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Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 21 December 1782

Benjamin Harrison to Virginia Delegates

FC (Virginia State Library). In the hand of Thomas L. Savage and addressed to “Virginia Delegates in Congress.”

Richmond Decem: 21th. 1782.

Gentlemen

Your favor of the 10th. Instant1 came safe such parts of it as were necessary for the Consideration of the Assembly have been laid before them and I hope will have a good effect.2 it has always been a surprise to me that R. Island should act as she has done, the necessity of a fund to pay off the Interest due from the Continent is so very obvious that where sense is not wanting, I should be very apt to think the Man a bad one who refused to comply with the requisition of Congress on that Subject, or that should in any Manner attemp to wound the little Credit that is left us.3 Morris’s old Friends have again been at his Notes, the awowed reason was their being counterfeited, their secret ones such as I will not undertake to give you tho’ I believe them of the worst kind.4

You give me great pleasure by your Communications on the subject of our Expectations from beyond the Water, and the Intention of Gen: Lincoln, there is now no Occasion for your taking any more trouble on either of these Subjects both of them being in as fair a way as I could expect.5 I have no News to give you but that from the reports circulating I fear Charles Town is not evacuated at this Time,6 if they should prove true I think that event will not take place till agn[?] Shelburn has try’d his strength in parliament.7 The compliments of the approaching season wait on you and may you see as many of them as you can enjoy with Health and Liberty. I am &c.

B. H.

1Q.v.

2Ibid., and nn. 1, 3, 4, 8. On 20 December Harrison wrote to Speaker John Tyler of the House of Delegates enclosing “a paragraph of a Letter from our Delegates accompany’d with some Resolutions of Congress which I beg that favor of you to lay before the General Assembly” (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, 409). These documents seem to have occasioned two courses of action: (1) Arthur Lee made an unsuccessful effort to induce the General Assembly, before adjourning on 28 December, to levy an import duty on “certain goods and merchandizes, and also on prizes, for the use of the United States” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, pp. 81, 83, 86); and (2) the General Assembly on the same day adopted instructions to the Virginia delegates in re the state’s financial quota (q.v.).

3The governor’s criticism of Rhode Island for rejecting the proposed impost amendment is the more interesting because of his silence about the Virginia General Assembly’s repeal on 6 and 7 December 1782 of the act of ratification of 23 June 1781. In his dispatch of 4 January 1783 to the Virginia delegates, Harrison stated that he had not heard of the repeal until “after the rising of the Assembly” on 28 December (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, 420–21). Edmund Pendleton, however, had known of the repeal at least as early as 9 December (Pendleton to JM, 9 December 1782, and n. 12). Governor Harrison complained to the speaker of the House of Delegates on 5 May 1783 that he had neither been informed of laws at the time of their enactment nor been able to procure copies of them “for many months” (MS in Virginia State Library).

4For Robert Morris’ “Notes” and an instance when they had been counterfeited, 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, 104, n. 1; 247; 250, n. 18; 274, n. 7; 357; 435; 437; 449, n. 7; JM to Randolph, 12 November (first letter); Pendleton to JM, 25 November 1782, and n. 1. Governor Harrison probably referred to the efforts of Richard Henry Lee, Arthur Lee, and other opponents of Morris to forbid an acceptance of the “Notes” in payment of taxes in Virginia. The law of 1 July 1782, which had permitted the use of the “Notes” for that purpose (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, 361, n. 42; 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 , XI, 66–71), was superseded on 28 December 1782 by a comprehensive statute which conspicuously omitted mention of those “Notes” in listing the types of currency, certificates, and commodities receivable for Virginia taxes (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, p. 90; 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 , XI, 112–29).

5The Virginia delegates probably had mentioned “these Subjects” to Harrison in that portion of their missing dispatch of 10 December (q.v.) which Thomas L. Savage had not extracted. See also their reply of 3 December to Harrison’s letter of 16 November 1782.

6The Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 21 December reflects a similar lack of certainty about the situation at Charleston. The British had evacuated the city on 14 December 1782. See JM to Pendleton, 15 October 1782, n. 11.

7The American peace commissioners and Richard Oswald, the commissioner acting for the Earl of Shelburne, had signed provisional articles of peace at Paris on 30 November 1782 (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , VI, 96–100).

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