James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Jacquelin Ambler, 22 December 1781

From Jacquelin Ambler

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Addressed to “The Honobl. James Madison of Congress Philadelphia.”

Richmond Virginia Decr. 22d. 1781.

Dear Sir

Our friend Mr. Jameson is gone below, and will be absent for some time, endeavouring to collect the scattered remains of the effects which are left him:1 I promised to acknowledge the receipt of your favors as they should come to hand, and to communicate any thing which should occur here worth your notice. I assure you it will give me much satisfaction to open and continue a correspondence, but I fear you will find the entertainment you receive thro’ this Channel more than paid for by the trouble of writing a weekly letter.

The difficulties which the deranged state of our financies had reduced us to, seem to have detered our [Assembly]2 from entering heartily into Business until Monday last;3 they have been pretty assiduous since, but such have been the insuperable obstacles they had to encounter after advancing a little way on any line, that each succeeding day has been almost altogether spent in undoing the labour’d Work of the former. At length it seems determined that our paper Money, Certifs. &c. shall be reduced to Specie at 1000 for 1. and loan Certifs. given for them payable in seven Years.4 The greatest difficulty, I fear still remains—The providing effectual means for supporting the southern Army, which seems still to be expected from us.5

The insatiable thirst for hard Money which almost universally prevails amongst our Countrymen, would incline them to wish for the continuance of the British Prisoners in the State, provided they could be satisfyed that payment would be made for guarding and maintaining them in real Money—but they shudder at Certificates—and we have nothing else.6

I am, with great esteem and regard, Dear Sir, Your most obedt. Servt.

J. Ambler7

1David Jameson’s home was “below” Richmond, at Yorktown. He was absent from the Council of State from 18 December 1781 through 9 January 1782 (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 15–23).

2Instead of writing “Assembly,” Ambler left a space and, perhaps years later, JM jotted in it an abbreviation of that word.

3Ambler was judging the work of the Virginia General Assembly in terms of its halting progress toward passage of the all-important bill “for calling in and funding the paper money of this state,” introduced on 27 November. The members of the House of Delegates were unable to agree upon the terms of the measure until “Monday last,” 17 December, when new resolutions on the subject, presented by Patrick Henry, were carried through two readings. By the date of the present letter, the Henry bill had passed the House and was under consideration by the Senate (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. 18, 21, 27, 28, 43, 44, 47, 49).

4The act, mentioned in n. 3, became a law on 5 January 1782. By its terms, which superseded all earlier laws on the subject, the General Assembly abolished the legal tender quality of Virginia’s paper money, except that it would be receivable for taxes due in 1781 and, together with unredeemed continental currency, could be used until 1 October 1782 to purchase “warrants for unappropriated lands.” On or before that date the paper money of Virginia must be delivered to, and destroyed by, the state treasurer. In exchange for this money, he was authorized, at the rate of one thousand to one, to issue loan-office certificates paying 6 per cent interest and redeemable in specie on or before 1 December 1790. The law pledged that the income from the “taxes upon lands” would be used to pay the interest on the certificates (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, p. 74; 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, 456–57).

5See JM to Pendleton, 27 November, n. 3, and 11 December; Virginia Delegates to Harrison, 18 December 1781, and nn. 3, 4, and 5. Relevant measures adopted by the General Assembly before adjourning on 5 January 1782 were “An act to adjust and regulate the pay and accounts of the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line on continental establishment,” “An act for supplying the southern army with waggons and horses,” and “An act to recruit the Virginia line on the continental establishment” (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, 462–68, 482–83, 499–500).

7Jacquelin Ambler (1742–1798), a merchant of Yorktown, served during the early years of the Revolution as the naval officer for the York River district and as a commissioner of the peace of York County. In May 1780, after eleven months as a member of the Board of Trade, he was appointed to the Council of State by the Virginia General Assembly. In April 1782 he resigned from the council to become treasurer of the Commonwealth, a position which he continued to hold until his death (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , I, 322; II, 240, 257; III, 76, 184; 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 1779, pp. 54, 55; May 1780, pp. 21, 22; 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 , II, 86, 122, 123; III, 219 n.; 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, 496).

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