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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 13 December 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Docketed by JM, “Decr. 13. 1782.” Unless otherwise noted, words or parts of words italicized in the present copy are encoded in the Randolph cipher. See Randolph to JM, 22 November 1782, and n. 1.

Richmond Decr. 13. 1782.

My dear friend

Nothing, I think, need be apprehended from the conveyance of the cypher in an unsealed letter.1 The curiosity of the postmaster or any other person must [have]2 been extravagant, if a copy was taken of it. Indeed it seems impossible, for the hurry in which the letter was sent to the office from home on the morning of the departure of the post,3 would not suffer a transription here, and I presume, you received it, before any thing of the sort could have been done in Phila.

It was with much difficulty, that I prevailed upon myself to take the measure of resignation, which I hinted to you in the letter above-alluded to.4 I am happy, however that there is a prospect of a majority of friends to France remaining in Congress as delegates from Virginia for Lee will probably be shut out5

Dr. Lee’s letter to Mr. Page has been canvassed at several meetings of the committee of privileges and elections.6 A special report was insisted upon by some, in order to shew the truth of the case to the world at large, and opposed by others with success, as having for its necessary consequence the publication of congressional secrets. Being e[n]gaged in the session of the general court which is usually held for this month, I could not attend the examination.7 But I have been8 informed authentically, that the letter was urged to be a confidential one, not destined for public inspection, and that Mr. Page refused at first to deliver it up. But from this refusal he afterwards receded at the instance of Doctor Lee. The contents of it you know. Upon its being produced and compared with the copy, which Mr. James Mercer had taken from memory (between which there was in one part a difference of some consequence)9 Mr. Jones’s and Mr. Jervais’s answers to Mr. Mercer’s inquiries on the subject were read.10 But in order to set the matter in the clearest point of testimony Colo. Bland was sent for, who deposed in affirmation of what the two gentlemen abovenamed had written. Upon this examination the inclosed report was made.11 Mr. Tazewell moved in the house to amend it; by substituting one, declaratory of Mr. Lee’s services and attachment to his country, but condemning him on the score of imprudence for writing to a private individual, what was unfit for communication, inasmuch as it was liable to be intercepted. The yeas and nays were called for, and the number for the amendment were 28; against it 50.12 The report was immediately confirmed.13

In the course of the pr[e]ceding debate Mr. R H Lee is said to have endeavoured [to] prove his brothers being free from blame, by quoting the possibility of That happening again, which had once happened, to wit an effort by France to practice the same arts, which she had exercised towards the Dut[c]h14 Should this event take place, he hinted that15 a peace must be sought for independent of our ally This rendered it fit, that the motions of France should be faithfully transmitted hither16

Among the questions, which were put to Colo. Bland, I am informed, that the following were the foremost. whether congress had not so manacled their Ministers of peace by subjecting them to the will of France? and whether the French minister had not undu[e] influenc[e] over congress?17 The answers were dictated by a proper spirit. He doubted the fitness of replying to the first, as it would lead to the treasures of the secret journal, and was not, I believe, any longer pressed on that head. On the second he observed, that he could only answer for himself, and then declared his own freedom from the influence complained of

After all: The doctor has most bitter enemies in the Assembly who among their various attempts to get him out of Congress have proposed, as an expedient which will probably have its effect, that a law be passed for the reducing the delegates to three18 Should the scheme succeed, another ballot will be taken, and he will be excluded19

It was not a fit season, when I received your favor of december 3. to say any thing touching the 5 pr. cent duty. For the assembly had repealed it some days before.20 The reason given me for this measure was, that congress ought not to derive revenue from any other source, than that pointed out by the confederation. I begged the gentlemen, with whom I conversed, to reflect on the present, if not perpetual impracticability, of executing the scheme of assessment therein prescribed,21 and the necessity of some stable fund, on which congress might count, not as the basis of European loans but the source of payment of American creditors.22 I added remarks on the facility of paying it, and on the moderation of congress in submitting the impost of the 5 prct. on prize goods to the pleasure of the different legislatures, when their own power was equal to the levying of it.23 To these and many other reflections, I received no other answer, than that the act of our assembly, granting the duty passed at Staunton, without thought, and amidst the alarms of war.24 I commiserate your situation indeed! After the acrimonious comments, which must have fallen from the Virginia delegates, touching the reluctance of Massachusetts, and unconquerable obstinacy of Rhode-Island, how can you withstand the retort?25 I am not clear, whether the enaction of the law did not deprive this state of the power of revocation, until congress should release it from the grant.26

The house of delegates sent up a bill to the senate for giving immediate operation to the act confiscating British goods, found on shore. The senate have laid it asleep. But it seems astonishing, that nothwistanding there was not a dissenting voice among the delegates, nothing like a conference has been proposed on the subject. This shews, I fear, that the men of consequence do not love it27 As I ran over the journal of the delegates this morning I found a resolution, requiring the governor to make peace with the Chicasaw indians, and to obtain from them by purchase a cessi[on] of lands.28 Caution has been used in speaking of the cess[ion] for he is directed to cause it to be expressly inserted in the treaty, [that?] the purchase is merely for the sa[ke] of peace.29 I have not the confederation by me, and theref[ore] cannot be correct. But I conceive, that the legislatures of the states are not equal to this pacification: congress having received by their gift every power of negotiation even with Indians, notwithstanding the right in each state30 to oppose them without the leave of congress. I do not mean to extend this observation so far, as on the other hand to authorize congress to tre[at] so as to affect lands lying within any particular state.31

I was prevented from writing la[st] week by a journey to Wmsburg.32

Nothing less than Europe would suit our friend of M——ll——o. However I will write to hi[m] on the subject. Residence beyond the water would not, I believe be agreeable to him, if the opening suggested should be made.33 The determination of Mc——l——g would probably depend much on the certainty of being appointed, I will wri[te] to him also.34

Your queries shall be attended to.35 Perhaps yo[ur] extract from Mr. J’s answers to Mr. M——b——s queries will be too troublesome for transcription.36 If so, it will content me

2Randolph omitted this word.

3Randolph interlineated the passage from “on” through “post.”

4See Randolph to JM, 22 November and 20 December; JM to Randolph, 3 December 1782. Randolph’s letter resigning his appointment as a delegate from Virginia to Congress was received by the House of Delegates on 11 December, read, “and ordered to lie on the table” (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. 61).

5Instead of encoding the “ut” in “shut” as 485, Randolph wrote 461, symbolizing “hu.” Following Randolph’s resignation, the Virginia delegation in Congress comprised Jones and JM, who were “friends to France,” and Lee and Bland, who were not. For the election of Randolph’s successor and the move in the House of Delegates to recall Arthur Lee because of “suspicions respecting his friendship to the French Alliance,” see Randolph to JM, 20 December 1782, and nn. 3, 5.

6See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4; 29 November, and nn. 7, 11; Pendleton to JM, 14 October, and n. 13; 8 November 1782, and n. 8.

7Randolph interlineated “which is usually held.” The winter session of the General Court commenced on the second Tuesday in December (10 December 1782) and involved only cases of “treasons, felonies, misdemeanors,” and others “cognizable before the said court” when presented by the Commonwealth (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, 461). Although the winter session of 1782 ended on the date of the present letter (Virginia Gazette, and Weekly Advertiser, 14 December 1782), Randolph’s statement that the session was “usually held for this month” implies that the winter docket occasionally was empty.

8Randolph interlineated “been.”

9Neither the manuscript of Arthur Lee’s letter to Mann Page nor of James Mercer’s inexact record of its contents has been found. In his communication, Lee evidently charged that the subservience of many members of Congress to the wishes of the court of France and especially to the recommendations of La Luzerne was inimical to the best interests of the United States. See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4; Pendleton to JM, 14 October; JM to Randolph, 15 October 1782. At about the time of his letter to Page, Lee was publicly accusing prominent Pennsylvanians of treating Loyalists with too great tenderness (JM to Randolph, 8 October 1782, and n. 24).

10See Randolph to JM, 5 October, and n. 4. For John Lewis Gervais, a delegate from South Carolina in Congress, 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, 171; 172, n. 8. Since Gervais was a close friend of Henry Laurens, who was suspected, along with Samuel Adams and the Lees, of heading a “British Party,” his written deposition, now missing, was probably procured in support of Arthur Lee’s anti-French stance (Harriette Kershaw Leiding, Historic Houses of South Carolina [Philadelphia, 1921], p. 209; James Curtis Ballagh, ed., The Letters of Richard Henry Lee [2 vols.; New York, 1911–14], II, 277). Joseph Jones’s testimony is also missing. For his involvement in the controversy, see Pendleton to JM, 14 October 1782, and n. 13.

11Although the copy enclosed by Randolph has not been found, the report of the Committee of Privileges and Elections was submitted to the House of Delegates on 11 December and printed in the journal for that day (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. 61–62). The committee recommended the adoption of a resolution exonerating Arthur Lee on three grounds: (1) that “his private confidential letter” was “not intended for the public eye”; (2) that the letter did “not contain matters injurious to this Commonwealth”; (3) and that Lee’s “services” had been “such as prevent all suspicions of inimical designs to this State, or America in general.”

12Randolph interlineated “private” before “individual.” For Henry Tazewell, see Randolph to JM, 26 October, n. 10. In the amendment, after affirming Lee’s and Mann Page’s “warm attachment to the public weal” on “all occasions,” Tazewell designated Lee’s letter as an “act of imprudence, which possibly may involve Congress in a distressing and embarrassing situation, as well as tend to alter the train of negotiation pursuing by our Minister in Europe.” Mann Page and Richard Lee voted against this amendment, but Arthur Lee and Richard Henry Lee abstained (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. 62).

13The acceptance of the report was entered in the journal but without a recorded vote (ibid.).

14Randolph encoded the first syllable of “exercised” as 388, symbolizing “ew” rather than correctly as 389. The three pairs of brackets in this sentence signify omissions in encoding. Randolph probably used the word “quoting” in the sense of “citing.”

Any historical analogy that Lee may have drawn between Dutch and American relations with France would be of questionable accuracy. He may have been alluding to the course of events between 1666 and 1672, beginning with France in alliance with the Netherlands fighting England and ending with France in alliance with England attacking the Netherlands (Sir Charles Alexander Petrie, Earlier Diplomatic History, 1492–1713 [London, 1949], pp. 164–76).

15Randolph interlineated “he hinted that.”

16In encoding “should,” Randolph wrote 237 standing for “shi” rather than 239, the cipher for “sho.” By this statement, Richard Henry Lee not only defended his brother but also implicitly criticized the other Virginia delegates for honoring their pledge of secrecy rather than keeping the government at Richmond informed about the dispatches from France and the communications of La Luzerne to Congress, no matter how confidential they should be.

17When Randolph used 499, standing for “where,” he apparently intended to write 498, the cipher for “whether.” In like manner, although the cipher for “Congress” was 294, he wrote 296, symbolizing “contra.” He neglected to encode the terminal “e” of both “undue” and “influence.” For references to Arthur Lee’s, and in a lesser degree to Bland’s, opposition to what they deemed to be the ill-advised submission by Congress to the wishes of France, 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 , III, 154, nn. 3, 5; IV, 249, n. 9; 435; 436, n. 13; 447; 448, n. 2; Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 2 August, n. 4; 8 August, ed. n.; JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, and n. 6.

18Instead of using 567, meaning “delegate,” Randolph wrote 566, standing for “Senate.” For the opposition in the Virginia General Assembly by Patrick Henry and other leading delegates to Arthur Lee, Richard Henry Lee, and their partisans, 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, 306; 307, n. 11; 355–56; Randolph to JM, 24 August, n. 16; 16 November, and n. 3; Notes on Debates, 4 November 1782, ed. n. On 12 December the House of Delegates appointed a committee with Isaac Zane, Jr., of Shenandoah County as chairman to bring in a bill “to reduce the number of delegates representing this State in Congress” (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. 63). Zane was a friend of the Madison family and of Jefferson. 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 , I, 185, n. 1; 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, 143–44, 219.

19In encoding the first syllable of “excluded,” Randolph repeated the mistake mentioned in n. 14. When Zane’s bill was introduced on 14 December, the House of Delegates by a vote of 46 to 28 decided to postpone the second reading until the first Monday in May 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, p. 66). As soon as Zane’s bill was tabled, an effort was made to re-elect all the delegates from Virginia in Congress. See Randolph to JM, 20 December 1782, and n. 5.

21For the “impracticability” of deriving revenue by using the method stipulated in the eighth article of the Articles of Confederation, 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, 56, n. 5; 122; 431, n. 1; Notes on Debates, 20 November 1782, and n. 10.

22Randolph interlineated “not” and the remainder of the sentence after “loans.” See Notes on Debates, 20 November, and n. 1; 4 December, and nn. 19, 23, 25; 6 December 1782, and nn. 12, 27.

23The antecedent of “their” is “Congress.” Article IX of the Articles of Confederation delegated to Congress “the sole and exclusive right and power” to determine “in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the united states shall be divided or appropriated” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 217). Randolph meant that Congress, in view of this grant of power, had not needed to seek in the impost amendment, proposed on 3 February 1781, the authorization of states to levy a 5 per cent duty “on all prizes and prize goods” which should be “condemned in the court of admiralty of any of these states as lawful prize” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 112). See also Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 21 December 1782, n. 2.

24A thinly attended session of the Virginia General Assembly, which had been obliged to flee from Richmond to Charlottesville and thence to Staunton to avoid capture by the British, had ratified the impost amendment on 23 June 1781 (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, 121, n. 3; 349, n. 7; 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 , II, 152–53).

25See 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, 220; 221, n. 11; JM to Randolph, 19 November, and nn. 9, 11; 26 November; 30 December 1782.

26Randolph interlineated “enaction of” and “should.” Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation does not state whether a state legislature could revoke its ratification of an amendment.

27Randolph interlineated “among” above a deleted “in.” For the successful effort of the House of Delegates to revive this issue, see Randolph to JM, 22 November, and n. 12; 20 December 1782. See also 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. 18, 24, 48, 49.

28Randolph interlineated “by purchase.” The brackets in this sentence and occasionally hereafter to the end of the communication enclose letters which Randolph probably wrote but which now are illegible because the ink near the right margin of the manuscript has faded.

29Randolph wrote “in the treaty” above “inserted” and canceled “made of the lands” after “purchase.” In messages of 21 October and 7 December 1782 to the House of Delegates, Governor Harrison reported that “Two Chickasaw chiefs,” having come to Kentucky “with proposals of peace from their nation,” he had authorized negotiations of a peace treaty “to be held at the French lick on Cumberland river” and hoped that the Creek nations would also be represented (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, 343–46, 352–53, 393). George Rogers Clark owned, or at least hoped he had a secure title to, three thousand acres at “the great french Lick,” the future site of Nashville (James A. James, ed., George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771–1781, p. 304).

On 14 December the Senate agreed to the resolution passed by the House of Delegates on 11 December, “empowering the Governor to make peace with, and a purchase of lands from the Chicasaw Indians,” with the stipulation that “in the deed of cession or purchase, it be expressed that although such lands do lie within the chartered limits of this Commonwealth, such cession is received, or purchase made upon the principle of cultivating peace and friendship with the Indians” (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. 61, 66). For the resultant negotiations and treaty, see Robert S. Cotterill, “The Virginia-Chickasaw Treaty of 1783,” Journal of Southern History, VIII (1942), 483–96.

30Randolph interlineated “in each state.”

31Randolph interlineated “on the other hand.” In Article VI each state was forbidden, until after it had consulted Congress, to “engage in any war” with Indians, unless they were known with certainty to threaten “an imminent invasion” of that state. In Article IX Congress was granted exclusive right of “entering into treaties” and “sole and exclusive right and power” to regulate the trade and manage “all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the states, provided that the legislative right of any state within its own limits be not infringed or violated” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 216, 219). Although the framers of the Form of Government of Virginia no doubt intended the General Assembly to control all matters relating to Indians within the Commonwealth, the Form confined its reference to them to the stipulation that a purchase of Indian land could be made only by authorization of the legislature “on behalf of the publick” (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, 119).

32For other trips by Randolph to Williamsburg, usually to attend the Court of Admiralty or to visit his “second Mother,” as he called his aunt, Mrs. Peyton Randolph, see Randolph to JM, 6 August; 16 August, and n. 20; 29 November 1782, and n. 4.

33The expression, “our friend of M——ll——o,” refers of course to Jefferson of Monticello. Randolph underlined rather than encoded “residence.” For the suggestion that Congress might wish Jefferson or Jay to succeed Robert R. Livingston as secretary for foreign affairs or that, if Jay was selected for that post, Jefferson might prefer to succeed Jay at the court of Madrid rather than continue as one of the peace commissioners, see Notes on Debates, 28 November; JM to Randolph, 2 December 1782, and n. 4.

34Ibid., and n. 5. Following his trip to Philadelphia, Dr. James McClurg had returned to Williamsburg (JM to Randolph, 15 October 1782, and n. 5). For McClurg’s reason for declining to be nominated for the office of secretary for foreign affairs, see Randolph to JM, 22 February 1783 (LC: Madison Papers); also Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VII, 41, and first n. 3.

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