James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 30 August 1782

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Cover addressed by him to “The honble James Madison jr. esq of congress Philadelphia.” Docketed by JM, “Aug: 30. 1782.”

Richmond August 30. 1782.

Dear sir

I am rejoiced to hear from Mr. F. Webb, that a succour, altho’ it is moderate, is to be forwarded by Mr. Ambler by the present mail.1 He can best tell you, how the prospect is of future puncituality2 towards the suffering creditors of our country: but I am really sanguine in expecting more regular supplies to the servants of the public. I yesterday urged the jew, (whose partner I wrote to, inclosing the note in my last letter to you,)3 to negotiate some of your draughts on the treasury. But the fervor, which has been transmitted to him from Phila., for the collection of tobacco, is now in its utmost rage in his breast, and fathers his disposition to oblige me. But hesitate not to use me, for the paroxysm of your distress, since you will not inlist me into your aid,4 while the disorder may be warded off, and believe, that I shall do for your relief whatsoever shall at any time be within my reach. I delivered your letter to the auditors; and have not as yet received their report. But it is clear, that the depreciation ought not to be settled according to our own scale, as the expenditures were made at a place, very far distant from the meridian, to which that scale is fitted. I shall inquire on my return from Wmsburg, (whither I shall bend my course to morrow) for an answer to my request of settlement of your accounts.5

The laxness and inefficacy of government really alarms me. A notorious robber, who escaped from gaol about a twelvemonth ago, has associated in his villainies a formidable gang of blacks and whites, supposed to amount to fifty. They disperse themselves judiciously for the accomplishment of their work, and the elusion of punishment: and have perpetrated some of the most daring and horrid thefts. An attempt has been often made to arrest this prince of the banditti: but it has hitherto miscarried. Nay I do not believe, that government can by any means in its power effect the seizure of this man. I live in the center of the late depredations, and have no other hope to avoid their wickedness, than by the awe, which my office may create.6

You demand the authority, on which the flag vessel was condemned. Her passport was considered as involving a condition, not to transgress the limits, assigned her, nor to counteract the laws of the U.S. by the diffusion of british Manufactures. This condition was drawn from the 21. cap: of the third book of Grotius. The operation then produced by the violation of the condition was to reduce her to the state of hostile property, without sanction or protection.7 As to the goods, I presume, you desire no new information.

I do not recollect, whether I informed you, that the money, to be raised for recruiting our quota of the army, is paid with great promptness. But I have been told by one of the collectors, that many industrious people, not farther from Richmond than ten miles, and possessing three or four working hands cannot pay their proportion which does not exceed a dollar without selling part of their capital.8 So little, you find, has specie condescended to mix with the great mass of our citizens.9

My business at Wmsburg. is, as a visitor of the college.10 Some of us11 will labour, if we have not too far exhausted the funds, to restore it to its process[?]12 of an university, and give it the energy which the new institution possessed before the invasion.13 Having been a member of the convocation yourself, at the time, when the professorships were thrown into their present mould,14 you must recollect that Mr. Bracken was ousted from his superintendance of the grammar school by the destruction of the school itself. He refuses to submit to the change of system, having resolved to try the force of law. I am fearful, that his firmness may occasion a motion for replacing that injurious professorship.15 The event, should it succeed, will be ruinous.

The hope of peace, while it renders James river tobacco a commodity of very great demand, increases the value of the land in the neighbourhood of the warehouses. For twenty feet of ground in front and twenty four back, on a street of this obscure place, the owner demanded the other day five hundred pounds.16

It is lamentable to behold the produces of our labour, remitted to Philadelphia. Ready money can always be procured for tobacco. But this kind of purchase17 is no sooner saturate[d], than the vital blood returns to the heart, and there rests, until fresh purchases throw it back again.18 I do not ever hear of Morris’s notes. Have they been thrust upon him?19

We have received no late accounts from the westward, except that the indians have perpetrated great mischief.20 The wound, which the massacre of Crawford and his party has given to the affection of their relations, will put it in the power of congress or of this state, to raise many volontiers, who pant after revenge.21

From the eastward and southward we hear nothing.22

1Foster Webb, Jr., was commissioner of the Virginia treasury. For the “succour,” see Ambler to JM, 31 August 1782.

2Since the first “i” comes at the end of a line, Randolph should have placed a hyphen there instead.

3See Randolph to JM, 24 August 1782, and n. 12.

6Attorney general of Virginia. The newspapers of Richmond do not mention “this prince of the banditti” or his band as being in the neighborhood of Randolph’s residence.

7See JM to Randolph, 20 August 1782. By resting his case upon Book III, chap. xxi of De jure belli ac pacis (1625), Randolph was obliged to infer a particular conclusion from the generalization of Hugo Grotius (Huig van Groot, 1583–1645) in section X of that chapter, reading, “Certain acts are unlawful during a truce on account of the special nature of the agreement” (2 vols.; London, 1913–25), II [Francis W. Kelsey et al., trans.], 838).

8Randolph interlineated “industrious” between “many” and “people” and “which does not exceed a dollar” after “proportion.” He also wrote “three or four” above a deleted “six or seven.”

9See 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, 118, n. 5; 362, n. 48; 399; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 8 August 1782. In accordance with the statute of 2 July 1782, Virginia was divided into three thousand recruiting districts. Each district was obliged to furnish one soldier for the continental army or pay £14 specie. This sum provided a £12 bounty to the enlistee and £2 to the officer who induced him to serve (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, 265; 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, 14–20). Governor Harrison also expressed satisfaction that the money from most districts was being paid “with great promptness,” but he soon discovered that the number who enlisted would fall far short of Virginia’s quota (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, 316–17, 351, 358; 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, 290–91). Randolph’s informant is unknown, but his observation accorded with the facts (ibid., III, 273, 290, 313).

10A notice in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 17 August had summoned the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary to meet on 2 September 1782.

11This phrase is interlineated above a deleted “We shall.”

12“Process” was written over an illegible word. In the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 14 September 1782, the College of William and Mary, making known that its “circumstances” obliged “a speedy and general collection of what is owing it,” threatened to sue anyone who had not paid his debt to the institution by 2 November 1782.

13The basis for the “new” College was a statute, chiefly devised by Jefferson, a member of the Board of Visitors, and adopted by the Board on 4 December 1779. Professorships in medicine, law, and modern languages superseded those in the classical languages and divinity. Under the new dispensation, the students were privileged to choose electives (William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XIV [1905–6], 76, 78; 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 , II, 51, n. 6; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (17 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , II, 543).

Although an invasion of Virginia by the British had forced the College to close for a time, beginning in May 1779 (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 , I, 317, n. 7), Randolph was referring to the suspension of instruction extending for about eighteen months after 7 March 1781. During that period, when Williamsburg was subjected to almost continuous military occupation, the “Society,” comprising the president and three faculty members, had assembled at least three times—on 1 March, 3 and 12 June 1782. At the first and last of these meetings, they voted to confer honorary degrees upon the Chevalier de Chastellux and Dr. Jean François Coste, respectively (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, 82; 83, nn. 1, 2, 3, 7; 337; 338, nn. 7, 10; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XV [1906–7], 264–67).

14Insofar as the present editors know, this is the earliest and only almost contemporary evidence that JM had been a member of the “convocation” (Board of Visitors) in 1779. Prior to a fire on 8 February 1859, which destroyed many of the archives of the College of William and Mary, its professor of history and political science, Robert J. Morrison, had listed JM and Jefferson as members of the Board of Visitors in 1779. Morrison’s historical sketch was included in the catalogue of 1859 and, somewhat revised, although with the statement about JM unaltered, in the catalogue of 1874 (A Catalogue of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from Its Foundation to the Present Time [n.p., 1859], p. 21; ibid. [Richmond, 1874], p. 76; Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Williamsburg, the Old Colonial Capital [Richmond, 1907], p. 187). John Tyler, the rector of the college in 1859, former president of the United States, and an acquaintance of JM, probably had read Morrison’s essay before approving it for publication. Furthermore, JM is not known to have reminded Randolph that his memory was at fault. The editors are indebted to Herbert Lawrence Ganter, archivist of the College of William and Mary, for his help in preparing this note.

15As a part of the reorganization of 1779 (n. 13, above), the Grammar School, of which the Reverend John Bracken had served as master since 1775, was abolished. Bracken resisted this change and also contended that his salary should continue (William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XV [1906–7], 137; 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 , I, 317, n. 8). For many years Bracken was pastor of the Bruton parish church in Williamsburg. In 1792 he became professor of humanity at the College of William and Mary, succeeded Bishop James Madison as its president in 1812, and retired two years later. See Rutherfoord Goodwin, “The Reverend John Bracken ([ca.] 1745–1818), Rector of Bruton Parish and President of William and Mary College in Virginia,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, X (1941), 354–89.

16In this paragraph, Randolph interlineated “James river” and “of ground.” Since 1623 the Virginia General Assembly had designated public warehouses for the reception, inspection, and taxing of tobacco. The warehouse at “this obscure place,” Richmond, was “Shockoe’s,” on Shockoe Creek near its confluence with the James River (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 , I, 203–7; X, 319, 356, 475).

17Instead of “kind of purchase,” Randolph at first wrote “business.”

18Randolph meant that the small amount of specie in Virginia disappeared quickly from circulation, since it either was hoarded or left the state to satisfy creditors in Philadelphia and elsewhere. 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, 151.

20Randolph was referring to ravages by the Indians in western Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River. The costly defeat of Kentuckians at the Battle of the Blue Licks on 19 August was not known in Richmond until early in October (Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends , 2 October 1782; 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, 337; Ambler to JM, 5 October 1782, n. 2).

21See Pendleton to JM, 12 August 1782, and n. 6. Public officials of Pennsylvania unsuccessfully urged Congress and Washington to launch a military offensive against the Indians in the Ohio Country in the autumn of 1782. Washington opposed this pressure on financial grounds, and also because he had been assured by Sir Guy Carleton that the British were bending every effort to keep the Indians at peace. The tribes in Ohio could not be wholly restrained at a time when their land was being trespassed upon by many white settlers (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 , XXV, 110–11, 198–99; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VI, 472, 542, item 685, n. 2, 544; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 575, and n. 1).

22That is, from western Europe and from the headquarters of the southern army near Charleston, S.C. Randolph interlineated “and southward.”

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