James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, 22 February 1783

From Edmund Randolph

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Unsigned but in Randolph’s hand. Parts of the manuscript are hard to read. Besides revising a few words by writing over rather than above them, he used a porous paper. This caused the ink to spread, thereby blotting several adjacent letters together. He posted the letter on 1 March. See Randolph to JM, 1 Mar. 1783.

Pettus’s1 Feby. 22. 1783.

My dear sir

I easily conceive the difficulty if not impracticability of devising some middle mode, in which the various opinions of the states concerning the assessment of lands can be brought to coincide.2 The evil of miscarrying in the attempt, tho’ it may perhaps ultimately affect Virginia, may be remedied with respect to the American interest in general, by satisfying the different legislatures, that a new scheme for adjusting the united fund must be adopted.3 But so earnest will our countrymen be in the retention of the old form, that, I fear, nothing less than a full and clear state4 from congress or yourselves, of the many obstacles, which occur, will convert them to the adoption of a new plan, and a cession of the 5. percent.5

The reports, which have circulated for a few days past, of the appearance of a british fleet in the bay, were founded on the ship or two, which have hitherto obstructed Mr. J’s departure.6

I am informed, that the executive are now employed in the appropriation of the recruiting money: but cannot assign a reason for the delay until this time.7

As a farmer, I have much to complain of violent and excessive rains, which have fallen throughout this winter. The necessary preparations for the early crops have not, I believe been made any where, and a scanty harvest this year will amount to almost a famine next in our neighbourhood. At this time one snow would create greater havock among the cattle of Henrico than the enemy so scarce is provender.8

The terrors, which led   to resign, are too powerful for McCl——g to incounter: and the precariousness of the office increases the impediments in a compound rate. He shall be apprized of them, according to th[e] request, contained in your favor of the 7. inst.9

1Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 148, n. 2. See also n. 8, below.

2JM to Jefferson, 11 Feb. and the citations in nn. 8 and 9; to Randolph, 11 Feb. 1783. For the “various opinions” in regard to “the assessment of lands,” see JM Notes, 12 Feb., and nn. 1, 13; 14 Feb., and n. 7; 17 Feb., and nn. 1, 3, 4; 18 Feb., and nn. 4, 8; 19 Feb., and nn. 6, 7, 11, 18–20; 20 Feb., and nn. 6, 7, 9; 21 Feb., and n. 16; JM to Randolph, 18 Feb. 1783, and n. 3.

3Viewing the matter as a nationalist, Randolph was convinced that equitably providing for “the united fund,” or in the phrase of Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation, the “common treasury” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XIX, 217), could be attained only by amending the Articles.

4That is, “statement.” In this connection JM was the principal author of the “Address to the States, by the United States in Congress Assembled,” adopted by Congress on 26 April 1783 (q.v.). See also JM Notes, 18 March 1783.

5JM Notes, 12 Feb., nn. 3, 5, 6, 9, 1215; 13 Feb., and n. 1; 18 Feb., and nn. 10–12; 19 Feb., and nn. 3, 4, 14–17, 21, 22; 20 Feb., n. 14; 21 Feb., and nn. 4, 16, 27, 28; JM to Randolph, 18 Feb., and nn. 1, 2; 25 Feb. 1783.

6Jefferson to JM, 7 Feb., and nn. 3, 4, 8; 14 Feb. (2d letter), and n. 22; JM to Jefferson, 13 Feb. 1783, and n. 3.

7For a summary of the contents of a statute enacted by the Virginia General Assembly on 2 July 1782 for recruiting Virginia continental troops, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 93, n. 9; 313, and n. 3. For examples of the allocation of money for the payment of bounties to recruits and fees to the county lieutenants and other officials in charge of recruitment, see JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 165, 168, 214, 223; 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, 419–20; 438, 441, 442–43, 452, 456. For at least a partial explanation of “the delay until this time,” see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 259, n. 7; Harrison to Delegates, 7 Feb., and nn. 4, 5; Randolph to JM, 7 Feb. 1783, and n. 9. See also Randolph to JM, 1 Mar. 1783. At the same time, embarrassed for cash, the executive had been diverting recruitment money to the payment of pressing demands, with the expectation of replacing those outlays from accruals to the contingent fund (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 204, 211).

8Randolph no doubt referred especially to “Henrico,” because the house of Dabney Pettus, in which Randolph and his family resided, was in that county.

9JM to Randolph, 1 Feb. 1783. Robert R. Livingston, secretary for foreign affairs, should be inserted in the blank. For his resignation on 2 December 1782 and his consent given later that month to continue in the office throughout the winter, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 337; 338, nn. 2, 4; 342–43; 353, n. 3; 428, and n. 1; 449. One of the “terrors,” which had prompted Livingston’s resignation and probably would have been more frightening to Dr. James McClurg, was the heavy financial cost of the office in excess of the $4,000 salary. Other “impediments” were the uncertainty of appointment by Congress, even though McClurg should be nominated, and “the precariousness” of tenure, even though he should become Livingston’s successor (ibid., V, 344, n. 5; 358; 402; 406, n. 34; Randolph to JM, 1 Feb. 1783, and n. 8).

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