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From James Madison to Joseph Jones, [10 October] 1780

To Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Philada. [1780, Oct. 10]1

Dear Sir

I received yesterday yours of the 2d. inst: Some of the questions mentioned in it I anticipated in my last. The clause of the resolutions you left on the table relating to Indian purchases is still undetermined. Many attempts have been made to bring the Vermont dispute to an issue, but the diversity of opinions that prevail on one side & the dilatory artifices employed on the other have frustrated them. All the evidence has been heard and a proposition for including it within the jurisdiction of some one of the states debated for some time, but the decision was suspended. An arrangement of the Army founded on G: Washington’s letter, has passed Congress and is now with the Genl. for his observations on it. It includes a recommendation to the States to fill up their quotas. No arrangement of the Civil departments has taken place. A new medical system has been passed. Shippen is again at the head of it. Craig & Cochran have not been forgotten. The instructions relating to the Mississippi have passed entirely to my satisfaction. A committee is now preparing a state of the reasons & principles on which they stand.2 Dr Lee3 has not yet arrived.

No military or naval intelligence has come to hand since my last except a further report that a very large embarkation is actually going on at N. York. It will be prudent for Virginia not to neglect the precautions necessary for her defence in case she should be the object of it.4

Andrè was hung the 2d. inst: He submitted to his fate in a manner that shewed him to be worthy of a better one. His coadjutor Smith will soon follow him. The Hero of the plot, it is said is to be made a Brigadier and employed in some predatory expedition suited to his genius & his thirst for pelf. It is said with more probability that his baseness is heartily despised by those who have taken advantage of it, and yt. some resentment is mixed with their contempt on account of the loss of their darling officer.5

Our domestic controversy is still sub judice. This day I believe will certainly decide it in its present stage. If it should be unfortunate it will be carried into the Court of Errors. Some propositions founded on an amiable seperation have been made on the part of Bulkley but they were so pregnant with ruin to the old lady that her friends could not advise her to accede to them.6

Your compliments were presented to the family as you desired, and are returned with very great sincerity. I hope your lady and son have by this time recovered, and that no other impediment will keep you from the Assembly when it meets, or from returning hither as soon as it rises.7

I am dr Sir Yr. Affecte friend & Servt

James Madison Jr.8

1This date was inserted by someone else, probably long after JM wrote the letter. Although this letter is undated, the contents of its first paragraph make certain that JM wrote it after the evening session of Congress of 6 October, when the committee on the free navigation of the Mississippi River was appointed, and before the vote on the western territory issue was taken on 10 October. Knowing Jones’s lively interest in this latter question, JM would almost surely have reported the vote if he had known it. The fact that his letter of 10 October to Pendleton contains approximately the same information, and even some of the same expressions as this one, suggests that both letters were written on that day.

2JM omits mention of his own membership on this committee with John Sullivan and James Duane (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 908). Following this sentence in the letter is a bracket which complements one just before the third sentence in this paragraph. As already noted in the case of earlier letters, these brackets were added many years later by JM or someone of his family to designate what should be extracted for publication. For comment upon the matters mentioned in this paragraph, see Jones to JM, 2 October 1780, nn. 2, 3, 57, 9, 10; and Notes on Speech regarding Vermont Lands, 6 October 1780. JM’s reference to “my last” in the second sentence of this paragraph suggests a now missing letter to Jones, probably dated 3 October.

3Arthur Lee.

5See Virginia Delegates to Jefferson, 5[?] October 1780, n. 2; and JM to Pendleton, 10 October 1780, nn. 4 and 5.

6See Jones to JM, 19 September 1780, n. 8. Insofar as the editors have been able to ascertain, the primary sources needed to clarify this matter fully are no longer extant. Whether Joseph Bulkley had been the husband of Mrs. House (the “old lady”) is not beyond doubt, but there is no question that, based upon some prior close relationship, he was pressing in the courts his claim to her boarding house, or at least to its furniture, at Fifth and Market Streets. Bulkley was evidently the more eager to gain control of this property because his own creditors insisted upon their due. Some of the furniture belonged neither to Mrs. House nor to Bulkley but to her roomers, including John Morin Scott and James Duane of New York, William Sharpe of North Carolina, Isaac Motte of South Carolina, and JM and Jones of Virginia. Until Scott left Congress for his home about 14 November, his activities on behalf of Mrs. House included speaking for her before a court and preventing Bulkley from pestering her at home. “The Genl’s victory,” mentioned by JM in his letter of [24?] October to Jones (q.v.), brought Mrs. House only temporary relief because Bulkley appealed the judgment. Upon Scott’s departure, James Duane took over as her principal champion. When Bulkley won in a higher court, a deputy sheriff on 30 November attempted on Bulkley’s behalf to inventory, or perhaps even to remove the furniture, in the boarding house. Duane protested directly to President Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania that day, calling attention to “our publick Characters Priviledges and exclusive Right to occupy that House” and taking the high ground that “the Reasons for protecting in all nations, the Persons Houses & Effects of foreign Ambassadors apply with at least equal Force to the Members who constitute the general Government of the United States” (Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., VIII, 629–30). Reed replied politely but upheld the officer in his duty to execute the verdict of the court (Reed to Duane, 1 and 19 December 1780, New-York Historical Society: James Duane Papers). Having removed some of the furniture, but apparently not taking any owned by a boarder, the sheriff advertised it to be sold “by Public Vendue” on 29 December 1780 in order to satisfy one of Bulkley’s creditors (Duane to Reed, 16 December 1780, Pennsylvania Archives description begins Samuel Hazard et al., eds., Pennsylvania Archives (9 ser., 138 vols.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852–1949). description ends , 1st ser., VIII, 659; Pennsylvania Packet, 19 December 1780). At least insofar as JM and his fellow boarders were concerned, the matter was concluded by 3 February 1781. On that day Duane wrote Scott that although Bulkley had succeeded in taking “the few goods” belonging to Mrs. House, the rest of the furnishings had been secured from his grasp. Duane implied that since Bulkley was about to be imprisoned for debt, “he will give us no further trouble” (New-York Historical Society: James Duane Papers).

7See Joseph Jones to JM, 2 October 1780, and [24?] October 1780. An attack of malaria kept Jones from reaching Richmond for the session of the Virginia legislature until 31 October. This was over two weeks after the scheduled date of convening, but a quorum did not assemble until 6 November. Although the legislature continued to meet until 2 January 1781, Jones left for home about the middle of the preceding month and delayed resuming his seat in Congress until 29 January (Worthington C. Ford, ed., Letters of Joseph Jones, pp. 40, 63; 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, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1780, pp. 3–7, 81; Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 94).

8An unknown “WS,” probably of Fredericksburg, Va., wrote to Jones on the wrapper of this letter, informing him of the patriot victory at King’s Mountain, S.C., on 7 October. This note is printed in Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 417, n. 2, and Jones relayed its news to JM in his letter of [24] October (q.v.). Congress apparently first heard of the victory on the 23d (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 963). “WS” may have been William Smith (1746–1802), a native of Gloucestershire, England, who became a Fredericksburg merchant and embraced the patriot cause (Catherine Lindsay Knorr, ed., “Marriage Bonds and Ministers’ Returns, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1782–1850. Also Tombstone Inscriptions from St. George Cemetery, 1752–1920” [mimeographed; Pine Bluff, Ark., 1954], p. 84).

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