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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 29 June 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned letter, in Randolph’s hand. Besides being so badly water(?)-stained that portions of the brief text have disappeared, the paper is torn unevenly across the lower edge. Although the message ends abruptly, it apparently is complete, because the margin at the bottom is sufficiently wide and free from stain to show additional words if Randolph had written them.

Virga. June 29. 1782

Dear sir

[After?] writing to you this morning, I find, that the paper1 of the   h[as] se[t fo]rth to the public a report respecting Wmsburg., & the governor’s letter, therein published, mentions your name. [This?] reminds me, that I heard it supposed some time ago, [tha]t you had written to some correspondent here a circulating rumour of the disaffection of that city; and that I read to Major Jos.2 Southall the paragraph in your favor of the 28th. Ulto: which was absolutely satisfactory, I believe, to him.3 My intercepted letter4 was intended to   [y]ou   that there was not any thing like disaff[ection?]   and I am sure, that Wmsburg. has5   staunch for the suspicion.

1Unidentified. Randolph was not referring to the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends (Hayes) of 29 June 1782. No copy of the Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser (Nicolson and Prentis) of that date appears to be extant.

2Randolph should have written Jas. rather than “Jos.” James Barrett Southall (1726–ca. 1801) of Williamsburg, owner of the Raleigh Tavern and major of militia, was superintendent of flag-of-truce ships on the James River and custodian of public property in and near Williamsburg (Land and Personal-Property Tax Books, Williamsburg and James City County, 1782–1802, MSS in Virginia State Library; 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, 248–49, 282, 284, 298, 309, 411; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 88; Letter from Edward M. Riley, Colonial Williamsburg, to William M. E. Rachal, 16 June 1964).

3See Jones to JM, 22 July 1782. Early in June Governor Harrison evidently had been told by Major James Southall that JM had charged residents of that town with being unpatriotic. On 11 June 1782 Harrison assured Southall by letter: “The Report you have heard of Mr Madison, or any other of the Delegates writing to me on the subject is false, I assure you I have never had a Line on the subject from any Person breathing.” The rumor had included a story about citizens of Williamsburg signing a paper favoring acceptance of “the terms offered by Great Britain to the United States,” and about Count de Rochambeau destroying this document after convincing the signers of their error.

When Harrison’s dispatch to Southall reached Williamsburg, Rochambeau certified that the entire story was “utterly false” and “ridiculous.” Mayor William Holt of Williamsburg called the canard “Infamous” in his letter of 20 June, enclosing for publication “in both the Virginia Gazettes” Rochambeau’s certificate and a “Letter from the Inhabitants of this City expressive of their political principles” (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, 248–49). Randolph appears to have seen printed copies, perhaps in broadside form, of these four documents before writing the present note to JM. In the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 6 July 1782 Hayes published the “just tribute of gratitude” of the Williamsburg officials to Rochambeau, along with his reply. This interchange does not mention the incident to which Randolph refers in the present letter.

Harrison had begun his letter of 11 June to Southall by writing, “I some time ago heard that some of the Inhabitants of Wmsburg had entered into an instrument of writing expressing their satisfaction at the terms offered by Great Britain.” This statement, together with the sentence from the same dispatch quoted earlier in this footnote, makes clear that the report about the “disaffection” of Williamsburg had been made to him orally rather than in writing. In his letter to Joseph Jones on 28 May (q.v.), JM had mentioned sending a “consolatory answer” to La Luzerne because of the minister’s disquietude occasioned “by some correspondent in Virginia” telling him “that the late intelligence from Britain has produced very unfavorable symptoms in a large party.” When in Richmond early in June, Jones mentioned to acquaintances JM’s interest in gaining more precise information about the matter. Whoever told Southall of Jones’s inquiries evidently reported that JM had accused Williamsburg citizens of “disaffection.” If Jones’s “long letter,” written to JM from Richmond, could be found, it probably would help to clarify this episode. See Jones to JM, 25 June, and n. 3; JM to Randolph, 9 July 1782.

5Perhaps the blurred passage was “remained too,” or words of equivalent meaning.

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