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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 29 November 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed to “The Ho[n?]ble James Madison.” Docketed by JM, “Novr. 29th. 1782. Secy. F. A. Mr. J. Jay.” For a probable explanation of these notations following the date, see Notes on Debates, 28 November; JM to Randolph, 2 December 1782. The italicized words are those written in the Randolph code.

Pettus’s1 Nov: 29. 1782.

My dear sir

I yesterday saw Mr. Jefferson, to whom it was unnecessary to add incentives to his acceptance of his plenipotentiaryship. He purposes to enter upon it, and with as much expedition, as his private affairs will suffer. He adopts the route by Philadelphia, as essential to his information.2 His eldest daughter3 will accompany him. I promised to spend the evening of the morrow with him but as the state of my aunt’s4 health requires my immediate attendance on her, I shall refer him to you for the communication of characters and the intelligence; suitable to his errand.

I fear, that my letter by the last post, inclosing the new cypher may have miscarried in its way from hence to the post office. But as I cannot hear anything of it I am hopeful, that it will salute you on monday;5 and on this supposition I shall envelop a part of this letter in it.

A day is assigned for an inquiry into the letter of doctor Lee. I have been told and believe, (but I did not collect the fact from any person who [was?]6 present when the motion was made in the house of delegates.) that it was opposed by himself and his brother7 In this no palliation was said to be used; but the opposition proceeds principally from an aversion that the letter itself should be inspected.8 This would imply, that something more malignant lurks behind But you, who know the course of Zeal and resentment, unsupported by a digested plan of attack, need not be taught, how little fruit can be reaped against an industr[ious]9 man keen in his own defence Mr. Pa[ge] to [whom]10 the obnoxious epistle was written has never appeared during the session. Much irritation prevails and Henry alone is wanting to give a coup de grace to his existence as a delegate.11

Mr. Mercer’s project of a bank is postponed until the next session:12 but his scheme for a select militia; which, I mentioned in my last, will probably succeed.13

On the other side you will see a declaration in detinue, which my clerk14 drew supposing this side to be blank. Pass on then to the next.15

Capt. Marshall, a promising young gentleman of the law is elected into the privy council vice Colo. Banister.16

1Residence. 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, 148, n. 2.

3Martha (Patsy) Jefferson. See Randolph to JM, 20 September 1782, n. 5.

4Elizabeth Harrison (Mrs. Peyton) Randolph of Williamsburg. 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, and n. 20; 22 November 1782.

5The code reached JM on 2 December, but he hesitated to use it, because it had come to him in an unsealed letter (JM to Randolph, 3 December 1782). The complexity of Randolph’s code, as compared with the official cipher, may also help to explain why JM delayed employing it until 30 December 1782. See headnote of JM to Randolph on that date, and JM to Randolph, 7 February 1783 (LC: Madison Papers).

6Randolph seems inadvertently to have omitted either this word or “had been.”

7See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 23 November 1782. There was no recorded vote on 20 November, when the Virginia House of Delegates directed the Committee of Privileges and Elections to investigate Arthur Lee’s controversial letter to Mann Page and, in furtherance of its inquiry, to subpoena persons and call for relevant documents (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. 27). The committee, comprising twenty-four delegates including Richard Henry Lee and Richard Lee, began its investigation or “tryal” on 6 December. After “several meetings” the committee rendered its report to the House five days later (ibid., October 1782, pp. 9, 36, 48, 54, 60, 61–62; Harrison to JM, 30 November, and n. 5; Randolph to JM, 13 December 1782, and n. 11).

8For the first syllable of “inspected,” Randolph erroneously wrote 649, meaning “into,” rather than 644, signifying “in.”

9Randolph probably intended either to encode this entire word or to use letters for its last two syllables. He did neither.

10The bracketed letters and word were omitted by Randolph inadvertently.

11When Mann Page attended on 2 December for the first time during the session, the House of Delegates decided that he had shown “good cause” for his absence and therefore excused him from paying the customary fees levied upon latecomers (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. 47). For the absence from the session of Patrick Henry, probably the most influential opponent of the Lees, see Randolph to JM, 24 August, and n. 16; 16 November 1782.

14Charles Hay (ca. 1764–1795), who had resigned as assistant clerk of the Council of State on or about 7 May 1782 and was probably at the time of the present letter “reading law” under Randolph’s tutelage. Hay was admitted to the bar in 1786. From 1783 to 1789 he served as committee clerk of the House of Delegates and from 1789 until his death, as clerk of that House (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, 24, headnote; 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 , May 1783, p. 13; E. Griffith Dodson, Speakers and Clerks of the Virginia House of Delegates, 1776–1955 [Richmond, 1956], pp. 29, 140; Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser [Richmond; Augustine Davis], 29 July 1795).

15On the verso of the letter is a copy of the legal form wherein the alleged owner of a specified article of property makes a formal and duly attested announcement that he intends to sue one or more named individuals who, in spite of repeated solicitations, continue to “detain” that chattel unlawfully.

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