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To James Madison from Edmund Pendleton, 31 March 1783

From Edmund Pendleton

Tr (LC: Force Transcripts). In the left margin at the top of the transcription, Peter Force’s clerk wrote “MSS [Mc]Guire’s.” 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 , I, xxii, xxiii. A passage, also taken from the original letter, but occasionally varying in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization from the present text, is in Stan. V. Henkel’s Catalogue No. 694 (1892), p. 92.

Edmundsbury,1 March 31st, 1783

My Dear Sir:

I yesterday evening return’d from my Visit and found yr favr of the 24th (that of the 11th I believe has been acknowledged) conveying me the long wish’d for & glorious Intelligence; which I cordially wish we may have virtue & social spirit enough to reap the full fruits of:2 I think the Peace upon the whole a very liberal one;3 and therefore most likely to be durable—never was so Important a Revolution as Ours, so cheaply, and in so short a time purchased; the value of which, I hope we shall not estimate by the price, but by its Intrinsic worth. The Payment of British debts does not set well on the stomachs of people in general here; you know my sentiments always were that a National War, tho’ it might suspend, ought not to destroy the Contracts or engagements of Individuals.4 The restitution of confiscated property, is touched so gently, as to produce no effect I imagine, tho’ for myself I declare, that in this state, I believe it would produce in general, good rather than evil, the lands being in the hands of worse Citizens than they were taken from:5 however [p. 423] I am my self no ways concerned either with the debts or property, and therefore shall leave it to the Legislature whose province it is to determine how the treaty is to be performed.6 It is probably on these Accounts that contests are very warm amongst the Land estates7 for our approaching Elections, which commence this week, & we shall soon see what is like to be the cast of them.8 We have in Goal several notorious forgers of Inspn & Mr Morris’s notes, and are hunting more of the Party discovered by two of the Gang, who have received their pardons in reward for the discovery. One case is a singular one and engages the ingenuity of the Bar; it is of an Inspection of tobo charged wth Forging the notes of his own Inspection,9 which those Gentn say is no Felony, but a breach of Trust, since by his office he had power to Issue the notes; and argue that the Objection is strongly fortified by a clause in the tobacco Laws, which subjects the Insprs. to a disability to hold any office & to a pecuniary Penalty for issuing notes for tobacco not actually received into the Warehouses, which they urges is all this man’s offence—how the[y] will succeed will soon be determined.10 My journey has so shaken my nerves that I can scarcely write—so begging my Complts to Mr Jones & joining in cordial congratulations wth you both on the memorable 20th of Jany11 I conclude

Yr very Affe friend

Edmd Pendleton

2Pendleton to JM, 15 Mar. 1783, and n. 13. JM’s letters of 11 and 24 March to Pendleton have not been found. See Pendleton to JM, 17 and 24 Feb., n. 3. In order to reach Pendleton by 30 March, JM’s letter of 24 March must have been delivered at Edmundsbury, Caroline County, by the special courier who left Philadelphia on the twenty-fourth with letters of that date from the Virginia delegates to Harrison and from JM to James Maury and to Edmund Randolph (qq.v.).

4Papers 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, 361, n. 39; V, 409; JM Notes, 16 Jan., and n. 4; 20 Mar., and n. 2; JM to Randolph, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 5.

5Papers 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, 361, n. 38; V, 80; 81, n. 5; 110; 111, n. 8; 111–12; 112, n. 11; JM Notes, 12–15 Mar.; Delegates to Harrison, 12 Mar. 1783, and n. 12.

7If “Land estates” is not an erroneous transcription by Peter Force’s clerk, Pendleton probably meant plantation owners who owed British creditors for debts incurred before the Revolution, and who in some instances had increased their landed “Estates” by purchasing acreage which Virginia had confiscated from absentee British or Loyalist titleholders.

8Randolph to JM, 29 Mar. 1783, and n. 6. In the April elections the voters of Caroline County, where Pendleton lived, returned Robert Gilchrist to the Virginia House of Delegates but replaced John Page with John Taylor (Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 15, 17). For Gilchrist, 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 , IV, 171–72; 173, n. 14. Although John Taylor of Caroline, only thirty years of age, had already served [p. 424] three terms as a delegate, he was still at the outset of his distinguished career (ibid., III, 37, n. 16; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 8, 11, 13). See Pendleton to JM, 14 Apr. 1783. The earliest extant land-tax records for Caroline County show that each of these men was a substantial owner in his home county. In 1787 Gilchrist paid taxes on 1,510 acres of land, Page on 3,992½, and Taylor on 1,123 (Caroline County Land-Tax Book, 1787, MS in Va. State Library).

9Instead of “Inspection of tobo” Pendleton probably wrote “Inspector of tobo.” See Randolph to JM, 29 Mar., and n. 4. For Robert Morris’ notes, 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, 271; 430; 431, n. 4; Randolph to JM, 1 Mar. 1783, n. 2. For the law of 2 July 1782, to which Pendleton referred, see Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, p. 86, MS in Va. State Library; 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 , XI, 95–98. On 28 June 1783 the loopholes existing in that measure were closed by the enactment of a long and detailed statute. See Randolph to JM, 1 Mar. 1783, n. 2.

10Ibid., n. 2. The copyist probably erred in adding an “s” to “urges.”

11Joseph Jones, who took weekly turns with JM in corresponding with Pendleton (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, 97; 98, n. 12; 158, nn. 6, 8). For the “memorable 20th of Jany,” see JM Notes, 31 Mar. 1783, n. 6.

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