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Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 3 May 1783

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas Meriwether, assistant clerk of the Council of State. Addressed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Richmond May 3d. 1783.

Gentlemen

I duely received your favor of the 22d. of last Month, and anxiously wait for the News by the French Frigates,1 a report prevails here that Lord Shelburne has said in the House of Lords that as there is no Time fixed by the Treaty for the evacuation of New York, he means not to do it till the Americans shall have given Satisfaction to the Refugees, can this possibly be true?2

British Vessels are arrived from the West Indies with valuable Cargoes which cannot be landed under our present Laws as I suppose there are some of them at Philadelphia you will oblige me by letting me know whether they are permitted to trade or not.3

Please to inform my Friend Charles Thomson that I will send him a Copy of the Cession of the back Country by the next Post and with it a Copy of another Resolution repealing it, which may perhaps be a lesson in future not to refuse a good Offer when Men are in the Humor for giving.4

I am Gentlemen with respect Yrs: &c.

B. H.

1Papers 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, 479, and n. 3.

2In a debate of 17 February in the House of Lords on the terms of the preliminary articles of peace, the Earl of Shelburne is reported, with regard to the Loyalists (“Refugees”), only to have expressed deep regret at “the unhappy necessity of our affairs, which induced the extremity of submitting the fate of the property of these brave and worthy men to the discretion of their enemies” (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 , XXIII, cols. 411–13). According to the Pennsylvania Packet of 26 April, Richard Brinsley Sheridan spoke on 3 March 1783 in the House of Commons in favor of delaying the evacuation of New York City until the signing of the definitive treaty of peace gave the Loyalists added assurance that their confiscated property would be returned, but 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 omits mention of a speech by him on that date. In the rumor referred to by Harrison, “Sheridan” may have become confused with “Shelburne.” 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, 458, n. 3; 499; 500, n. 6.

3Ambler to JM, 3 May 1783, and n. 5. On 26 April 1783 a merchant vessel from New York City had apparently been permitted to unload her cargo at Philadelphia (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, 471, n. 1).

4Except for this statement of intention, there appears to be no evidence that Governor Harrison sent to Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress, a copy of the resolutions of cession of 2 January 1781. For this offer, see Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , X, 564–67; 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 , V, 116; 117, n. 9; 118, nn. 14–17; 119, nn. 19–20; 290, n. 8; 292, n. 19. Before Harrison wrote to the delegates on 9 May (q.v.), he had been informed of his mistake in assuming that the Virginia General Assembly at its session of October 1782 had repealed the offer of cession. The governor’s misapprehension illustrates the lack of communication between the legislative and executive branches of the government, partly resulting from delay in printing the laws. For the public printer’s shortage of money and paper as late as 16 June 1783, see JHDV description begins (1828 ed.). Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini, 1776 (Richmond, 1828). description ends , May 1783, pp. 50, 60.

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