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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 4 April 1787

From Edmund Randolph

Richmond April 4 1787.

My dear sir

Genl. Washington is prevailed upon to agree to go to Phila. if his health will permit. He is at present afflicted with the rheumatism, so as to be unable to move himself in his bed sometimes, and often to raise his hand to his head. He purposes to travel earlier than for the meeting, that he may apologize to the Cincinnati for his refusal of their presidency.1

Mr. Jay’s report on the treaty will bring the question to a crisis.2 But will not this add a fresh reason here against the reform of the confedn.? I rejoice for our national honor, that it has been confirmed by congress; and therefore assist it with readiness altho’ it might have been better to postpone it to the end of the year, if our foreign connections would have permitted.

But does the establishment of the treaty as a law provide certainly for the recovery of the debts? Ought it not to be paramount to law; or at least to be one of those laws, which are in my opinion beyond repeal, from being combined with a compact? Again how will the Virginia debts not reduced to specialties3 be proved? The declaring of the treaty to be a law will not revive the 5. Geo. 1.4

Colo. R. H. Lee refuses to join us; alledging for excuse his feeble health, the impossibility of leaving home before June, and his purpose to press to congress. He says however that he is willing to confide himself to his associates.5

Marshall is elected by a great vote:6 and the other elections will proceed from different prospects in the voters. Paper money or not seems to agitate the generality of the counties. In Albemarle J. Nicholas has surrendered from despondence. Mr. Edwd. Carter will succeed him, and it is doubtful, whether Colo. Nicholas’s instalments have not endangered his election. Mr. Brackenridge is his competitor.7

It is believed, that Mr. H. has convinced the people of P. Edwd, that an emission is necessary.8

Adieu—see the public letters for papers.

P. S. Shd. the Maryland assembly have risen, (as it is said) witht. appointg deputies, and be called only on the 20th of May, need I go on to be at Phila. earlier than the time of the probable junction of their delegates? I ask this, as I rather wish to carry my family, than to leave them to follow.9

RC (DLC). Addressed by Randolph. Franked. Docketed by JM.

1See Randolph to JM, 7 Mar. 1787, n. 2. Randolph was reporting the substance of Washington’s letter to him of 28 Mar. 1787 (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 , XXIX, 186–88).

2Notes on Debates, 20 and 21 Mar. 1787.

3A debt by specialty or special contract is “a debt due, or acknowledged to be due, by some deed or instrument under seal” (Black’s Law Dictionary [4th ed. rev.], p. 491).

4Randolph’s citation of the British statute is apparently incorrect. He evidently referred to that of 5 George II, c. 7 (1732): “An Act for the more easy Recovery of Debts in his Majesty’s Plantations and Colonies in America” (Statutes at Large, VI [1769], 74–75). This act enabled persons residing in Great Britain to verify plantation debts owed to them by means of an oath before the mayor or chief magistrate of the city, town, or borough in which, or near to which, they resided. The editors owe this reference to Professor Wilfred J. Ritz, School of Law, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.

6John Marshall represented Henrico County in the House of Delegates at the October 1787 session (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 26).

7See Randolph to JM, 22 Mar. 1787, n. 7. John Nicholas, who had represented Albemarle County along with his brother George at the October 1786 session, was defeated by Edward Carter the next year (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 23, 26). On George Nicholas’s attempt to secure passage of a bill for the annual installment of debts, see The General Assembly Session of October 1786, Editorial Note. Nicholas was reelected and pursued his “favourite Child” at the next session (Alexander Donald to Jefferson, 12 Nov. 1787, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , XII, 346). “Mr. Brackenridge” was probably John Breckinridge, the Kentucky statesman of a later period, who in 1787 lived in Albemarle County (Lowell H. Harrison, John Breckinridge, Jeffersonian Republican [Louisville, 1969], pp. 23, 28).

8The freeholders of Prince Edward County elected Patrick Henry to the House of Delegates for the October 1787 session (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 27). Though an emission of paper money had been resoundingly defeated at the last session, Randolph was fearful that “a certain popular leader” might “espouse it” during the coming year (Randolph to Jefferson, 28 Jan. 1787, Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , XI, 84).

9On Randolph’s desire to delay his trip to Philadelphia as long as possible, see his letter to JM of 7 Mar. 1787 and n. 1.

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