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

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 16–17 May 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Words encoded by Randolph in the official cipher are italicized. The letter lacks both cover and docket.

Richmond May 16. 1782.

Dear sir

Mr. F. Webb, who left this place yesterday for Phila., is the bearer of a bill for 20 £ Penna. currency. I have requested him to deliver it to you. As it was not put into my hands, after it was drawn, I wish you may not meet with some impediment in the negotiation of it. For if it was drawn in my favor, the forms of business seem to require my indorsement, to assign it to another. However, I suppose congressional reputation is not yet so low, as to render such a difficulty unsurmountable, from a suspicion of your having acquired the bill thro’ fraud.1

Your favor of an uncertain day of may will answer, when united with your official letter to the governor,2 an important purpose. It will reinforce the essential3 doctrine of fidelity to our allies, and alienatio[n] from G. Britain, which seems so necessary at this day to our political salvation, and is therefore urged by me with some earnestness.

On wednesday last the house of delegates met for the first time since the new election. An opposition to Mr. Tyler, the late speaker, was rumoured, before the matter came to a crisis, but was dropped, when he was proposed for the chair. Mr. R. H. Lee was mentioned, as the competitor.4

Mr. Jefferson has informed the house of his election into their body and tendered5 a resignation. This they refuse to accept, grounding the refusal upon his own principles, delivered on a similar occasion.6

Mr. Henry will be down on the 20th. inst. During the interregnum, occasioned by the absence of these two gentlemen, it is probable that a considerable degree of influence will run in the channel, suggested in my letter of last week.7 On this event our resolution against British goods may be harshly treated. But, I confess, that the poison of those sentiments, by which it has been opposed, does not appear to have diffused itself so widely, as I once thought it had. The cool and unprejudiced yield to the necessity of our circumstances: and call the resolution the touchstone of our attachment to the alliance. The governor himself has been moderate making no other mention of it in his public letter than mere[ly] by sa[y]ing that he had re[c]ieved [it.]8 The common objections to the measure recommended are that the encouragement of free importation will produce m[o]re certain, ample and cheap supplies—that it is strange, that we should be so defective in policy, as to suppress the consumption of British commodities, when G. Britain herself, who is at least as wise as Congress, has evidenced her determination by the capture of St. Eustatius to cut off the advantages, which we otherwise should draw from her trade—and that the northern states will acquire infinite emolument, as they can cover successive importations from the British dominions under invoices of a small quantity of captured merchandize. The futility of this discourse surely proves little else, than an undistinguishing, and, in some instances, a malicious mind.9 You must take the trouble of informing me, as soon as possible, of the yeas and nays on passing the resolution. Rhode-Island, I am sure, was at least divided: and, howsoever the vote of Penna. might have ultimately been, much disgust was discovered against the measure by one of its members.10

The governor’s public letter was voluminous.11 It contained, among other things, his various correspondence with Mr. Morris, and some part of his epistolary intercourse with us. The report of the commee on the cessions was the most capital figure. The whole[?] mass was referred to a commee of the whole house.12 After the reference, Dr. Lee rose, and delivered in at the clerk’s table authenticated lists of the companies’ names; but I am not well satisfied, that such documents, as these, can throw much light upon the inquiry, howsoever they may furnish [the intelligence?] for malice.13

It is certainly the professed design of the two Lees to ruin Mister Morris. Nothing can be produced from his office to which some parvenu14 construction is not given. [The]15 two Lee[s] [give?] a state of the finances much to the disadvantage of that gentleman, extracted, as is asserted from hi[s] own letter to Congress. I have contradicted the malici[ous]16 account. You will oblige me by forwarding the history of his expen[ces], which he reported soon after the siege of York. Can charity itself invent an excuse for these movements? Pray send me a short extract from this paper.17

Colo. Carrington arrived two days ago. He brings with him some of Mr. Morris’s notes which will possibly disarm his enemy.18

Mr. Lee and myself yesterday presented a request for instructions upon the four great points. Being the writer of the letter, I did not fail to hint, without possible offence, to any body the absolute Necessity of the measure.19 Our letter was referred to a committee, and this necessity seems to impress the whole assembly. As for myself, I had a decent opportunity for avoiding an examination before the house, by substituting Mr. Lee in my stead for every occurrence, which happened after his arrival at congress. I have taken care however to procure an audience for myself, if the resolution against British goods should be impe[a]ched.20

Governor Harrison has suggested to the assembly the propriety of subjecting the court of admiralty to the controul of the executive in cases of foreigners. There is surely great reason21 in the idea: but I fear, our constitution forbids the execution of it.22

May 17. 1782.

The badness of the weather23 has prevented me from being in Richmond to day. I have just heard, that the passports, which were granted for the tobacco, to be transported from hence to New-York came into discussion. Mr. R. H. Lee is said to have denied the power of congress to grant them. It is true, that the interdiction of the exercise of powers, not specially delegated, bears hard against this particular one. But how nearly will the impotence of congress resemble the umbra magni nominis,24 if so natural an inference from the exclusive jurisdiction in war is protested against.25 It astonishes me, that this business should be first discussed, as if it were the first in26 dignity. What does it argue to your mind? I understand, that no resolution is formed upon the subject, as yet. I omit the inclosure of a newspaper, because Mr. Hayes27 informs me, that he sends one weekly. I shall take his information to be just, unless I shall hear the contrary.

I hope Browse28 has received his hat from Parish.29 I left the price of it with Mr. Norton.30

1See Jameson to JM, 9 March, and n. 2; Randolph to JM, 11–13 April; Pendleton to JM, 22 April, and n. 12; JM to Randolph, 23 April, and n. 5, and 4 June 1782; Account with Randolph, ca. 1 May 1782, and editorial note.

3Instead of “essential,” Randolph at first wrote “truly important.”

5Randolph substituted “their body and tendered” for his original “the house of delegates.”

6See Randolph to JM, 5 May 1782, n. 4. The “similar occasion” may have happened in the session of the Virginia General Assembly of May 1778, when a committee including Jefferson drafted a bill to compel the attendance of senators and delegates. Although this measure contained no provision forbidding a member to refuse to serve, Jefferson may have spoken in favor of such a prohibition during the debate preceding the rejection of the bill by a close vote. This bill, now in the Virginia State Library, was docketed by Randolph. As attorney general of the Commonwealth, he very likely would have been informed of what was said in favor of and against the measure. Jefferson’s evident embarrassment in the spring of 1782, because of the pressure upon him to attend the General Assembly, probably ended when he heard that on 28 May the House of Delegates had declined to adopt a resolution “respecting resignations.” His letter to James Monroe on 20 May, arguing forcibly against the legality of denying a member of the House the right to resign, was shown by Monroe to at least some of his fellow delegates and probably contributed to the defeat of the resolution (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, unless otherwise noted, 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 1778, pp. 3, 21, 22; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , II, 188–89; VI, 184–87; Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 55; Randolph to JM, 1 June 1782). Embittered by the efforts of his political opponents late in 1781 to have the General Assembly censure his conduct as governor and distressed by Mrs. Jefferson’s prolonged illness culminating in her death on 6 September 1782, Jefferson remained in seclusion at Monticello during most of that year (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 187 n., 196 n.; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 338, n. 3).

7See Randolph to JM, 10 May 1782, and n. 3.

8See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 188; 189, n. 6; 338; 339, nn. 2 and 3; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 8 January, and nn. 4 and 5, and 8 February; JM to Pendleton, 8 January, and 9 April 1782, and n. 5. For Harrison’s alleged dislike of France, see Randolph to JM, 11–13 April 1782. In his letter of 6 May to the speaker of the House of Delegates, Harrison mentioned the resolution, drafted by Randolph and adopted on 2 January by Congress, requesting the legislature of each state to confiscate all British goods, if they had been imported within its limits before 1 March 1782 or brought there after being captured at sea (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 3; 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, 214, 222). For the efforts of the French to have Americans depend upon France rather than Great Britain for manufactured goods and repress illicit traffic with enemy merchantmen, see William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 238–39. According to Robert R. Livingston, “new habits and new fashions must be introduced” by diverting the long-established channel of American trade from Great Britain to France (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 73).

9In other words, those Virginians who favored “free importation” were, according to Randolph, either so obtuse as to want it because the enemy obviously was trying to prevent it, or so “malicious” as to hold that, if the ban were imposed, Northerners would richly profit from covering large importations of smuggled British merchandise under invoices of small amounts of enemy goods legally captured by their privateers. Randolph may have counted upon JM to understand that Richard Henry Lee and Arthur Lee, who usually and for long had supported the Massachusetts leaders in their opposition to Congress’ extreme deference to France, had voiced these arguments.

10With his letter to Randolph on 4 June (q.v.), JM apparently enclosed a record of the vote of 2 January of the state delegations in Congress on Randolph’s resolution mentioned in n. 8, above. What this tally showed is not known, because the enclosure is missing, and neither the printed journal nor the manuscript of the resolution lists the yeas and nays. Charles Thomson merely wrote “pass’d” on this manuscript (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 3; NA: PCC, No. 28, fol. 243). Nevertheless, the lines of division probably conformed with those on a very similar measure which Congress had passed on 4 December 1781. In this poll Rhode Island and every other state with at least two delegates present, except Massachusetts, voted unanimously “aye.” The sole delegate from New Hampshire voted “no” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1153). The delegate from Pennsylvania who exhibited “much disgust” may have been George Clymer, a rich merchant and banker of Philadelphia. When on 25 February 1782 the Virginia delegation had unanimously opposed a resolution to admit British goods imported in any vessel not belonging to the enemy, Clymer had voted for the measure (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 96–98).

11The governor’s letter, cited in n. 8, above, covered a number of subjects in a total of approximately 4,200 words.

12See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 304, n. 1; JM to Randolph, 1 May 1782, nn. 6 and 7.

13See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 295, n. 7; JM to Randolph, 1 May, and n. 8; Randolph to JM, 10 May 1782, and n. 7. From “The whole[?] mass” through “lists of the companies’ names,” Randolph was reporting in correct sequence the events of 16 May (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 45–46). In coding the first two of these four italicized words, Randolph wrote 657, the symbol for the syllable “fu,” but he probably intended to use 6. 57, the ciphers for “the intelligence.” He implied that Arthur Lee derived malicious pleasure by exposing some of his political enemies—particularly Franklin, Morris, and Silas Deane—as investors in the land companies which challenged the validity of Virginia’s title to the West.

14Randolph may have meant that to the aristocratic Lees any act of Robert Morris, who in their view had risen from poverty to great wealth by unworthy means, was only what might be expected of a parvenu.

15Although the cipher in the manuscript is 146, standing for “do,” Randolph probably should have written 6, the code number for “the.”

16Here 751, the code figure for “ur” appears, rather than 571, the symbol for “ous.”

17See nn. 13 and 14, above. The enmity of Arthur and Richard Henry Lee, as well as other influential members of the Lee family, toward Robert Morris dates from 1776–1778, when Congress’ Secret Committee of Correspondence, dominated by Morris, had mainly supported Franklin and Deane, commissioners at the court of Versailles, in their continuous friction with their colleague Arthur Lee and his friend Ralph Izard, who had stayed in Paris instead of proceeding to his post in Tuscany. The Lees’ prominent allies were John and Samuel Adams and Henry Laurens. This factionalism, often a divisive influence within Congress, basically stemmed from opposing positions on important domestic and foreign issues but was exacerbated by charges and countercharges of financial dishonesty (Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, pp. 22–27, and nn.). Aggrieved by Congress’ tepid approval of his services in France, its delay in authorizing the payment of his overseas’ expenses, its refusal to heed his charges against Franklin, and its deferential regard for Morris, Lee struck back by accusing the superintendent of finance of malfeasance in handling public funds (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 142–43, and n. 1; 154; 217; 218, n. 2). Morris’ statement of his expenses was a mystery to JM, as it is to the present editors (JM to Randolph, 4 June 1782). For JM’s comment upon Arthur Lee’s conduct, see JM to Randolph, 4 June, and 2 and 23 July 1782.

18See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 9 February, and nn. 3, 4; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 25 February, and n. 3; 19 March, n. 1; JM to Randolph, 9 April, n. 4; and Motion on Supplies for Southern Army, 7 May 1782. Colonel Edward Carrington brought assurances from Morris that the contract system for supplying food to the continental army would be extended “as far southwardly” as possible. This pleased Governor Harrison. On 15 May the governor recommended that the General Assembly assist Morris by agreeing to receive for taxes “the notes he may issue to enable him to fulfil his contracts” (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, 224–25). The Assembly adopted this suggestion on 1 July 1782 (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 85; 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, 68–69). In the 18 and 25 May issues of the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , Carrington invited bids for the award of contracts to supply rations.

19As shown by the remainder of the paragraph, “the measure” was the resolution mentioned in n. 8, above. The letter from Lee and Randolph has not been found. The “four great points” were probably those stated by Randolph in his letter of 16 May to the speaker of the House of Delegates—namely, the “prospect of peace,” the “state of our army and navy,” the “history of our finances,” and the “temper of congress with regard to Virginia” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 352). Lee had attended Congress from 19 February to about 24 April 1782 (Jameson to JM, 2 March, n. 8; JM to Randolph, 1 May 1782, n. 3).

20Randolph wrote the cipher for “thirteen” instead of “a.”

21Randolph wrote “propriety” and then deleted it.

22See Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 March 1782, and nn. 1, 2; 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, 215. Article IX of the Form of Government of Virginia stipulated that the governor “shall, with the advice of a Council of State, exercise the executive powers of government according to the laws of this commonwealth; and shall not, under any pretence, exercise any power or prerogative by virtue of any law, statute, or custom, of England” (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 , IX, 115). This emphatic prohibition barred the governor from controlling the Court of Admiralty, but Harrison evidently assumed that, even though the Form of Government contained no article defining the method of amendment, the General Assembly, with the sole power under Article XIII to appoint or remove the judges of admiralty, could delegate to him the authority requested (ibid., IX, 117). This the General Assembly declined to do. Perhaps it came to this decision the more readily because of Governor Nelson’s recent “usurpations” and the baffling constitutional problems involved in the present issue (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 325, 326, n. 3).

23Written over a deleted “day.”

24In his De bello civili (Pharsalia), Book I, line 135, Marcus Annaeus Lacanus (A.D. 39–65) used the words, Stat magni nominis umbra (“The mere shadow of a mighty name, he stood”), when describing the fading genius of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106–48 B.C.) by about 50 B.C.

25See Lee to JM, 16 May, and n. 7; Randolph to JM, 21–24 May, and nn. 5–9, 15; JM to Randolph, 4 June 1782. Although the Articles of Confederation included no mention of ships flying flags of truce, it conferred upon Congress the power to make war and peace. This grant of authority presumably permitted the employment of all devices, including flags of truce, customarily resorted to by a belligerent. Richard Henry Lee, who less than a year before had even advocated a suspension of portions of both the Articles of Confederation and the Form of Government of Virginia for the duration of the emergency (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 157–58), probably welcomed the constitutional issue in the present instance primarily as a weapon with which he again could attack Robert Morris (Ambler to JM, 20 April, and n. 4; Lee to JM, 16 May 1782, and n. 7).

26After “in,” Randolph wrote and deleted “order of.”

27James Hayes, Jr. See Jameson to JM, 26 January 1782, and n. 5.

28Hore Browse Trist (ca. 1778–1804). See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 92, n. 8. Randolph had roomed in Philadelphia at the home of the boy’s parents and grandmother, Mrs. Mary House. Jefferson, who often befriended the family, appointed Hore Browse Trist in November 1803 to be collector for the district of Mississippi and inspector of revenue at the port of Fort Adams on the Mississippi River (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , X, 167, 611; XI, 178–79; Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, VI [1924–25], 215; Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , IV, 194, 500 n.; Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States, I, 454–55, 464).

29Isaac Parrish (1735–1826) had been a Philadelphia hatter at least as early as 1749, when he was apprenticed to the trade following the death of his parents (Susanna Parrish Wharton, comp., The Parrish Family [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania][Philadelphia, 1925], pp. 44, 51). He numbered George Washington among his customers (Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 3d ser., XIV [1897], 187; 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 , XIV, 128, 129 n.; XXX, 254 n.; XXXVII, 96).

30Probably Randolph’s Virginia friend, John Hatley Norton (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 318, n. 15), whose business firm was now located in Philadelphia. See Frances Norton Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons: Merchants of London and Virginia … (Richmond, 1937), pp. 446–48.

Index Entries