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Instruction to Virginia Delegates in re Peace Negotiations, [17 and 19 December] 1782

Instruction to Virginia Delegates
in re Peace Negotiations

Printed text (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 is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, p. 69). Other copies, differing somewhat in capitalization and punctuation, are in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 28 December 1782 and Pennsylvania Packet of 7 January 1783.

[17 and 19 December 1782]1

Resolved, unanimously, That it be an instruction to our delegates in Congress, not to consent to open a communication with any agent or minister from his Britannic Majesty, upon the subject of a peace, separate from our great Ally the King of France, nor unless the independence of America, be in the most ample manner acknowledged as a preliminary thereto.2

1This resolution of the Virginia House of Delegates was referred on 17 December to the Senate, which concurred two days later (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 is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, pp. 70, 73). Neither the manuscript copy of the instruction, which Governor Harrison probably sent to the Virginia delegates in his dispatch of 4 January 1783 (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, 420–21), nor evidence that they submitted the instruction to Congress has been found. The governor’s dispatch was not received by the delegates until 20 January (Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 21 January 1783, MS in Virginia State Library). See also Randolph to JM, 20 December 1782.

2This instruction, somewhat similar in tenor to the one adopted on 24 May 1782 by the House of Delegates (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, 271–72), was the last of three instructions covered by the following preamble: “Whereas, the conduct of the British Ministry strongly evinces, that an endeavor to create dissentions between the good people of these United States, and their generous Ally, as well as to create a dislike in the minds of the people to their present Government and Governors, is the system now pursuing, whereby they expect to effect that which they have long since been satisfied the force of arms could not accomplish; and it highly behooves the representatives of the people to guard against such attempts in their beginning.” The first two instructions, also designed to foil the efforts “of the British Ministry” in this regard, directed the governor to expel from, or prevent from coming to, Virginia all suspected “secret emissaries from our enemies” and anyone [p. 409] having “a commission from his Britannic Majesty to treat with these United States, or either of them, for peace, separate from our great Ally” (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 is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1782, p. 69).

These resolutions were in partial fulfillment of recommendations made by Congress on 4 October “to the respective states” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 639; Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October, and ed. n.; JM to Randolph, 8 October, and nn. 18, 19). A further response by the Virginia General Assembly was the enactment on 24 December 1782 of “An act to prohibit intercourse with and the admission of British subjects into this state” (Report on Peace Negotiations, 4 October 1782, n. 5).

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