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From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 6 August 1782

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (Nat W. Pendleton, Wytheville, Va., 1961). Docketed by Edmund Pendleton, “James Madison Esqr. Aug. 6th. 1782.”

Philada. 6th Aug: 1782.

Dear Sir

I shall pay due attention to the request contained in your favor of the 29th. relative to the slave of your nephew. Should I however be so fortunate as to recover him, the price of slaves here leaves no hope that a purchaser will be found on the terms demanded.1

We have had several arrivals since my last but are still without official letters. The European papers, as you will see by the transcripts in the inclosed,2 teem with paragraphs relative to pacific negociations. The language & conduct of the New Administration of G. B. do by no means discountenance the supposition that they are more solicitous for peace than their predecessors, and less scrupulous as to the punctilio of national honor. But the insidious policy which has so long directed the British councils, should always restrain our hopes of peace from circumscribing our preparations for war. We expect every moment dispatches from our foreign Ministers which will elucidate the publications of the Gazettes.3

The French Squadron which lately appeared off the capes of Chesapeake are now off the Capes of Delaware. I can say nothing as to its ultimate destination. Our trade I hope will at least receive some transient advantages from its visit to the American Coast.4

I am Dr Sir with much regard yr. frd & Svt.

J. Madison Jr.

PS. Upon recollection, it will be impossible to dispose of the Slave in this State, there being a legal prohibition agst. it. Even his coming into [it] will operate as a manumission, unless the case of runaways be provided for which I believe is the fact.5 I will enquire more exactly into [the] matter.

1See 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, 443; 444, n. 14.

2Unidentified, but see JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, and n. 9.

3See 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, 448; 450, nn. 15, 16, 17; JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782, and nn. 8, 9.

4See 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, 447, n. 8; JM to Randolph, 5–6 August 1782. JM may have had in mind the unsuccessful effort on 5 and 6 August of the Pennsylvania delegates to induce the fleet to convoy merchantmen, or even to drive the British from the Bermuda Islands—an expulsion which would give security “to our commerce and that of France” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 429; Thomson, “Debates,” description begins Charles Thomson, “Debates in the Congress of the Confederation from July 22d to September 20th, 1782,” Collections of the New-York Historical Society, XI (1878), 63–169. description ends pp. 84–88; William E. O’Donnell, Chevalier de La Luzerne, pp. 207–8). Perhaps, of course, JM wrote to Pendleton on the morning of 6 August before this effort had ended in failure.

5The law of Pennsylvania, which became effective on 1 March 1780, provided for the gradual abolition of slavery; excluded certain slaves, including those “attending upon Delegates in Congress,” from the emancipation provisions; forbade the importation of slaves; denied “any inhabitant” the right to buy a slave and retain him within the state for over six months; and explicitly continued in force the earlier legislation dealing with the return of fugitive slaves to their masters, whether resident within or outside of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Gazette, 29 December 1779).

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