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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 4 June 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). In the second volume of this collection, beginning with folio 73, are four pages of a letter written by JM and dated “June 4th. 1782.” Although the cover is missing, the contents permit no doubt that Randolph was the addressee. Folio 42 of the third volume of JM’s manuscripts in the Library of Congress seems to be an additional page containing a postscript to the same letter and is here so treated. The extra page lacks date, complimentary close, and signature, but the final two sentences, written by JM in a hand smaller than the others, apparently to make the use of a new page unnecessary, strongly suggest that he had reached the end of his message. Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 138–39, and Madison, Writings (Hunt ed.) description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900–1910). description ends , I, 205–6, print a portion of this page as a separate letter to Randolph and date it “June, 1782.” Note 30, below, will explain why “June 3? 1782,” which is bracketed at the head of an extract from this same page in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 363, is almost certainly incorrect. Words which JM encoded in the official cipher are italicized.

Philada. June 4th. 1782.

Dear Sir

I found no difficulty in the bill remitted by Mr. F. Webb. As it was not made payable to you, even the forms of business did not require your endorsement.1

According to your request I send an authenticated extract from the Journals of the vote of Congress on the clause which interdicts British Manufactures.2 It has however been for some time in print, and will probably have been at Richmond before you receive the manuscript copy. The arguments urged against the measure appear to me in the same light in which you describe them. The policy of G.B. in the capture of St. Eustatius has been constantly reprobated by some of her wisest Statesmen.3 But whatever her policy might at that period be, it is manifest that a very different one is now pursued. British Goods are issued from the Enemy’s lines with greater industry than they have ever been, and as is universally believed, with the knowledge, if not at the instigation of those in power. Indeed they would counteract their new System in doing otherwise.4 The sense of the Eastern States will appear from the ays & nos on the question.5 Mr. Adams in his last despatches ascribes much of the late pacific symtoms in the British Nation, and of the facilities which begin to attend his mission in Holland, to our proscription of British Merchandize.6

You have not sufficiently designated the papers from M- R. Mor—s from which you wish an extract. I do not recollect nor can I find any letter which contains a state of the finances except his circular letters which may be found either among the legislative or Executive Archives. If you should be disappointed in these researches, I will on a renewal of your demands, renew my researches. My charity I own can not invent an excuse for the prepense malice with which the character and services of this gentleman are murdered.7 I am persuaded that he accepted his office from motives which were honourable and patriotic. I have seen no proof of misfeasance.8 I have heard of many charges which were palpably erroneous. I have known others somewhat specious vanish on examination. Every member in Congress must be sensible of the benefit which has accrued to the public from his administeration. No9 intelligent man out of Congress can be altogether insensible of it. The Court of France has testified its satisfaction at his appointment which I really believe lessened its repugnance to lend us money.10 These considerations will make me cautious in lending an ear to the suggestions even of the impartial; to those of known and vindictive enemys very incredulous. The same fidelity to the public interest which obliges those who are11 its appointed guardians, to pursue with every vigor a perfidious or dishonest servant of the public requires them to confront the imputations of malice against the good and faithful one. I have in the conduct of my colleague here12 a sure index of the sentiments and objects of one of my colleagues who is absent13 relative to the department of finance.

The Chevr. de la Luzerne tells us he has written to the Govr. on the subject of the transaction between them, and has no doubt that the difficulties which attended it will be removed.14

A Letter from Mr. Adams of an older date but recd. since the one mentioned in my last, confirms the article relating to Friesland in the Letter from Mr. Barkley.15 There are some opinions & circumstances however stated in this letter which its priority will scarcely reconcile with those mentioned in the other. At the date of it which was the 11th. of March he was not sanguine as to the unaniminity of Holland, and less so as to an early concurrence of the other Provinces. What is singular is that his apprehensions with respect to the first Province were drawn from the conduct of Amsterdam, which has heretofore been the cornerstone of all his expectations. This revolution in the City is the effect he says of a revolution in the Regency16

The Deputies to the s. states set off on Sunday last.17 Congress on a report of the Committee on the Resolutions of the House of Delegates, have authorized them to make such explanations relative to the flags as they shall judge expedient.18 In a letter which I wrote by a private hand since the last post day, I have been pretty full as to the sentiments of Congress with regard to the Resolutions. I wish to hear whether this extra letter reaches you safe or not.19

Your favor of the 21st. came in better season than the preceding one. In the argument relating to the Flags you might have added to the passports for Salt, a case still more directly in point. A Letter from Govr. Jefferson of the 7th. of Feby. 81. refers it to the Delegates to obtain permission to send provisions to N.Y. in stead of hard money for the subsistance of the Prisoners.20 The Enemy at that day refused to accept Tobo. but were willing to accept these more necessary articles. Congress refused to give passports for the latter. It may be sd. indeed that this was prior to the ratification of the federal Articles.21 But it will at least justify Congress & the Viga. Delegates in particular in presuming on the concurrence of the State in the measure in question. As to the simple right of granting flags it is impossible to shake it on any principle. It is a lesser power evidently involved in the major one of making peace. A flag is a partial truce as a truce is a temporary peace.22 I recollect that when the Committee consulted Genl. Washington & the Superintendt. it was unanimously supposed that a remittance of Tobo. to N. York wd. be less obnoxious to   than of the identical money, recd. from them.23

The resolutions of the Assembly agst. insidious negociations are very apropos.24 I hope all the Legislatures now sitting will enter into similar ones spontaneously & unanimously. It will always be best for Congress to appear to follow rather [than] lead the sentiments of their constituents, & particularly so in the present instance. We immediately sent a copy of them to minister of France.25

Yrs w[ith] friendship of26

The27 News from the W Indies is not yet decided to the conviction of every mind. Mine is unable to withstand the evidence derived from the Jamaica Head in the inclosed Gazettes of Saturday last.28 [The pape?]r29 of this morning I inclose to Mr. Jones, with [w]hom you will interchange a perusal.30 In case he sd not be at Richmond you will open the letter addressed to him. I shall give him the same provisional authority over the one addressed to you. I fear however from your silence as to your return that he will not have occasion to exercise it.31 Mr. C. Griffin32 who got hither on Sunday gives me some hopes on this subject.

Genl Washington has transmitted to Congress sundry informations he has recd. of preparations at N. Y. for expediting from thence, a considerable number of Ships. Whether they are to convey troops & whither, or to bring off troops from other places is uncertain.33 He has also transmitted to Congress an answer to him from Genl Carlton on a demand34 made at the instance of the Legislature of S. Carolina of a retransportation of the exiles at the expence of the King of G. B.35 This demand was instituted not executed36 during the Command of Clinton, from whom an imperious refusal was calculated upon. In pursuance of the views of the new System, his successor weeps over the misfortunes of the exiles, and in the most soothing language that cd be framed, engages to comply fully with the application. This incident at once mortifies our pride & [s]ummons our vigilance. We have n[othing] f[urther from Carlton] on the main poin[t.]37

The communication expected in my last from the M. of F.38 has been recd. and afforded a very seasonable occasion which was improved, of renewing the assurances suited to the present crisis.39

I have a letter of the 15 of March from Mazzei40 in which he complains much of being neglected, dilates on the prospect & effects of a Turkish war & refers me to some of his patriotic publications transmitted to the Govr.

Mr. Webb will set off tomorrow or next day.41 By him I will try to send the Journals.42

3JM may be referring to Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond; Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham; William Petty, Earl of Shelburne; Charles Pratt, Baron Camden; Edmund Burke; and Charles James Fox. These men, and above all the Earl of Shelburne in the House of Lords on 25 January 1781, had scathingly attacked the policy of the ministry as exemplified by the king’s “Manifesto, dated St. James’s, Dec. 20, 1780,” declaring a state of war to exist between Great Britain and her century-old “ally,” the Netherlands. Shelburne’s long indictment charged that the manifesto had been issued “to the disgrace of the country, to the total dishonour of its councils, and in direct violation of all laws, whether of nations, of nature, of public honour, and private faith,” in order to permit the confiscation of all Dutch ships and their cargoes “for the joint advantage of the captors and the state” (Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates description begins William Cobbett, ed., The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803 (36 vols.; London, 1806–20; continued as Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates). description ends , XXI, cols. 960–72, 1001–2, 1009–12, 1015–19, 1021–43, 1060–74, and especially col. 1032).

Although Admiral Rodney had obeyed the orders of the British Admiralty, by capturing the Dutch island of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781, he had at the same time embarrassed the ministry and dishonored himself by seizing for his own profit much private property, including non-contraband merchandise owned by subjects of neutral powers (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 28, n. 11; 30, n. 4; 298, n. 5). JM apparently agreed with the “wisest Statesmen” of Great Britain in their contention that her true policy, regardless of the outcome of the war, was to keep open her channels of trade, or at least to avoid giving mortal offense to foreigners who in peacetime had been her most valued customers.

6From Amsterdam on 14 February John Adams had written to Livingston: “The ordinance of Congress against British manufactures is universally approved” by the Dutch “as far as I know, as an hostility against their enemies of more importance than the exertions of an army of twenty thousand men.” On 10 March 1782, again to Livingston, Adams pointed out that the same ordinance and the signs of a “sudden revival” of manufacturing by the Dutch had “raised a kind of panic” in Great Britain “and such a fermentation in Parliament as has produced a formal renunciation of the principle of the American war” (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 163, 233).

8Instead of the correct ciphers for “misfeasance,” JM used those for “misfeasach.”

9This word replaces a deleted “Every.”

10La Luzerne had assured Vergennes that Robert Morris was an excellent superintendent of finance. Vergennes may have agreed with this judgment, even though he remarked in a letter of 31 January 1782 to La Luzerne that Morris seemed to think “the Royal Treasury should be at his disposition” (William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 172, 189–90).

11Following “are,” JM crossed out “appointed to watch over it, to the,” and interlineated “its appointed” above the deletion.

12Theodorick Bland, Jr.

13Arthur Lee.

14See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 4 June 1782. Governor Harrison had written to La Luzerne on 31 May, enclosing resolutions of the General Assembly giving assurance of “their intentions to pay the cost of the stores at the time stipulated” (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, 238–39).

15Thomas Barclay. A copy of John Adams’ letter of 26 March to Franklin reached Congress before Adams’ dispatch of 11 March to Livingston. See JM to Jones, 28 May 1782, and nn. 19 and 20.

16Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , V, 235. In a Dutch city, according to John Adams, the patrician burgomasters, counselors, and judges comprised a “regency” (ibid., V, 99). For examples of Adams’ earlier letters mentioning the friendship of Amsterdam residents toward the American cause, see ibid., IV, 390, 433; V, 185–86, 206.

17“Sunday last” was 2 June. See Report on Mission To Inform States of Financial Crisis, 22 May 1782, editorial note, and n. 2.

20JM apparently refers to Jefferson’s letter of that date to Benjamin Harrison, when the latter was about to arrive in Philadelphia as a special delegate from the Virginia General Assembly (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , IV, 550, 656; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 221, n. 7; 286, n. 3).

21Congress refused on 8 January 1781, nearly two months before the ratification of the Articles of Confederation (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 38–39, 213–14; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 277; 278, n. 4).

23The editors have placed this sentence, written by JM in the right-hand margin of the manuscript, where he indicated by asterisks that it should go. The third line of the sentence, penned in minute script along the extreme edge of the sheet, is indistinct and in part obliterated. Probably “our Allies” originally could be read between “obnoxious to” and “than.” By the statement JM meant that the French certainly would prefer to have tobacco used to pay for the wares of the traders-capitulant rather than to be asked to supply the necessary amount of specie for this purpose. See Ambler to JM, 20 April, and n. 4; Lee to JM, 16 May, n. 7; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 18 May, n. 4; JM to Randolph, 29 May 1782, and n. 13.

25La Luzerne.

26JM squeezed this complimentary close in the small space remaining in the margin after writing the sentence commented upon in n. 23. He had no room left for his signature or even for his initials.

27The additional page mentioned in the headnote begins here.

28The “inclosed Gazettes” are missing, but they must have been the Pennsylvania Packet and the Pennsylvania Journal, both of 1 June 1782. Each of these papers included copies of detailed dispatches, under Kingston or St. Jago De La Vego, Jamaica, captions, describing the British naval victory in the Battle of the Saints. See Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 4 June 1782, and n. 2.

29At this point there is a blank, probably caused by the fading of the ink.

30Although JM’s letter to Jones is missing, Jones in his letter of 25 June 1782 to JM (q.v.) acknowledged “Your favor of the 4th instant.” This reference almost conclusively demonstrates that the additional page (n. 27, above) was written by JM on the fourth rather than on the third of June (see headnote). If, further, JM enclosed to Jones the Philadelphia newspaper “of this morning,” it must have been the Pennsylvania Packet of 4 June, the only newspaper of the city appearing on Tuesdays.

31That is, JM feared that Randolph had decided, at least for the present, not to return to Congress. See JM to Jones, 28 May 1782.

32Cyrus Griffin, a judge of the continental Court of Admiralty (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 54, n. 5).

34This word replaces the deleted word “request.”

35On 14 February 1782 the legislature of South Carolina had instructed its delegates in Congress to have that body communicate with General Clinton in the hope of arranging for the return at British expense of the South Carolina civilians, “particularly the women and children,” whom the British army had forced to leave their homes in or near Charleston. Many of these “exiles” had been living in straitened circumstances in Philadelphia. Congress in August 1781 had sought loans from public and private sources for their support. Congress referred the request of the legislature of South Carolina to a committee including JM, and on 3 April 1782 adopted its recommendation that the request be forwarded “to the Commander in Chief, to take order in the way he shall think most proper to carry the same into effect” (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 245, n. 2; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 181; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 782–83, 808–10; XXII, 161).

Because of the “disagreeable Circumstance” created by the Huddy-Asgill affair (JM to Randolph, 1 May 1782, nn. 1718), Washington delayed addressing Carleton on the subject of the refugees until 21 May, when he requested that they be returned to their home state at British expense. Carleton’s speedy acquiescence “with great pleasure” impressed Washington “in a very disagreeable point of Light” for, as he remarked to Lincoln in a dispatch of 28 May enclosing a copy of Carleton’s reply, “I am not disposed to seek favors of, or Submit to an Idea of being under Obligations to Sir Guy, at this Moment of concilitary War” (NA: PCC, No. 149, I, 357; 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 , XXIV, 270, 273, 296, 327).

Having referred Washington’s and Carleton’s letters to a committee under John Morin Scott’s chairmanship on 3 June, Congress on 14 June accepted the recommendation of the committee by directing Lincoln to send Washington a list of the exiles and “the ports to which they choose to be conveyed” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 315 n., 330–32; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 364). Washington forwarded this information to Carleton on 4 July and a supplementary list on 3 September 1782 (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 , XXIV, 400; XXV, 100, 114, 210).

36JM interlineated “not executed.” Clinton had relinquished his command to Carleton on 5 May (Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 7 May 1782, n. 4).

37Owing to a tear in the manuscript at a fold, the bracketed portions of this sentence have been copied from Madison, Papers (Gilpin ed.) description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 139. For “the main point,” see JM to Randolph, 14 May 1782, and n. 8. After remarking in a letter of 6 June to Congress that he had not heard from Carleton for two weeks, Washington added, “It may be in the power of Congress to account for this silence better than I can” (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 , XXIV, 320–21).

38The minister of France, La Luzerne. See JM to Jones, 28 May, and n. 15; JM to Randolph, 28 May 1782, headnote.

41Foster Webb, Jr., left Philadelphia on 6 June to return to Virginia (JM to Randolph, 6 June 1782).

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