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To James Madison from Joseph Jones, 8 June 1783

From Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Lacks docket and cover.

Editorial Note

Although Joseph Jones clearly dated this letter “8th June,” he either wrote portions of it on 7 June or else mistakenly used the term “yesterday” to date certain proceedings of the House of Delegates which had taken place on 6 June. Thus at the outset of his third paragraph he mentions as happening “Yesterday” an election which had occurred on 6 June. Again, in his final paragraph, which is on a half-folio of the letter that has become separated in the Madison Papers (LC) from the other four folios, he referred to a petition from Hanover County as having been presented “yesterday.” The House of Delegates received that document on 6 June 1783. See Worthington C. Ford, ed., Letters of Joseph Jones of Virginia (Washington, 1889), pp. 115–16, 116 n.

Richmond 8th. June 1783.

Dr. Sir.

I am still deprived of the pleasure of hearing from you, no letter having arrived by this Post.1 Col. Taliaferro2 informs me he directed Smith to send forward any letters for me to Fredericksburg where I suspect they are stoped.3 I shall write to Smith upon the subject by this post. your letters will find me here till the last week or at least the 25th of this month4

We have not yet taken up the plan of Congress for general revenue. it is agreed to do it next monday or Tuesday.5 Mr. R. H. L. is opposed to it in toto.6 Mr. H——y, I understand thinks we ought to have credit for the amount of the Duty under an apprehension we shall consume more than our proportion or in other words that we shall by agreeing to the impost as recommended pay more than our quota of the debt.7 J. Taylor wholly agt. the plan G. N——l——s thinks with H——y. The Speaker is for it B——x——n I am told is so too, but he has not said as much to me. the two first named being in the opposition is what alarms me.8 Mr. H——y I am told was at first in favor of the impost and had early in the Session concurred in bringing in a bill to revive the former Law, but has since changed his opinion. the Members seem to be very much divided. I wish we could hear whether any of the States have adopted it.9

Yesterday our Delegates to Congress were elected[:] Jefferson, Hardy, Mercer, Lee, Monroe.10 Mr. Griffin was voted for and had near fifty votes, but three objections were started agt. him which I am told had weight or were made so to keep him out, his Seat in the Court of appeals, his residence in Philadelph[ia] and just before the ballot was taken some wispers were spread he was withdrawn for the reasons above, which it is said lost him some votes. the two first mentd. reasons were the chief obstacles one was publicly mentd. in the House which gave me an opportunity of endeavouring at least to obvia[te] the objection.11 My compliments to Mr. Mercer and inform him what he had heard of a report circulat[ed] to his prejudice either never existed or has died away so as not to be mentioned or even whispered.12 Mr. Short is elected to supply the vacancy in the Council.13 In consequence of the Memorial of the Officers of the Virga. line a report from the Com: of prop: & G: to whic[h] it was refd. has been under consideration. It was proposed to allow our line the whole of their land on the N. W. side of the Ohio, with an additional quantity as a gratuity on pretence the Cumberland Tract was greatly deficient in quantity and quality, also to bear the expence of the location. this report was so repugnant to the cession to Congress and to the remonstrance in 1779 whereby the legislature promised to furnish lands beyond the Ohio to the States wanting lands for their lines that I could not help opposing it, which has given it a check for the present, and upon consideration I am convinced a great majority will disapprove the report. Mr. H——y warmly espoused the report R. H. L when it was discussed unable to attend being somewhat indisposed. what side he may take on the next discussion of the report I can not learn. be it as it may, I think if they unite in this business, they cannot carry it.14 Congress having not accepted the cession and declined to assign their reasons for delay, will produce at least a determination fixing the time, when, if the cession is not accepted, it shall become void, if not an immediate revocation of it. I am not withot. hopes this business may yet be concluded so as to answer the views of Congress, and I think nothing but resentment for not accepting by Congress, or assigning reasons for not accepting the cession of this State, will operate agt it.15 Our people still retain their opinions of the importance of this State, its superiority in the Union, and the very great exertions and advances it has made in preference to all others. their views are generally local, not seeing the necessity or propriety [o]f general measures now the War is over. these notions are great obstacles to the adoption of the 5 P Ct. duty as a general revenue.16 It is impossible to estimate the individu[al] debt of the State with any precision. by some computati[ons] we shall have to provide for raising £300,000 annual[ly] to discharge the interest of our continental quota and State debt.17 The Comrs. appointed have settled as far as they were able the expence of the Illinois country they have disc[overed] great frauds and impositions, and reduced the debt very considerably, but it is still enormous. The accts. are not yet returned so that I cannot give you the bal[ance]18 Nathans demand is refd. to the Com: of the whole.19 strong suspicions prevail agt. Pollocks integrity, and it is said proofs can be adduced to shew the injustice of his claim upon the State.20 in short the prejudices he[re] are so great agt. those who have demands for money or necessaries furnished on the public account to the Westward, that it is to be feared injury may result to individuals. at the same time it must be confessed many circumstances authorize a suspicion of the fairness of their claims. a Mr. Pollard formerly of th[is state?]21 is just arrived from Bristol. He brings papers so late a[s] the 8th. apr:. an adm: appears to have been then formed as w[as] stated in the packet of the last week. North and Fox by the coalit[ion] had lost their influence & were generally reprobated. It was doubted [whether?] the last wod. be reelected in westminster.22 Caermarthen was to go to Fr[ance] to put the finishing hand to the Treaty but had not departed and it was un[certain?] when he wod.23 the Nation exceedingly divided by the Whig and Tory p[arties] abt. the peace. the bill for opening the Commerce with Am: had gone through th[ree] different modifications and not likely to pass.24

Yr. friend

Jos: Jone[s]

The bill declaring who shall be Citizens has not yet been considered in a Com: of the whole. P. H——y, R. H. L. agt. any discrimination. I cannot concur, and must when the matter comes in take part with those who are for some discrimination so as not to trench upon the Treaty.25 A long pet. from Essex drawn by M.S.[?]. has been presented questioning the right of Congress to make the peace as it stands, asserting the 4th. article interferes with the legislation of the states.26 yesterday a pet. from Hanover with near 300 subscribers was presented praying the refugees may not be allowed the right of Citizenship27 I am pretty confident there is a majority of the House in favor of the sentiments of the last petition.

2Francis Taliaferro (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 51, n. 4).

3William Smith (ibid., II, 124, n. 8), for many years postmaster at Fredericksburg (Va. Herald [Fredericksburg], 9 Mar. 1802). Jones would have been clearer had he written “at” rather than “to” Fredericksburg.

4Jones left Richmond on 28 June. See Jones to JM, 28 June 1783.

5Pendleton to JM, 4 May, and n. 8; Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, n. 13. On Wednesday, 11 June, the Virginia House of Delegates adopted four resolutions relating to the revenue provisions of the congressional plan for restoring public credit and to compliance with the financial quota allocated by Congress to the state. The first two resolutions designated as “inadmissible” the request that Congress be enabled to collect duties on Virginia imports or on any other “particular branches of the revenue of the State.” The third and fourth resolutions, which were assigned to a committee to embody in a bill, declared that Virginia should provide revenue for discharging its “quota of the continental debt” by levying and collecting “duties and imposts,” by allotting some or all of the proceeds of “the land tax” and, if necessary, “the tax arising from slaves” (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 48–49). For the bills introduced in pursuance of these resolutions, see Pendleton to JM, 26 May, and n. 11; 2 June 1783.

6For Richard Henry Lee, see Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and n. 8.

7For Patrick Henry’s shift of position on the issue of the impost, see Randolph to JM, 9 May, and nn. 4, 7; 24 May, n. 6; Pendleton to JM, 26 May, and n. 5; 2 June; Jefferson to JM, 1 June 1783.

8For John Taylor of Caroline County, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 423, n. 8; Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and n. 8. For George Nicholas, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 417, n. 6. For John Tyler and the contest between followers of R. H. Lee and Henry over Tyler’s re-election as speaker of the House of Delegates, see ibid., IV, 30, n. 2; VI, 417, n. 6; Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and n. 10. For Carter Braxton, a delegate from King William County, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 164, n. 2; 169, n. 16; II, 180; 181, n. 3; 248; 269.

9Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and n. 2. On 21 June Delaware, and on 25 August and 23 September Pennsylvania, approved the entire plan for restoring public credit (NA: PCC, No. 75, fols. 213–16, 217–20, 282–84, 287–92). On 8 May Connecticut had agreed to the proposed change in the base for allocating tax quotas but withheld its approval of the recommended imposts (ibid., No. 75, fols. 77–80; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXV, 529–30). For other partial sanctions before the close of 1783 by New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts, see JM to Jefferson, 11 Aug. 1783, and nn. 14, 17–19.

10JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 39. For Jefferson, Arthur Lee, and Mercer, the action of the Virginia General Assembly on 6, not on 7, June was a re-election, although Jefferson had not served as a delegate since 1776. For Samuel Hardy of Isle of Wight County, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 429, n. 3; V, 263; 265, n. 9. For James Monroe, see ibid., IV, 152–53, n. 14; 192, n. 6. The one-year term of these delegates began on 3 November 1783.

11The Virginia General Assembly of May 1783 was composed of 25 senators and 152 delegates. Thus, in the unlikely event that there were no absentees, a bare majority would have been eighty-nine votes (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. 17–18). Arthur Lee stated that, besides the seventy-six delegates who voted for him, fifteen others had originally intended to do so but defected to Isaac Zane because of the “whispering” of Lee’s opponents. They also unsuccessfully tried to defeat him by nominating his brother, Richard Henry Lee, so as to split the vote. The latter foiled this effort by withdrawing his name (Charles Campbell, ed., Bland Papers, II, 110).

For Cyrus Griffin, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 13, n. 3; 40. The Virginia General Assembly viewed Griffin’s election by Congress on 28 April 1780 to be a judge of the Court of Appeals as “vacating his Seat in Congress” and “rendering him ineligible” as long as he held that office (ibid., II, 52–53; 54, n. 5; V, 252, n. 2). Griffin did not resign until 1787. Although Jones revealed the nature of only two of the “three objections” to Griffin, these two apparently occasioned the “wispers” and were the “chief obstacles” to his election.

In a letter on 13 June 1783 to Theodorick Bland, Arthur Lee remarked: “There was great manoeuvring on the election of delegates for congress. When it was found that you and Mr. Madison, being in the nomination, interfered with some of their candidates, they persuaded the members that you should not be balloted for; and a resolution to that purpose being obtained, both were withdrawn” (Charles Campbell, ed., Bland Papers, II, 110).

12In his letters James Mercer claimed that his younger brother John Francis Mercer largely owed his defeat in April 1783 for election as a delegate from Stafford County in the General Assembly to malicious rumors concerning his share in an allegedly unsavory transaction relating to “tob[acc]o Lan[d]s.” These rumors probably comprised the “report,” mentioned by Jones, which James Mercer charged Arthur Lee and his “Gang” with reviving in the May session of the General Assembly to discredit both the Mercer brothers (Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., LIX [1951], 94, 97, 98, 100–101).

13Jefferson to JM, 7 May 1783, and n. 15. On 10 June William Short “took his Seat at the Board” of the Council of State for the first time (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 267). He had been elected four days before by the Virginia General Assembly to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Robert Lawson (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 36, 39–40).

14Jones to JM, 25 May, and n. 12; 31 May 1783. For the “remonstrance” by the Virginia General Assembly on 10 and 15 December 1779 and the resolutions of 18 December 1778, upon which that protest was based, see JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1778, pp. 124–25; Oct. 1779, pp. 84, 90. See also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 75–76.

15Jones to JM, 14 June 1783. See also Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 400–401; 441, n. 6; JM Notes, 4 June, and n. 2; 5 June, n. 1; 6 June 1783, and n. 1.

16Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 139, n. 13; 144–45; 208, n. 3; 210, n. 3; 285; 291–92; 327; 344; 494, n. 7; Pendleton to JM, 4 May; Randolph to JM, 9 May; 15 May, n. 2; 24 May, and nn. 5, 6; Jones to JM, 25 May; 31 May 1783.

17Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 21, n. 5; 139, n. 13; 172; 174, n. 2; 262, n. 6; 292; 432; 434, n. 6; 488.

19Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 474; 475, nn. 3, 5; Delegates to Gálvez, 4 May, ed. n.; JM to Jefferson, 20 May, and n. 4. On 12 May 1783 the House of Delegates had referred a letter from Governor Harrison, enclosing papers concerning the financial claim of Simon Nathan, to a committee of the whole house on the state of the commonwealth (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 4, 58, 71, 72–75, 81–82, 84). See Randolph to JM, 28 June 1783.

20Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 474; 475, nn. 3, 4, 5; 476, nn. 6, 7; 478, n. 3; 502; Delegates to Gálvez, 4 May, and hdn., nn. 2, 3; JM to Jefferson, 20 May, n. 4; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 68, 77–78, 83, 85.

21Pendleton to JM, 2 June 1783, n. 4. The Pollard alluded to was possibly William (d. 1829?), at this time or later of Hanover County, Va. His friends in 1779, having had “no Intelligence” of him were “inclined to apprehend” that he was either imprisoned for debt in France or had “died in some obscure Situation where his connexions were not known” (Frances Norton Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons, Merchants of London and Virginia [Richmond, 1937], p. 430). Before 1788 he removed to Georgia (Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends [2 vols.; Atlanta, 1913–14], I, 1058; Greene County, Ga., Court Records, 1803, photocopy in Va. Historical Society).

22Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , VI, 504, n. 3. The doubt respecting Charles James Fox was unwarranted. On 7 April 1783 he had been re-elected to the House of Commons by voters of his constituency, the city of Westminster, “without opposition, though amid some hissing.” The coalition ministry precariously remained in office until 19 December 1783 (A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, eds., Cambridge Modern History [13 vols.; Cambridge, England, 1902–12], VI, 467).

23David Hartley, well disposed toward the United States and a personal friend of Franklin, was the commissioner of King George III who signed the definitive treaty of peace. See Pendleton to JM, 4 May, n. 6; JM to Jefferson, 10 June 1783, and n. 8. “Caermarthen” was Francis Osborne (1751–1799), Marquis of Carmarthen and later the Duke of Leeds, who had been ambassador at the court of Versailles and who was from 1783 to 1789 the British foreign secretary.

25Jones to JM, 31 May 1783, and nn. 11, 13, 14.

26Although at first glance Jones would seem to have written “Mr. I.,” a comparison between what appears to be “I” and the undoubted capital “S” in “Speaker” in his second paragraph makes clear that they are identical in form. “M.S.,” who obviously would be someone well known to JM, almost certainly signified Meriwether Smith, a resident of Essex County, a member of the Virginia Council of State, a former colleague of JM in Congress, and an opponent of the hard-money policies championed by Arthur and Richard Henry Lee (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (7 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 40, n. 2; 149, n. 4; IV, 225; 227, n. 4; V, 341, n. 5; 427, n. 7; Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 27; JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , Oct. 1782, p. 72). In harmony with this opposition, the petitioners, assuming that the General Assembly could set aside burdensome provisions of the preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain, asked that both the fourth and fifth articles relating to “the payment of Debts Contracted before the Revolution” and the return of Loyalists to Virginia remain unenforced within the state (Petition, Essex County, MS in Va. State Library). Upon receiving the petition on 4 June, the House of Delegates tabled it (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 37). See also Harrison to Delegates, 9 May, and nn. 6, 7; Randolph to JM, 15 May, and n. 5; Jones to JM, 25 May; 31 May 1783.

27This petition “of sundry inhabitants of the county of Hanover” was received by the House of Delegates on 6 June and referred on that day to the “committee of the whole House” on the citizenship bill, which Jones mentioned at the outset of the paragraph (JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, p. 41).

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