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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 18 July 1783

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed by him to “The honble James Madison esqr Congress Princeton.” Docketed by JM, “July 18. 1783.”

Richmond July 18. 1783.

My Dear friend

I have received by the last mail your two favors of June 30. & July 8.1 They satisfy me of what was before problematical, the propriety of the removal of congress to Princeton. But with what decency can you retreat from thence without concessions, worthy the acceptance of sovereignty, and, on the other hand, how much have the southern states to fear from the convenience of Osopus,2 when the permanent seat of congress shall be the subject of discussion?

Betsey and myself fear the effect of your removal to Princeton on the finances of Mrs. H——se.3

The assembly no sooner leave us than we sink into a dull, tho’ eager people after money. Were it not for the breeze, which the late proclamation of the governor has stirred,4 we should have nothing to agitate us. It draws forth every hour men, who seemed to have fixed themselves in all the rights of citizenship, to supplicate a little time, until they can arrange their domestic affairs.5 Among these is a Doctor Turpin, the possessor of the most valuable lots for the purposes of government within the city. He is a native, was taken at York with a medical commission, as I am told, in his pocket, and has been suffered to remain here without interruption ever since; And yet the act determining, who shall be citizens, does not, I believe, exclude him from obtaining a domicil here.

However, there may be some reason to favor both him and many other natives, which the law does not allow. He was sent abroad for his education, during his infancy. He was there surprized by the war, while the purposes of his errand were incomplete. He made several attempts to reach his country, but was so often baffled as to be obliged to enter into the british service, as a surgeon, for subsistence. A departure from hence with the single view of assuming arms against his country would be malignant indeed. But much toleration is due to those, who merely to avoid famine; to the danger of which they have been subjected by the prosecution of their studies, and to gain a fair opportunity of coming to his native country, have submitted to enter into the british service.6

The governor has been dangerously ill: and his disorder tho’ somewhat soothed for the present, is probably firmly fixed.7 The symptoms indicate it to be a stone in the gall bladder.

The assembly have directed a revision and collection into one code of all the laws since the revolution. A step absolutely necessary, as scarcely one magistrate understands what the law is, so far as the knowledge of the law is to be found in them.8

1Qq.v.

2Randolph should have written “Esopus,” or Kingston, N.Y. (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 447; 448, n. 4).

3Mrs. Edmund Randolph and Mrs. Mary House (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 430; 431, n. 8; JM to Randolph, 10 June, and n. 2; Mercer to JM, 14 Aug. 1783).

4Randolph to JM, 12 July 1783, and nn. 2, 3.

5For five examples of “men” who petitioned “for a little time,” see Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 129, 169, 172, MS in Va. State Library; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 208, n. 12; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 256, 260, 277; 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, 509.

6Dr. Philip Turpin (ca. 1743–1828), Jefferson’s first cousin, owned land on Shockoe Hill in Richmond (Chesterfield County Court Records, Will Book 11, pp. 320–22, microfilm in Va. State Library; Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, p. 57, MS in Va. State Library; JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 147, 221, 232, 342; 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 , XII, 617–18). Turpin was graduated with the degree of M.D. by the University of Edinburgh in 1774. Although he continued to allege adherence to the cause of the United States in the Revolution, he appears to have rejected opportunities to return to Virginia as late as 1778. He served, moreover, as surgeon on a British transport and was with Cornwallis’ army at the time of the surrender at Yorktown in October 1781. Thereafter Turpin was permitted to remain in his native state as a prisoner of war on parole. A few weeks after writing this letter Randolph became considerably less willing to grant that the doctor had been obliged to render medical service to the enemy. In response to his petition, the Virginia General Assembly on 22 December readmitted Turpin to full rights as a citizen of the state, an action not recorded in the journal. He subsequently lived at Salisbury, his estate in Chesterfield County (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (18 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , I, 23–25; VI, 324–33; Randolph to JM, 23 Aug. 1783; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, pp. 48, 59–60, 71, 73, 83; 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, 316; Francis Earle Lutz, Chesterfield, an Old Virginia County [Richmond, 1954], p. 140).

In the manuscript journal of the House of Delegates for the session of October 1783, John Beckley, clerk of the House, concluded the entries for the final day of session, Monday, 22 December, with the notation, “The Speaker then signed the following Inrolled Bills” (Journal, House of Delegates, Oct. 1783, p. 218, MS in Va. State Library). This entry, with editorial emendations, is in the printed journal, followed by the note, “[Here the Clerk omitted recording any further proceedings of this session.]” (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, p. 83). The only other day on which the speaker of the House of Delegates signed enrolled bills into law was on Friday, 5 December, and those five bills are listed by their respective titles (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1783, p. 49). All other bills, twenty-seven in number, were probably signed on 22 December 1783, although their titles were then “omitted.”

7Probably due to illness, Harrison did not summon the Council of State to meet between 15 and 21 July and was not present at the sessions of the Council on 31 July, and 1 and 2 August 1783 (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 280, 282). See also Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 176, MS in Va. State Library, in which Harrison on 19 July mentioned his “very severe indisposition.”

8On 13 and 16 June, the House of Delegates and the Senate, respectively, of the Virginia General Assembly adopted a resolution drafted by Randolph, first introduced on 26 May, instructing “The Executive to cause the several acts of the General Assembly, subsequent in date to the revisal” of 1769. “and the ordinances of Convention which are now in force, to be collected into one code, with a proper index and marginal notes, to be revised and examined by any two judges of the High Court of Chancery.” The resulting code was to be printed and “covered with paste-board”—the “whole expense” not to exceed £750 (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 21, 53, 58; Beckley to Randolph, 20 June 1783). See also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 109, entry No. 278 an.

Deciding that John Blair, Edmund Pendleton, and George Wythe, the three judges of the High Court of Chancery, were most highly qualified to “undertake the whole of the Business,” Governor Harrison wrote to each of them on 19 June 1783, asking them to consult together on a mode of operations and “favor me with the result” (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, pp. 157–58, 240, MS in Va. State Library). The outcome of the jurists’ labors, considerably delayed in completion, was printed in Richmond by Thomas Nicolson and William Prentis in 1785. Usually known as The Chancellors’ Revisal, the volume is titled in full A Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly, and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, Passed Since the Year 1768, As Are Now in Force; with a Table of the Principal Matters. Published under the Inspection of the Judges of the High Court of Chancery, by a Resolution of the General Assembly, the 16th Day of June 1783 (David John Mays, Edmund Pendleton, II, 212–14, 390, n. 53; idem, ed., The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734–1803 [2 vols.; Charlottesville, 1967], pp. 457, 459–60).

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