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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 15 October 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in JM’s hand. Cover missing. Docketed by Randolph, “J. Madison jr. Oct: 15. 1782.” Probably many years later, after this letter was returned to him, JM wrote below Randolph’s docket, “contains Lovell’s cypher.” Words or parts of words which JM encoded in that or the official cipher have been italicized in the present copy. The third paragraph of the letter will not be reproduced because it is an exact duplicate of the first paragraph of JM’s letter of 15 October to Pendleton (q.v., and its nn. 1 through 7), except for two unimportant differences. In this letter to Randolph, JM did not underline “land” and “sea” in the middle of the paragraph, and he concluded it with a sentence reading, “It would seem from this paragraph that the insidious object of a separate convention with America was still pursued.”

Philada. Oct. 15th. 1782.

My dear Sir

The offensive paragraph in the correspondence of Mr. L. with Mr. P. spoken of in your favor of the 5th. was as you supposed: communicated to me by Mr. Jones.1 I am however but very imperfectly informed of it.

We have not yet recd. a second volume of the negociations at Versailles; nor any other intelligence from Europe except a letter from Mr. Carmichael dated about the middle of June, which is chiefly confined to the2 great exertions & expectations with respect to Gibralter. Whilst the siege is depending it is much to be apprehended that the Court of Madrid will not accelerate a pacification.3


The symtoms of an evacuation of N. Y. become every day less apparent. Our next intelligence from Charlestown will probably confirm our expectations as to that metropolis.4

Our friend McClurg has been here some days reconnoitreing the ground on which he has been invited to build his future fortunes. His mind seems to be so equally divided that I can not yet discover what his final determination will be. If the immediate sacrifices were less inconvenient to his finances, he would, I fancy without hesitation embrace the prospect here.5

Lovel6—On a motion of Bland a committee was not long since appointed to enquire into the detention of the money and cloathing ordered from Holland in Gillons ship by Col. Laurens The report on the subject which was drawn by Bland [was?] one of the most signal monuments which party zeal has produced By mutilating and discolouring facts in the most shameless manner it loaded Franklin with the whole guilt and proposed finally a severe reprehension of him. This unfair hostility did not meet with the expected countenance of Congress After being considerably exposed a recommit[m]ent took place with an addition to the committee7

The States which covet the backlands8 are by no means satisfied with the present prospect of being gratified It is in contemplation I am told to renew the attempt for a fresh recommendation on this subject.9 Unless a clause excluding10 the companies11 be annexed Virginia will of course oppose the measure I am not sanguine however that the opposition will be effectual There are not a few members12 and some of them too not the least respectable who altho’ unfriendly to the companies dislike such a condition as being unnecessary to Virginia and dishonorable to Congress

I am just informed that an Express which came yesterday evening to the Minister of France from Boston reports with certainty that a Vessel had arrived there after a short passage from Amsterdam. Whether the Express brought dispatches for Congress is not said. The Minister of Fr. is informed by his Correspondt. at Boston, that the Combined fleets had proceeded from the Channel towards Gibralter, that the fall of this Garrison was strongly expected, that the British fleet had returned into Port, that the French Trade from the W. Indies had arrived safe, and that the French affairs in the East Indies were in general in a very favorable posture.13 These are all the particulars which I have been able to provide for this post. If any dispatches have come for Congress, the next mail will be more satisfact[or]y.

2Contrary to his custom, JM wrote “ye.” instead of “the.”

3See JM to Pendleton, 15 October 1782, and n. 10. For the significance of the ellipses separating this paragraph from the next, see headnote.

5See Randolph to JM, 7 September, and n. 8; Reverend James Madison to JM, 18 September 1782, and n. 13. His estate having been plundered by the British in 1781 (Wyndham B. Blanton, Medicine in Virginia in the Eighteenth Century [Richmond, 1931], p. 330), Dr. James McClurg may have been considering an offer to join the medical faculty of the University of the State of Pennsylvania. This faculty had been torn by dissension for over two years, a matter that McClurg would have learned about from his old friend and fellow student at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia (George W. Corner, ed., The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush: His “Travels through Life,” together with his Commonplace Book for 1789–1813 [Princeton, N.J., 1948], p. 44 and n. 15). On 13 October Rush revealed in a letter his disgust with medical affairs at the university (L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, I, 288, 289, n. 2). On 21 November, the College of William and Mary announced that McClurg, as professor of medicine, would begin on 6 January 1783 a course of lectures on the “theory and practice of medicine” (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 14 December 1782).

6This word was to remind Randolph that the ciphers in the paragraph conformed with the Lovell code. 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, 398, nn. 17, 20.

7JM omitted the third “m” when enciphering “recommitment” and erroneously wrote 1 rather than 6 for the “i” in “committee.” For Colonel John Laurens and “Gillons ship,” 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, 112, nn. 5, 6; 407–8; 409, and n. 2.

On 12 July Congress had appointed a committee, with Theodorick Bland as chairman and Jonathan Jackson and David Howell as the other members, “to make strict inquiry into the causes of detention of the money goods &c” arranged for by Laurens during his mission to France (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 384). JM did not exaggerate in describing the long report of the committee as a “most signal” example of the “zeal” with which a faction in Congress, including Bland and Jackson, persisted in their attacks upon Benjamin Franklin. The report closed with a recommendation that he should be severely censured for the financial “Embarrassment” he had caused Congress by unconstitutionally retaining money which John Laurens had procured in France for use in the United States. On 1 November 1782, after resolving to refer to Robert Morris the portions of the report relating to Commodore Alexander Gillon’s accounts, Congress apparently tabled the balance, including the proposed resolution of censure (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 700–706). Congress had added Daniel Carroll and JM to the committee on 11 October (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 62).

8These states were especially Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. The italicization in this paragraph signifies words which JM encoded in the official cipher.

9Instead of encoding the “t” in “prospect” with the cipher 48, JM wrote 46, the code number for “measure.” The issue of the western lands, which had been quiescent since 25 September, was reopened on 28 October, when the delegates of Maryland moved that Congress accept the offer of cession by New York (NA: PCC, No. 36, I, 401; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 693–94). See JM to Randolph, 10 September and nn. 7, 8, 9, 12 through 20; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 5 November 1782.

10The cipher for “ud” is 423. JM wrote 433, signifying “ready.”

11See Randolph to JM, 6 August 1782, and n. 23.

12Unidentified, although they probably included Benjamin Huntington (Conn.), Eliphalet Dyer, and Ezra L’Hommedieu (N.Y.), each of whom had supported the Witherspoon “compromise” resolutions of 6 September (JM to Randolph, 10 September 1782, and nn. 15–18). On 25 September they favored the retention of the anti-company resolution, but after it was deleted, they voted for the rest of the resolutions (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 552–53, 604–6).

13See JM to Pendleton, 15 October 1782, and nn. 11, 12, 14, 17.

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