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To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 31 December 1781

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). Addressed to “The Honble James Madison jr Esqr Philadelphia.” Another version is printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d ser., XIX (1905), 144–45.

Virga Decemr 31. 1781

Dear Sir

Since my last Mr Jefferson’s honourable acquittal of the loose sensure thrown out at Random on his character, hath come to my hand, and I send you a copy, which I doubt not you’l have published in one of the Phila. papers, that this stain may be wiped out whereever it may have reached.1 I am assured by a member of the Assembly that it was entered Unanimously in the House of Delegates & he believes in the Senate, tho’ the Clerk has omitted it in my copy.

I am told Genl. Nelson will also receive a Vote of thanks & approbation of his conduct, from a conviction that what he did wrong was imputable to a mistake in his Judgment & not from a corrupt heart. I am satisfied of the Integrity of his mind, but whether that should intitle him to more than indemnity, I doubt, however I have no uneasiness at their going further.2

The business of finance hath at length ended in a Bill for funding all our paper, wch ceases now to be a tender, & is to be brought into the Treasury before October next, & burnt. Certificates are to be given in Specie at 1 for 1000 payable in 17793 & to bear Interest in the mean time. All former payments are to stand as made, but a scale of depreciation is fixed for adjusting All subsisting money Contracts.4 a Rider was added by the delegates to compel the Receipt of all paper tendered & refused, but it was thrown off by the Senate, as mounted to serve the particular purpose of a Delegate.5

The scheme of taxation is one pct on lands, 10/ on slaves. 2/ on horses & 3d on cattle. Also 1 pct on all goods imported.6 The law for impowring Congress to lay their tax is suspended, upon information that other States had not acceeded to it; the Govr however is impower’d to give it force again, upon receiving proofs of the agreement of a Majority of the States to the measure.7 They have thank’d all the officers & Particularly the Marquis to whom they have voted a Bust,8 but have done nothing in the recruiting buisiness or Western Countrey,9 & It is thought will not, as they mean to adjourn in a day or two, if they can keep a house even for that time.10 Mr Jefferson, I am told, declines coming to Congress, nor do I learn that they purpose choosing another in his room.11 pray accept my wishes for your enjoying many returns of happy years & beleive me to be truly12

Yours

Edmd Pendleton

Who commands at N. York? does Sr Harry continue, or obey the order for his recal?13

1See JM to Pendleton, 25 December 1781, n. 3. The resolution exonerating Jefferson appears in the Pennsylvania Packet of 19 January 1782. The attested copy of the resolution, which was not transcribed by Peter Force’s clerk, still accompanied the original letter when Stan. V. Henkels offered it for sale in 1892 (Stan. V. Henkels Catalogue No. 694).

2The “act to indemnify Thomas Nelson, junior,” was printed in the Pennsylvania Packet of 10 January 1782. See Pendleton to JM, 3 December 1781, n. 3.

3See Ambler to JM, 22 December 1781, n. 4. Pendleton should have written “1790.” The error was his rather than the transcriber’s, for the copy, made from the original manuscript and printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, reads, “1779 (sic).”

4Virginia’s scale of depreciation is published in Henry Phillips, Jr., Historical Sketches of American Paper Currency, 2d ser., p. 208, as well as in 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, 472–73.

5For the “act for calling in and funding the paper money of this state,” see Ambler to JM, 22 December 1781, n. 4. On 20 December a member, who may have been Robert Wormeley Carter of Sabine Hall, Richmond County, introduced a “ryder” designed “to prevent any thing in the said bill contained from affecting the causes of tenders for debts actually and legally made” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, pp. 49, 56). The purpose of the amendment was probably to assure that the law would not alter retroactively the status of debtors whose obligations had already been incurred.

6The “act for ascertaining certain taxes and duties, and for establishing a permanent revenue,” passed by the General Assembly on 5 January 1782 (Journal of the House of Delegates, October 1781, pp. 66, 69, 74), is in 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, 501–17. Pendleton’s examples of the amount of the levy are drawn from Articles II and VI of the law. Article II, besides land, slaves, horses, and cattle, also specifies the tax on adult free males, various types of vehicles, billiard tables, mules, and the cost of “every ordinary licence.” Although Article VI provides for an impost of 1 per cent ad valorem on most “goods or merchandize” imported “from any port or place whatsoever,” it stipulates that a specific tax shall be collected on liquors, sugar, and coffee, and a tonnage duty on every in- or outbound merchant ship.

7See Motion on Impost, 18 April, headnote; Pendleton to JM, 21 May, n. 5; JM to Pendleton, 29 May 1781, and nn. 2 and 4. On 5 January 1782 the Virginia legislature suspended the law, enacted on 23 June 1781, “to enable the congress of the United States to levy a duty on certain goods and merchandizes, and also on all prizes” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , May 1781, p. 32; ibid., October 1781, p. 74; 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, 409–10, 451). Pendleton erred in writing that the governor could revive the law after ascertaining that “a Majority of the States” had authorized Congress to levy a 5 per cent import duty. The suspending act empowered the governor, by proclamation, to make Virginia’s approval operative once again “on being certified that the different states have passed similar laws.” In other words, the governor was directed to wait until the twelve other states had approved the amendment of the Articles of Confederation, proposed by Congress on 3 February 1781 (Edmund Cody Burnett, The Continental Congress [New York, 1941], p. 530).

9On 5 January 1782 the General Assembly enacted a law “to recruit the Virginia line on the continental establishment.” The law provided for the enlistment of up to three thousand men, either for two years or the duration of the war, each at least “five feet four inches high, not being a deserter nor subject to fits, of able-body and sound mind, fit for immediate service” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, p. 74; 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, 499–500). The only laws relating to the West, enacted by this session of the General Assembly, redrew the boundaries of the military bounty-land district in the Kentucky country and empowered the register of the land office of Virginia to appoint a deputy to reside there (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, March 1781 Session in Bulletin of the Virginia State Library, XVII, No. 1 (January 1928). description ends , October 1781, pp. 73–74; 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, 445, 462–68).

11See JM to Pendleton, 11 December, n. 3, and 25 December 1781, n. 3.

12This sentence is omitted in the copy printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

13The Pennsylvania Packet of 18 December 1781 reported that “Persons lately out of New-York” had predicted the early replacement of General Clinton as commander-in-chief by Cornwallis. On the contrary, Cornwallis sailed for Great Britain about 15 December. On 27 April Clinton received Lord Germain’s dispatch of 6 February 1782 relieving him of his command (William B. Willcox, ed., American Rebellion, p. 595; Pennsylvania Packet, 1 January 1782).

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