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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 22 November 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Nov. 22. 1782.”

Richmond Nov: 22. 1782

My dear sir

The inclosed cypher,1 tho’ not nicely executed or arm[e]d with every possible combination, is, I trust, sufficiently involved to serve, as a secure seal to our correspondences. I send it by the post, as the transactions of this week2 require no cover.

Immediately on the receipt of your information that the appointment was renewed, I imparted it to our friend.3 I expect an answer to morrow, but not so soon, as that I should be enabled to say certainly by this post what his final resolution will be. But in addition to the circumstances leading me in a former letter to espouse the probability of his accepting this mission,4 another has lately occurred. While governor, he had subscribed several assumpsits to the creditors of government, and particularly to some of those of New Orleans, Illinois &c, who are now in your city. He understood that they had been advised to sue him in his individual capacity; Upon this intelligence he wrote to the assembly, representing his predicament, and that he wished to travel into some other parts of America. The result of this application is unknown and seems immaterial;5 since it abundantly shews, that Monticello, which formerly was the great magnet, has lost its power so far, as to leave him a disposition to travel.

Some progress has been made in reforming the militia law; the great object of which in its present form is to keep a select militia in readiness for invasions, and to prevent the useless expenditure of money, occasioned by the frequent reliefs which are practised under our prevailing system. The bill is to be reported to day.6

Oeconomy is the cant phrase and the house of delegates have accordingly voted the reduction of the number of auditors to one.7 I am told, that some of the members are disposed to strike at the number of judges of the admiralty, of the council, &c. &c.8 But these amendments are the ebullitions of those, who know not the nature of the business of the several departments.

Tuesday is assigned for the consideration of Mr. Mercer’s plan of a tobacco-bank. I cannot procure a sight of it: but I fancy, it is built upon the doctrine of Stuart on the subject of banks founded on public credit. If so, that doctrine is surely misapplied to the now condition of our country. There does not appear the smallest prospect of its being carried.9

A petition came from Louisa to continue, among other things the suspension of executions. On the question for referring it, the number pro was 42, against it 33. Mr. R. H. Lee was animated and spoke well against the reference, as lawyers, intent on profit, would think; but, as others less ardent in the pursuit of riches would perhaps say, much to the injury of our country, which has suffered so deeply from the enemy.10

There is a strong party, and I believe it will prove successful, for exploding the consumption of british manufactures without waiting for similar acts of reprobation in the other states. Abuses have been lately multiplied in the introduction of these baneful commodities, some having been imported in flags, others from St. Thomas’s,11 covered with very slight, and indeed unauthentic certificates of previous captures.12 I shall shortly go to Edenton in No. Carolina to defend a vessel which has brought british wares from that island: but I am resolved to return infectâ re,13 if there be any suspicion of their coming thither unsanctified by capture.14

As to my return, I know not what to say. I feel most sorely at this moment the wounds of Haym Salomon,15 and divers other jews of our connection in Philadelphia,16 and I clearly see, that my absence from home would throw me most terribly in the rear of the law. But these circumstances would not of themselves detain me, provided I could make a reasonable composition with the creditors of my father, who has his life in my uncle’s estate upon the death of my aunt. That event approaches rapidly, and this matter will be quickly afterwards determined.17 But I shall probably be obliged to remain here for some time in preparing the vindication of our title to the western country—18 and this too, from the reappointment of Mr. J., on whose shoulders I wished to throw the penmanship of the work.19 To keep my name up therefore, when I must be necessarily absent, would be an obstacle to the reinforcement of a better man.20

Last night Mr. Jas. Henry’s son desired me to forward £22–10. to Mr. Jones, on account of an advance made by him in Phila. in 1780.21 The money is deposited in the treasury, and I will remit it by the next post.22 I should have done it, could I have procured a bill.

I say nothing to you about money, as Mr. Ambler23 says he is punctual in every possible remittance.

I duly received your two favors of Nov. 13th.24 Mr. Pendleton left us almost a week ago.25 I forgot to mention that there are several blanks in the cypher, reserved for you to fill up, if you think proper.

1See Randolph to JM, 26 October, and n. 8; JM to Randolph, 3 December 1782. This “cypher” will be designated hereafter as the Randolph code.

2That is, particularly “the transactions” of the Virginia General Assembly.

3Randolph referred to the renewal by Congress of Jefferson’s appointment as a peace commissioner. See JM to Randolph, 12 November (second letter), and n. 4; Jefferson to JM, 26 November 1782.

4The “probability” represented Randolph’s current frame of mind more nearly than it did anything he had written to JM. See JM to Randolph, 30 September, and nn. 6, 7; Randolph to JM, 8 November 1782.

5See Nathan to Virginia Delegates, 17 October, and nn. 1, 3, 4. In his letter of 22 September to Governor Harrison (not “to the assembly”), Jefferson wrote: “I had had some thoughts of abstracting myself awhile from this state by a journey to Philadelphia or somewhere else Northwardly; but I suppose it would not be safe for me to leave a state by whose laws I must certainly be protected and trust myself in another where that protection would be doubtful”—that is, against an “assumpsit,” or suit “to recover damages for breach of contract” (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, 197; 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, 186, n. 9).

On 3 October, eighteen days before Harrison referred Jefferson’s letter to the General Assembly, he wrote to assure Jefferson that “the Executive will take your defence on them in behalf of the State and in every respect protect you from Damage,” should Nathan “or any other person bring a Suit against you” because, as governor, Jefferson signed a promise to pay on behalf of Virginia. At the October 1782 session, the General Assembly did not gratify Governor Harrison by passing an act to free “Officers of Government” from their “apprehensions” that “in their private capacities” they might be sued for nonfulfillment of “contracts or assumpsits made by them on account of the State” (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, 200; 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, 348). This noncompliance probably reflected the unwillingness of the legislature to make its own appointees immune from suit, however careless or venal they might be when in office. Like any citizen, a governor or ex-governor could always petition the General Assembly for redress.

6On 25 rather than 22 November Richard Henry Lee reported, on behalf of a committee appointed on 18 November 1782, a bill “for providing a select militia for the defence of the Commonwealth.” On 28 December 1782 this measure became a law, entitled, “An act, to amend the act, ‘for regulating and disciplining the militia’” (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. 23, 25, 36, 91). The phrase “regulating and disciplining” was replaced by “establishing and regulating” in 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, 173–75.

To increase the utility and improve the equipment of the militia, the law stipulated that (1) as much as one-sixteenth of the militia in any county would be cavalry, provided that each trooper, in return for exemption from monthly musters, furnished at his own expense a “sufficient horse, not less than fourteen hands high, and a good saddle and bridle”; and (2) “in such counties as are most exposed to the enemy” and in Williamsburg and Norfolk approximately one-third of the militia, using arms supplied by the state, should serve in rotation, so as to have that number on a “tour of duty” at all times. Other articles of the statute specified (1) the penalties for refusing militia service or for failing to return state-owned equipment, and (2) the method whereby a “quaker or menonist” could supply “a substitute” at his own charge or that of all members of his sect living in his county. See also ibid., XI, 132, 135–36, 170; Randolph to JM, 27 September 1782, n. 9.

7On 19 November after “a committee of the whole House” had recommended “that one auditor will be sufficient to discharge the public business of that department,” the Virginia House of Delegates appointed a committee to submit a bill to that effect (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. 24–25). For the outcome of this matter, see Randolph to JM, 16 November 1782, and n. 9.

8Although the journal of the House of Delegates during the session of October 1782 includes no mention of an effort to reduce the number of admiralty judges and councilors of state, the General Assembly abolished the offices of commissioner of war and commercial agent by a statute of 24 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. 21, 27, 28, 39, 79; 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, 133–34; Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782, n. 6). See also Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782, and nn. 18, 19.

9Reporting on behalf of a committee appointed on 13 November (Randolph to JM, 16 November 1782, and nn. 10, 11), Charles Carter presented on 19 November a bill “for establishing a Virginia circulating tobacco bank.” Eight days later the House of Delegates suspended consideration of the measure until 1 March 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 , October 1782, pp. 24, 38, 39; Randolph to JM, 29 November 1782).

In his An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy (2 vols.; London, 1767), II, 150, 157, 160–76, 227, Sir James Steuart (1712–1780), or Steuart Denham as his surname was after 1772, argued that the note-issuing banks of a nation having an adverse balance of trade with foreign nations should continue to issue more bank notes on property mortgages, even during the outflow of gold abroad. If the gold reserves of the banks were insufficient to meet the demands of foreign creditors, the banks should offer the interest on these mortgage loans as security for borrowing enough gold outside the nation to bring the international payments into balance. Assuming that Randolph accepted Steuart’s “doctrine,” he at the same time surely recognized that Virginia’s economic stagnation and heavy indebtedness would induce few foreign creditors to loan gold with little prospect in the near future of being paid interest even on the advance. See also Lloyd W. Mints, A History of Banking Theory in Great Britain and the United States (Chicago, 1945), pp. 24–25.

10Declaring the act “for liquidation of debts and contracts,” passed on 5 January 1782, was oppressive to debtors, and that the “specie tax of the revenue law,” passed the same day, as amended on 1 July 1782 (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 , X, 471–74, 501, 504–7, 510–11; XI, 66–71; 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 1781, p. 74; 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), imposed requirements impossible for many citizens to fulfill, the petition of “sundry inhabitants” of Louisa County, received by the Virginia House of Delegates on 22 November 1782, prayed for relief in “some equitable mode for the adjustment of old debts.” The journal of the House of Delegates is silent regarding both Richard Henry Lee’s address and the plurality by which the petition was “Referred to the committee of the whole House on the state of the Commonwealth” (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. 33).

Virginians who had pledged to pay their obligations in specie also foresaw that the statute of 1 July 1782, which stipulated that “the clog on executions” should be removed on and after 1 March 1783, would bring a flood of suits for the collection of overdue debts (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, 357; 361, n. 40). JM had been told in May 1782 by Jacquelin Ambler and Arthur Lee of the widespread discontent because the land tax had to be paid in specie (ibid., IV, 231; 232, n. 6; 244).

Two measures, enacted 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. 90–91), sought to mitigate the general distress illustrated by the Louisa County petition. Although the Assembly retained the specie tax on land (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, 118), it “equalized” this levy by dividing the counties into four “districts” and establishing the tax in each according to the “average price per acre.” The average stipulated for forty-one counties, mainly Tidewater, was 10s.; for eighteen in the Piedmont (including Louisa), 7s. 6d.; for eight more northern or western counties, 5s. 6d.; and for the remaining eight, in Kentucky and other frontier regions, 3s. (ibid., XI, 140–42). See also Queries and Answers, 3 December 1782–8 February 1783, n. 20. A third law denied the use of the state courts to British creditors or, if in collusion, to their American assignees, “any law to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding,” and permitted settlers on land owned by “sundry companies” to defer until 1 December 1783 the payment, either in money or commutables, of what was due in “principal and interest” (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, 176–80).

11An island in the Danish West Indies which was a notorious center of smuggling.

12For this illicit trade, usually engaged in by British vessels flying flags of truce or by American ships laden with cargoes acquired by “collusive captures” from the enemy, 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, references in Index under Commerce, American, with Great Britain, illegal, and Flag of truce, merchants-capitulant at Yorktown; Reverend James Madison to JM, 2 August, and nn. 3 and 5; Randolph to JM, 6 August, and n. 9; 16 August, and n. 5, and especially n. 6; JM to Randolph, 10 September, nn. 22, 23. On 28 December 1782 the Virginia General Assembly amended the act of 2 July of that year for the “seizure and condemnation of British goods, found on land” by providing that it should take effect on 1 April 1783 rather than when “the rest of the United States shall have passed similar laws on this subject” (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. 90; 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, 102–3, 162). See also Randolph to JM, 13 December, and n. 27; 20 December 1782, and n. 12.

13Meaning, “leaving the business uncompleted.”

14The unnamed vessel may have been the “Batchelor,” owned by Hunter, Banks, and Company. John Banks, with whom Randolph was acquainted (Randolph to JM, 16 November 1782, n. 19), hoped, by using “a double set of papers,” to profit from illicit trade with the British West Indies (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, 363, 396; 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, 403, and n., 404, 405–6, 412–13, 447–48; Letter, Banks to James Hunter, Jr., “October” 1782, MS in Virginia State Library). Randolph’s trip to Edenton seems to have been canceled.

15See 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, 108, n. 2; Randolph to JM, 18 October 1782, and n. 4.

16Probably including Barnard and Michael Gratz, and Israel Myers. See Papers of Madison, II, 79, n. 2; 273–74; III, 344, n. 2; Randolph to JM, 24 August 1782, and n. 13.

17For John Randolph, Edmund’s father, who was to have the use during the remainder of his life of the estate of his deceased brother Peyton following the death of Peyton’s widow, Elizabeth Harrison Randolph, 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, 162, n. 8; Randolph to JM, 16 August 1782, n. 20.

18Following the dash, Randolph wrote a word of perhaps nine letters, which now are so blurred as to be illegible. The first five letters of the word may be “intro.” For Randolph’s appointment by the Virginia General Assembly as a member of a committee to draft a defense of the state’s title to the territory north and west of the Ohio River, 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, 90, n. 4; 198, n. 7; 305; 333. On 19 and 21 November 1782 the House of Delegates and Senate, respectively, empowered the committee “to examine upon oath, the clerk and such members” of the pre-Revolutionary “King’s Council of Virginia” as were still living “concerning the instructions from the King and Council relative to the said territory, and on such other matters as may serve to ascertain the title of this State to its western country” (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. 24, 30).

19Congress’ renewal of Jefferson’s appointment as a peace commissioner signified that he, as a member of the committee, would be unable to draft, as Randolph had hoped, the defense of Virginia’s title to the west. 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, 154–55; 161; 226; 306, n. 3; 395; JM to Randolph, 13 August; Randolph to JM, 24 August 1782. Probably in the spring of 1782 Jefferson began but never finished an “Outline and Preamble of Argument on Virginia’s Claim” (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, 663–67, 667 n.). He may have mentioned this document to Randolph when they met on 28 November (Randolph to JM, 29 November 1782).

21As delegates from Virginia, Joseph Jones and James Henry (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, 318, n. 1) had been together in Congress from 24 April to 6 July 1780 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , V, lxiv). Randolph probably referred to Samuel Hugh Henry (ca. 1758–ca. 1838), later of Pleasant Hill in King and Queen County (Personal-Property Tax Books, 1838–1839, King and Queen County, MSS in Virginia State Library).

22Presumably to Jones directly.

23Jacquelin Ambler, treasurer of Virginia.

24These two letters from JM were dated 12, rather than 13, November (qq.v.).

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