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From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 25 December 1781

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is missing, but the letter is docketed in Pendleton’s hand, “James Maddison Esq. Decr. 25 1781.”

Philada. Dcr. 25th. 1781.

Dear Sir

You only do me justice in ascribing your disappointment in the post of the week preceding your favor of the 16th. instant, to some other cause than my neglect. If I were less disposed to punctuality your example wd. preserve me from transgressing it. As the lost letter went into the post office here & you did not receive it from the post in Virga. the delinquency must have happened in that line.1 It is however I believe of little consequence, as I do not recollect that any thing material has been contained in my letters for several weeks, any more than there will be in this in which I have little else to say than to tender you the compliments of the day. Perhaps indeed it will be new to you what appeared here in a paper several days ago, that the success of Commodore Johnstone in taking 5 Dutch E. India men homeward bound & destroying a 6th. is confirmed. Whatever may be thought of this stroke of fortune by him & his rapacious crew, the Ministry will hardly think it a compensation to the public for the danger to which the remains of their possessions in the East will be exposed by the failure of his Expedition.2

It gives me great pleasure to hear of the honorable acquittal of Mr. Jefferson. I know his abilities, & think I know his fidelity & zeal for his Country so well, that I am persuaded it was a just one. We are impatient [p. 338] to know whether he will undertake the new service to which he is called.3

I am Dr. [Sir] Yrs. affectionately

J. Madison Jr.

1Pendleton’s letter of 16 December 1781 has not been found. The lost or delayed letter to which JM refers was probably that of 27 November 1781, for 4 December would have been Joseph Jones’s day to write Pendleton.

2See Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 28 August 1781, n. 6. The Pennsylvania Journal of 22 and 26 December 1781 carried the reports of Sir George Johnstone’s capture, on 22 July 1781, of the Dutch ships at Saldanha Bay in South Africa. Johnstone had failed in his primary mission of reaching the Cape of Good Hope before the arrival there of the French fleet commanded by Admiral Suffren (David Hannay, Short History of the Royal Navy, p. 286).

3See JM to Jefferson, 18 November 1781, n. 1. In his missing letter of 16 December, Pendleton obviously informed JM of the General Assembly’s dismissal of charges against Jefferson’s conduct as governor. The House of Delegates exonerated him on 12 December, and the Senate three days later, “with several amendments.” The amended resolutions were returned to the House on 17 December and concurred with two days later. In all cases the vote was unanimous (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. 37, 42, 48; 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, 568). On 19 December Jefferson declined his appointment of 30 November 1781 as a delegate to Congress (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. 15; October 1781, pp. 17, 23, 37, 42, 48, 49; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 133–37).

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