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From James Madison to Edmund Randolph, 9 April 1782

To Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is missing, but the contents permit no doubt that JM was writing to Randolph.

Philada. Apl. 9th. 1782

Dear Sir

I had promised myself the pleasure of a line from you by this post but find by a letter from Mr. Jameson that you had not arrived at Richmond at the time of writing for it. I have inclosed to Mr. J. the paper of this morning which contains all the news current without doors.1 Within doors nothing worth particularizing has taken place. The Committee on the affair of Vermont have made no report as yet.

I perceive by a passage cited in the “Examination of the Connecticut claim to lands in Pennsa.[”] that we have been mistaken in supposing the acquiescence of Virginia in the defalcations of her Chartered Territory to have been a silent one. It said that “at a meeting of the Privy Council July 3. 1633. was taken into consideration the Petition of the Planters of Virginia remonstrating that some grants had lately been obtained of a great proportion of the lands & territoriees within the limits of the Colony there, and a day was ordered for further hearing the parties (to wit Ld. Baltimore & sd. Adventurers & Planters).”2 The decision agst. Virga. is urged as proof that the Crown did not regard the Charter as in force with respect to the bounds of Virga. It is clearly a proof that Virga. at that time thought otherwise & made all the opposition to the encroachment which cd. then have been made to the Arbitrary Acts which gave birth [to] the present revolution. If any monuments of the transactions of Virga. at the period above [men]tioned or any of the successive periods at wch. these encroachmen[ts had] been repeated you will have an opportunity of searching [more] minutely into them. It is not probable however that after a fa[ilure] in the first opposition any further opposition will be found [to] subsequent grants out of Virga.3

Present my sincere respects to your amiable lady & [believe] me &c &c.

J. Madison Jr.

Col Carrington will not fulfill his intentions on se[tting] off for Virga.4 Docr. Lee will [set] off in 5 or 6 days & I shall [take] that conveyance for the proposed report.5 Mr. Jones will [follow] the Docr. abt. the last of this month.6 I hope you will a[dd] due weight to these considerations in deciding on the tim[e for] your return.

1Neither David Jameson’s letter—probably of 30 March—nor JM’s response of 9 April has been found. The “paper” must have been the Pennsylvania Packet.

2See JM to Pendleton, 2 April, n. 2; and Motion Concerning Documents on Vermont, 3 April 1782, editorial note. Many years later JM or someone at his direction enclosed this paragraph in brackets to designate it for publication (Madison, Papers [Gilpin ed.] description begins Henry D. Gilpin, ed., The Papers of James Madison (3 vols.; Washington, 1840). description ends , I, 118).

JM here refers to the Reverend William Smith’s An Examination of the Connecticut Claim to Lands in Pennsylvania. With an Appendix, Containing Extracts and Copies Taken from Original Papers (Philadelphia, 1774). The passage which JM quotes with approximate accuracy appears on page 160 of the reprint of the pamphlet in Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser.; 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 2d ser., XVIII, 125–214. For obvious reasons, he welcomed this evidence that Virginians had immediately protested the grant of a charter by King Charles I to “Caecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, in our Kingdom of Ireland” for territory traversing that conferred by charter in 1609 upon “The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony in Virginia,” even though JM could not accept the constitutional principle upon which Smith based his main argument (Instructions on Peace Negotiations, 7 January 1782, n. 9). Smith contended that, because the king in Privy Council was sovereign, a charter could not be a contract, irrevocable except by the consent of both the grantor and grantee. Hence, since the charter given to Connecticut was postdated by that given to William Penn, the latter automatically superseded the former insofar as the territories specified in both overlapped.

3The bracketed words and parts of words in this paragraph are from Gilpin’s edition of the Madison papers. The right edge of the manuscript’s second page is now torn. Since Gilpin did not print the letter beyond this point, the remaining brackets enclose what the editors surmise JM wrote. In a letter of 22 April 1782 to the governor (MS in Virginia State Library), Randolph remarked, “I was instructed by my brethren in the delegation to obtain access to the entries of the council before the revolution.” See also Randolph to JM, 5 May 1782, and n. 6. JM’s assumption that there probably had been no “further opposition” was erroneous. Virginians in 1673 received with “unspeakable griefe and Astonishment” the news that King Charles II had granted jurisdiction over the “Northern Neck” to certain courtiers, and proprietary rights over all Virginia for thirty-one years to Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, and Thomas, Lord Culpeper. About a decade later, having bought out the other claimants, Culpeper sold back to the Crown all of his rights except to quitrents outstanding and to the proprietorship of the Northern Neck. This area, encompassing at its greatest extent over five million acres or twenty-three future counties, including five now in West Virginia, was inherited in 1719 by the Scot Thomas, Baron Fairfax of Cameron, the sixth of his line. He died at Greenway Court near Winchester in December 1781. Legislation respecting the Fairfax lands was for years, even so late as 1796, necessarily of a special nature (Samuel Shepherd, ed., The Statutes at Large of Virginia [new ser.; 3 vols.; Richmond, 1835], II, 22–23, 140; Thomas J. Wertenbaker, ed., “The Virginia Charter of 1676,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LVI [1948], 261–66; Josiah Look Dickinson, The Fairfax Proprietary: The Northern Neck, the Fairfax Manors, and Beginnings of Warren County [Front Royal, Va., 1959], p. 1).

4See Harrison to Delegates, 9 February, and n. 4; and Motion on Carrington, 26 April 1782. Colonel Edward Carrington was in Philadelphia primarily to arrange with Washington, Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering, and Robert Morris for outfitting with clothing and other equipment the continental recruits being raised in Virginia and neighboring states for service in Nathanael Greene’s army in South Carolina (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, 28, 35, 61, 66). As early as 27 March, Carrington was “hourly expected” at Fredericksburg, but two weeks later Colonel Christian Febiger, at Cumberland Old Court House, Va., exclaimed, “What in the name of God, keeps Carrington.” He apparently left Philadelphia on 1 May and reached Richmond on 14 May 1782 (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 , III, 112, 127, 143–44, 167; 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, 225; Randolph to JM, 16 May 1782).

5Congress granted Arthur Lee a leave of absence on 9 April, but he remained in Philadelphia until either the twenty-third or twenty-fourth of the month (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 177; JM to Pendleton, 23 April 1782, and to Randolph on the same day). The “report” almost certainly was the one adverse to Virginia’s title to the Old Northwest, submitted by a committee to Congress on 3 November 1781, tabled eleven days later, and about to be debated again (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 184). Although the delegates from Virginia had sent Governor Nelson a copy of this report, along with other relevant documents, on 17 November 1781, Randolph may have wanted it for his own use. Jefferson probably possessed a copy already, since Arthur Lee in a letter of 13 March had enclosed for him one which Randolph undertook to forward to Monticello (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, 304–5 nn.; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 184; 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 , VI, 164–65, 560–61; JM to Randolph, 1 May, n. 6; Randolph to JM, 10 May 1782). In view of the hostile attitude of a majority of Congress, the matter probably would be of grave concern to the Virginia General Assembly at its spring session. On 6 May 1782, upon sending the documents mentioned above to the speaker of the House of Delegates, Governor Harrison emphasized the need for a “speedy and decisive determination” of the issue (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, 213).

6Joseph Jones was absent from Congress between 2 May and 4 September 1782, both inclusive (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 233; XXIII, 547).

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