James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Randolph, Edmund" AND Author="Randolph, Edmund" AND Recipient="Madison, James"
sorted by: date (ascending)

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 15 January 1783

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Letter unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Addressed by Randolph to “The Honble Jas. Madison jr. esqr. of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “Jany. 15. 1782,” a misdating by a year.

Pettus’s1 Jany 15. 1782[3]

My dear sir

The extreme badness of the weather prevented me from sending a letter from hence to Richmond for the post of last week.2

As I am really uneasy, at a little seeming omission on my part to Mr Jones, I must beg you to mention to him that until friday last, I had supposed that Colo. Monroe had procured a bill for Mr. Henry’s money, lodged in my hands for his use from Mr Ross.3 Having an account much in my favor with Ross, I thought no more of the matter, after Colo. M. had undertaken to procure a draught. You will readily conceive my surprize, when I heard from that Gentleman, that this money had never been remitted. I have given him4 an order for the money to be sent by the present post, and have desired him to state the matter to Mr. Jones, who will otherwise be surprized at my not availing myself of the opportunity by Colo. Bland.5

I shall certainly transmit a state of the constitutional question and argument, as soon as a mass of papers, now before me, is reduced.6

The approaching election will probably be marked by some singularities. By the resolutions of the house of delegates, a man to be elected must be a spotless whig.7 I suspect that so[me] of the candidates will not be able to produce evidence of patriotism of a very early date, and that violent contentions will ensue: And yet it would seem, that the determined spirit of the last assembly ought to satisfy those, who hoped for wicked measures, that nothing but staunch republicanism, and a due attachment to the French alliance will ever be acceptable to Virginia.8 There is much conversation among those, with whom I mix, concerning the revival of committees. They may, I think, be rendered auxiliary to the resolutions above mentioned, by acting as a censorial power. It is inconceivable, how much mischief is produced by the malignant rumours, which the bad circulate, and which cannot be the subject of punishment by law. But their effect might be counteracted, if committees were at liberty to animadvert on them, not by a corporal or pecuniary penalty, but by exhibiting the offende[rs] to the world, as not well-affected: The jurisdiction of these bodies may be so restrained, as to prevent the repetition of those extravagancies, for which some of them were censureable at the beginning of the war.9 I confess, that the measure is much favored by me, because I have had experience of the baneful influence of the observations of those, who keep within the law, & yet are sapping the Zeal of our weak citizens by secret whispers. I believe, that I could procure a committee to be elected by the people of this county, and I should certainly attempt it, if such an institution, entered into without the previous assent of the legislature, would not carry the appearance of an opposition to government.10

The evacuation of Charlestown has increased the sterility of the south in news. It is said, but I cannot determine with what truth, that considerable purchases have been made of the british goods found there: and that a great quantity of them is destined for Virginia.11 Great stratagem must be used to accomplish their introduction here, and North Carolina has shewn by a late condemnation of a cargo of british goods that they will not be suffered to pass thro’ her territory without arrest.12

Ought not the debts of the U.S. to be entered on the secret journal? I ask this question, because I have seen in various hands a particular account of them. In time of peace indeed, or even in time of war, if the states were required to pay a proportion of them, a minute history of these debts ought to be forwarded, that it might be seen, on what principles a requisition of money was made: But at this day, when the mere current expences of the war are demanded, it has the aspect of something more than folly for any member of congress to publish them abroad.13

I have not got your letter of this week from the office.14

1For “Pettus’s,” see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 148, n. 2.

2The Virginia Gazette, 18 January 1783, announced that, “owing to the different rivers being rendered impassible by the ice,” no mail from the north had reached Richmond “this week.”

3Randolph’s “friday last” was 10 January 1783. Joseph Jones, a delegate to Congress from Virginia; James Monroe, Jones’s nephew and a member of the Virginia Council of State; James Henry of Accomack County, who had borrowed money from Jones in 1780; and David Ross, a prominent Petersburg merchant and owner of ships, mines, and plantations, who from 27 December 1780 to 24 May 1782 had been the commercial agent of Virginia. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 318, n. 1; II, 89, hdn.; III, 60, n. 8; IV, 154, n. 14; V, 309; 312, n. 21. Probably bearing upon Henry’s debt to Jones is the following notation by Jones on an undated memorandum concerning the money owed by Virginia about 1 April 1783 to Jones, JM, and Theodorick Bland, delegates in Congress: “NB. upon going over the aud. list with the Auditors before I left Richmond I discover an omission of 7770⅓ dols. adv.[?] on acct of Mr. James Henry when in Congress and applied to his use which by letter from him I find he has accounted for to me I must therefore be debited with it. J. Jones” (MS in Va. State Library).

4James Monroe.

5Bland left Farmingdell (Farmingdale), his estate in Prince George County, on 27 December 1782 and, after a leisurely journey, arrived in Philadelphia by 22 January 1783 (MS in Va. Historical Society; JM to Randolph, 22 Jan. 1783).

6Randolph referred to his brief as attorney general of Virginia in the Case of the Prisoners (Caton v. Commonwealth) in October 1782. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 217–18; 218, n. 9; 263; 265, n. 7; 290; 382; 384, n. 4; 474; Randolph to JM, 7 Mar. 1783.

7Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 453; 455, n. 8. An announcement of the elections to be held on 7 April first appeared in the Virginia Gazette of 4 January. See also Randolph to JM, 7 Feb. 1783.

8Among others to whom Randolph referred may have been Arthur Lee, openly critical of “the French alliance,” David Mason, allegedly disloyal, and James McCraw, who had been expelled from the House of Delegates for views “inimical to the U. S.” See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 400–401; 403, nn. 9, 10; 404, n. 17; 425; 427, n. 7; 454; 456, n. 13.

9Randolph referred to the committees of correspondence, the local committees of safety, and the provincial Committee of Safety, which both before and during the period of transition in Virginia from colony to commonwealth had served as the de facto governing bodies, concerting resistance against royal officials, exposing Loyalists, and sometimes punishing them harshly without resort to judicial process. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 146–47; 147, n. 1; 161; 162, n. 10; 164, n. 1; 190–91; 192, n. 6.

On 19 December 1782 Harrison had issued a proclamation, requiring “all civil Magistrates, County Lieutenants and other inferior officers of Militia” to search for and arrest “subjects of the King of Great Britain” who illegally “have been suffered to remain” in Virginia and “form a seditious and malignant party in the bowels of the State,” and who “by calumny and falsehood alienate the affections of the good citizens from the Government, and retard the execution of the best of Laws” (Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 21 and 28 Dec. 1782, and 4 Jan. 1783).

10For Randolph, attorney general of Virginia, to favor the creation of an extralegal “censorial power” for the purpose of detecting and repressing citizens who broke no law but disseminated “secret whispers” reveals his conviction that Virginians “not well-affected” were numerous, influential, or both.

11For the evacuation of Charleston, see Harrison to Delegates, 11 Jan. 1783, and n. 6. John Banks of the Richmond firm of Hunter, Banks, and Company had purchased in Charleston, even before its evacuation by the enemy, large quantities of British goods. Although some of the clothing was for the use of General Greene’s troops, many of the articles had been bought by Banks as a speculation for his own profit or that of his partners. See Cal. of Va. 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, 428–30; Va. Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 25 Jan. 1783; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 287, n. 19.

12Randolph may be referring again, as he possibly had in his letter of 22 November 1782 to JM, to the “Batchelor,” a vessel owned by Hunter, Banks, and Company (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 308; 311, n. 14).

13Whose were “the various hands” or who was the particular “member of Congress” if any, to whom Randolph referred, has not been determined. If he was suggesting Theodorick Bland or Arthur Lee, neither of these delegates can be shown to have revealed confidential information about finances. The amount of the foreign debt had been spread on the public journal of Congress as early as 24 May 1782. Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, did not know even approximately the total of the non-interest-bearing (“unliquidated”) portion of the domestic debt. On the other hand, the fact that loan-office certificates and other debentures paid 6 per cent interest was obviously no secret. Therefore, anyone who noted in the public journal of Congress Morris’ estimate of the sum needed annually to meet this obligation could ascertain readily the principal of the interest-bearing, domestic debt. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 290–93, 295–96, 437; XXIII, 771; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 284; V, 129, n. 13; 156, n. 7; 158, n. 7; 376, n. 27.

On 18 February 1783, Congress adopted Bland’s motion directing Morris to submit a detailed analysis of the foreign and domestic debt, as of the first of that year. Although Morris’ covering letter, giving about $35,327,770 as the total of the debt, exclusive of the “unliquidated” portion and the “old continental Bills and Arrearages of Half Pay,” was entered in the journal of 10 March, his itemization of this total was not printed therein until 29 April, or two weeks after Congress had ratified the preliminary peace treaty (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 139, 180–81, 241–42, 285–86). See also JM Notes, 26 Feb. and n. 46; 11 Mar. 1783, and n. 9.

14Randolph referred to JM’s letter of 30 December 1782 (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 472–74).

Index Entries