session. When that next session will be is not yet [de]cided.10

In the course of the present session, the spirit of [in]quiry has diffused itself widely, so far as the conduct of the members of the as[sem]bly was concerned.11 Besides the strenuous attack on Mr. L[ee] Colo. Arthur Campbell, of Washington, has been accused of having fomented a separation of the back countr[y.] The result of this charge I have not yet learned.12 A M[r.] Mccraw from Halifax has been expelled for some e[x]pressions, inimical to the U.S.13

Several resolutions passed on the 17[th.] instant, declaratory of the sense of the assembly, as to the rig[ht] of confiscating british property, on the principle of the ex-owners[?] of it not being comprehended within the new social c[om]pact, entered into at the revolution; protesting again[st] all demands for restitution; and instructing you not [to] consent to them. How far this instruction may amount [to] an ultimatum, I refer to your communication with Co[lo.] Mercer, who was the author of them.14

On the 19th. decr. you were farther instructed “not to consent” to open a communication wi[th] any agent or minister from his britannick majesty upon the subject of a peace, separate from Fra[nce] nor unless the independence of America be in the mo[st] ample manner acknowledged as a preliminary there [to.]15

No mail from the northward this w[eek.]16 If I do not mistake, there are some papers among th[ose] received from Colo. Cox, which may serve to throw ligh[t] upon the treaty at Fort Stanwix.17 If so, forward the[m] to me.

1See Randolph to JM, 20 December, and n. 3. Delayed by a period of illness, John Francis Mercer attended Congress for the first time on 6 February 1783 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 110). For Mrs. Mary House, see Randolph to JM, 6 August 1782, and n. 29. Mercer, then twenty-three years of age and unmarried, appears to have become one of her boarders (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LIX [1951], 90, 91; 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, 375).

2The tax bill, which the Virginia House of Delegates adopted on 26 December, was agreed to the next day by the Senate, and signed into law on 28 December 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. 82, 84, 90). Entitled “An act to amend and reduce the several acts of assembly for ascertaining certain taxes and duties, and for establishing a permanent revenue, into one act,” this lengthy statute imposed an increase of “fifty per centum on the amount, or ten shillings on the pound of all sums payable for tax on land and lots, as the same may be charged by the examiners appointed under the act of the present session of assembly, for equalizing the land tax” (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 , XI, 112–29). For the “equalizing” law, see Randolph to JM, 22 November, n. 10; Queries and Answers, 3 December 1782–8 February 1783, and nn. 18, 20.

3See Randolph to JM, 16 November, and n. 17; JM to Randolph, 26 November, and n. 4; Instructions in re Financial Quota, 28 December 1782, and n. 5. George Webb, “receiver of the continental income,” certified in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 4 January 1783 that he had received $35,710 from Virginia during December 1782. This sum, which probably had been derived from the sale of state-owned tobacco, was transferred to Webb by Jacquelin Ambler, in compliance with the General Assembly’s joint resolution of 28 December. See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 7 December, n. 2; Instructions in re Financial Quota, 28 December 1782. During the first six months of 1783, excepting February for which no report has been found, Virginia paid only $70,082 of her “arrearages to the U.S.” (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 8 February, 5 April, 3 May, 7 June, and 5 July 1783).

4Randolph interlineated “at.” For the “attack” on Arthur Lee in the Virginia House of Delegates, see Randolph to JM, 13 December, and n. 19; 20 December 1782, and nn. 5–7.

5If Randolph had in mind the tallied vote of 18 December to recall Lee, he should have recorded it as 48 to 37. See Randolph to JM, 20 December 1782, n. 6. On the same day, John Francis Mercer submitted signed statements damaging to Arthur Lee. Possibly by the unrecorded vote which Randolph noted, they were referred for examination and report to the Committee of Privileges and Elections (ibid., n. 7; 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, p. 72). The House of Delegates on 21 December recommitted the matter to “a committee of the whole House on the state of the Commonwealth” (ibid., October 1782, p. 76), which took no further action concerning Lee before the session adjourned on 28 December.

6Randolph should have encoded “of” as 127 rather than as 129, which symbolized “often.” Although Arthur Lee’s speech in his own defense may have been “pathetic,” his reply on 7 April 1783 to a congratulatory letter from his supporters in Prince William County during his campaign for reelection to the House of Delegates declared uncompromisingly that “my public conduct shall continue to be governed by that freedom of thought, of speech, of action, which becomes an honest Representative of a free people.… The excesses of the late House of Delegates, on which you remark with perfect propriety, must be considered as some of those thorns which necessarily accompany the rose of liberty. No human good is without its portion of ills” (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 26 April 1783).

7See Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782, and n. 18. Patrick Henry attended the “next session,” but Lee was reelected on 6 June 1783 as a delegate to Congress (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 , May 1783, pp. 5, 39).

8Although unnoted in its journal, the House of Delegates on 26 December endorsed the recommendation of Congress of 4 October (Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, and ed. n., and n. 5) by urging “all good citizens” of Virginia “at this time of great and general danger” to elect as their representatives in the General Assembly or as holders of any other office “of trust and power” only those candidates who had given “most early, decided, and unequivocal proofs” of their “attachment to the cause of America and the present alliances with France and Holland.” The resolution, which must have been offensive to Arthur Lee and his partisans, stipulated that it should be printed in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , posted at every courthouse and polling place, and publicly read there by the sheriff of the county (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 28 December 1782). The Pennsylvania Packet of 7 January 1783 also published the resolution.

10See n. 5, above; Pendleton to JM, 9 December 1782, and n. 11. Although the House resolved to reconvene on 31 March 1783, this was a pro forma date equivalent to an adjournment sine die. A new House of Delegates was elected annually in April (n. 6, above; 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, 341, n. 3). The General Assembly reconvened on 5 May 1783 (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 , May 1783, p. 3).

Among the matters held over for that session were the financial claims of Oliver Pollock and Simon Nathan, the purported breach of the tobacco contract with the merchants-capitulant of Yorktown, the “spiritual jurisdiction” of the High Court of Chancery, and the alleged disloyalty of David Mason, a member of the House of Delegates from Sussex County (ibid., October 1782, pp. 83–84, 85, 87, 88). See also Randolph to JM, 16 November, and n. 19; JM to Randolph, 2 December, and n. 10; Pendleton to JM, 9 December 1782, n. 19; 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 , I, 282, n. 7.

11Randolph interlineated “far” and “conduct of the.” In the next sentence “accused” is interlineated above a word too heavily canceled to be legible.

12For “the strenuous attack” on Arthur Lee, see Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4; 29 November, and n. 7; 13 December, and nn. 5, 9, 10–13; 20 December 1782, and nn. 5–7. For Arthur Campbell, county lieutenant, a delegate from Washington County, and a land speculator, 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, 126, n. 1.

Campbell, who apparently believed that his efforts to conclude a peace treaty with, and gain a cession of land from, the Cherokees late in the summer and early in the autumn of 1782 had been weakly supported by Governor Harrison, was suspected by him and by other Virginians, including some members of the General Assembly, of being content to have the Indians harass the settlers in southwestern Virginia so as to add to their grievances and thereby spur them to erect a separate state in unison with the backwoodsmen in western North Carolina (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 295–96, 423–24, 424 n.; Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , III, 271–73, 316–18, 337–38, 399, 424; Thomas P. Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, pp. 258–59). This probably constituted the “charge” which on 7 December was referred to the Committee of Privileges and Elections. Except that Campbell’s letter “relative to the inquiry” was consigned to the committee five days later, the investigation is not mentioned in the printed journal of the House of Delegates during the remainder of the session (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. 58, 64). His continuing service during the session of May 1783 as a delegate from Washington County probably signifies that the charges against him were not sustained (ibid., May 1783, p. 21).

13Having been informed that James McCraw (d. 1804), a justice of the peace and deputy sheriff of, and a delegate from, Halifax County, had “uttered expressions and delivered sentiments in public, inimical to the interests of this Commonwealth,” the House of Delegates on 12 December referred the charge to the Committee of Privileges and Elections. On 23 December the House of Delegates expelled McCraw “from his seat” as a result of sworn testimony to the effect that he, although sober, had blasphemed God, “damned the Governor and Council, damned Gen. Washington and Congress,” and “drank health to the King” (Halifax County Court Records, Will Book 7, pp. 145–46, microfilm in Virginia State Library; 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. 64, 78–79).

McCraw retained the confidence of the voters in his constituency, for they reelected him as a delegate in 1783. He shared actively in the May session of that year, even though on 30 May the House of Delegates refused to reconsider the evidence leading to his expulsion from the session of October 1782 (ibid., May 1783, pp. 27, 42, 70, 78, 93). McCraw also served as a delegate from Halifax County in the House of Delegates in 1794 and 1795 (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 41, 44). In 1794 he resigned as escheator of his county—an office which he had held for fifteen years (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , VII, 88, 368).

15Between “a” and “peace” Randolph canceled “separate.” See Instruction in re Peace Negotiations, 17 December 1782, and nn. 1, 2.

16After noting this fact, the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 28 December 1782 added, “supposed to be in consequence of some accident having happened the Post.” See also Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 28 December 1782.

17Randolph probably wanted the “papers,” because of their bearing upon the claim of Virginia to the territory north and west of the Ohio River. For the connection of Colonel John Cox with these documents, see 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, 654–55. 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, 295, n. 7; 304, n. 1. For the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, see ibid., II, 178 nn.; III, 288, n. 5; IV, 14, n. 10; 15, n. 17. In his letters of 7 and 14 January 1783 to Randolph (LC: Madison Papers), JM promised to send extracts from Cox’s “papers if any thing be in them,” but when, if ever, this promise was fulfilled has not been determined.

John Cox (d. 1793), a merchant of Philadelphia, had been a member of the Committee of Correspondence of that city on the eve of the Revolution. From 1775 to 1777, first as a major and later as a lieutenant colonel, he served in the “Pennsylvania Associate Militia.” Thereafter until 1780 he was an assistant quartermaster general of the continental army with the rank of colonel. His wife, Esther Bowes, and President Joseph Reed’s mother, Theodosia Bowes, were sisters. From about 1773 to 1778 Cox owned Batsto Furnace, N.J., where he manufactured a variety of bog-iron products, including shot and cannon, for the continental army. After living for over fifteen years at his estate of Bloomsbury Farm, fronting the Delaware River near Trenton, Cox returned to Philadelphia in 1790 (New Jersey Archives description begins William S. Stryker et al., eds., Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey (2d ser., 5 vols.; Trenton, 1901–17). description ends , 1st ser., XIX [1917], 97; 1st ser., XXXI [1923], 144; 2d ser., I [1901], 98 and n., 409 and n.; NA: PCC, No. 136, III, 565; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , X, 210, 325; XIV, 744, 779, 981; XVI, 270; William B. Reed, ed., Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed [2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1847], I, 105 n., 273, 293, 364 n.; II, 255 n.; Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, I [1877], 198; XIV [1890], 336; XXVII [1903], 87, 88, 443; XXXII [1908], 189; XLVII [1923], 186, 187).

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