James Madison Papers
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Queries to and Answers by Jacquelin Ambler, [3 December 1782–8 February 1783]

Queries to and Answers by Jacquelin Ambler

Queries Sent to Jacquelin Ambler

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Randolph was the recipient of this copy, now folio 94 in Vol. IV. For the notes on its docket and on that of JM’s draft copy, now folio 76 in Vol. II of the same collection, see ed. n.

Answers by Jacquelin Ambler to Queries

MS (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Answr. to certain queries relative to affairs of Virga. inclosed in letter of 8 Feby. 1783 from J. Ambler Esqr.”

[3 December 1782–8 February 1783]

Editorial Note

In his letter to Edmund Randolph, 3 December 1782 (q.v.), JM enclosed two copies of these questions. One copy was for Randolph’s files, the other for delivery to Jacquelin Ambler, the Virginia state treasurer, for his reply. Randolph docketed his copy, “Queries sent to Mr. Ambler.” Having recovered this copy many years later, JM added “1783” to Randolph’s docket. Even later, in his old age, JM docketed his own draft copy “June 6 1782 Queries from R. Morris.” Above this docket, “James Madison” appears in an unknown hand.

The dates in the two dockets admit of no certain explanation. On the Randolph copy JM may have written “1783” as the year when he received the replies to his queries. On his draft copy he may have combined the year mentioned in query No. 16 with the day and month mentioned in query No. 20. “R. Morris” certainly did not prepare the list of questions, although as superintendent of finance he had sought answers to some of them and had conferred about them with JM and other delegates in Congress (Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States (6 vols.; Washington, 1889). description ends , IV, 601–4, 790–94; V, 164–69; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXII, 429–46; 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, 67–69; 72, n. 1; 140, n. 3; 269–70; 270, n. 2; 283–84). For the immediate context of the queries, see the first paragraph of JM to Randolph, 3 December 1782.

Although, in view of the efforts of Morris and Congress to obtain money to ease the severe financial crisis, JM hoped for quick replies to his queries, nearly two months elapsed before he received even a part of the desired information (JM to Randolph, 30 December 1782). The delay was occasioned by the heavy load of public duties borne by Ambler and other Virginia officials upon whom he had to depend for relevant financial data. In a letter of 1 February 1783 to JM, Ambler ambiguously remarked that he had been unable to obtain from the auditors “Answers to any of the other Queries” (LC: Madison Papers). This may signify either that he was at that time enclosing replies to some of the queries or had enclosed them in an earlier letter; but no earlier letter has been found. This enclosure, granting that he sent one either before or on 1 February 1783, probably answered only the first eight questions. The replies to these are now missing, and were in 1900, when Gaillard Hunt prepared his edition of JM’s writings (Madison, Writings description begins (Hunt ed.). Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900–1910). description ends [Hunt ed.], I, 271 n.). As for the remaining twelve questions, Ambler enclosed in his letter of 8 February 1783 (LC: Madison Papers) the replies made and written by Foster Webb, Jr., commissioner of the Virginia state treasury.

Thus, although a considerable interval of time separates the twenty questions from the twelve answers, they are brought together here in deference to clarity rather than chronology.

[3 December 1782]

1.  What is the amount of the old Contl: bills actually sunk by Virga. in pursuance of the Act of the 18th. of March?1

2.  What is the probable sum remaining in the hands of Individuals in Virga?2

3.  Does it circulate and at what value?3

4.  How Stands the law with respect to it & what is the prospect of its further redemption?4

5.  How much of the 6/10ths. of the new Contl. emissions has been issued?5

6.  How much of the sum issued has been redeemed?6

7.  At what value was it generally issued?7

8.  At what value does the outstanding sum (if any) circulate?8

9.  Have the State emissions been all funded at 1 for 1000 under the act for that purpose and what is the sum of specie certificates issued thereupon?

[3 December 1782–8 February 1783]9

9. Have the State Emissions been all funded at 1 for 1000 under the act for that purpose and what the sum of specie certificates issued thereupon? } A small sum only has been funded, the greater part being laid out in the purchase of back lands. The time continued for bringing in the same till first June next.10
10. At what rate11 are these Certificates negociated?
10. At what rate are those Certificates negociated? } No demand for such—the day of redemption being too distant.12
11. What is the conjectured amount of Certificates in Virga. issued by Continental officers? and at what rate are they negociated?
11. What is the conjectured amount of Certificates in Virginia issued by Cont. Officers and at what are they negociated? } About £100,000. has been issued to Cont. Officers in Certificates, and others daily issuing—negociated from 2. to 4. for 1. Those issued by them cannot be ascertained.
12. What is the conjectured amount of Certificates issued by the State for continental purposes? and at rate negociated?
12. What is do. of do. issued by the State for Continental purposes? & at what are they negociated? } The Auditors of public Accounts can only answer these, who are much engaged at present. The debits are supposed to be very large.13
13. What is the amount of debits in the Auditor’s Office14 agst. the U.S. for advances made by Virginia independent of the Requisitions of Congress?
13. What is the amount of debits vs. the U.S. for advances made by Virginia independent of requisitions of Congress? } 15
14. What is the amount of credits independent of the same?
14. What is do. of Credits independent of the same? }
15. In what degree and at what times is there a prospect of payments under the Requisition of 8 million for the current year?
 
15. In what degree and at what times, is there prospect of payments under the requisition of 8. Million for the Current Year?16 } No probability soon. Taxes for the Current year are not payable till first May & those chiefly commutable for; as you will observe by the Gazette of the 1st Feby.17
16. What appears from the returns to be the aggregate valuation of lands made under the act of Jany. 1. 1782 directing the same?
16. What appears from the Returns to be the aggregate valuation of Lands, made under the Act of July 1st.18 1782. directing the same? } £6,042,401 .. 2 .. 5. N.B. Eight Counties have made no returns.19
17. Is the valuation deemed pretty true on the whole and pretty equal among individuals?
17. Is the valuation deemed pretty true on the whole? and pretty equal among Individuals? } Very unequal, especially among Individuals, a law passed last Session for equalizing the land Tax, is intended to remedy the Evil complained of.20
18. What is the computed number of White inhabitants?
18. What is the computed number of White Inhabitants in Virginia? } Many of the Returns did not distinguish between the Whites & blacks so that this cannot be at present answered.21
19. What of Black do?
19. What of black do? } About 230,000.22
20. What is the amount of the losses from the Enemy returned under the act of June 6. last
20. What is the Amt. of losses returned under the Act of June 6th last?23 } Returns not yet fully made.

1In his draft copy JM wrote “1780” after “March.” For the ordinance of Congress of that date and the Virginia statute of 12 July 1780 complying therewith, see 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 , II, 47, n. 4; 49, n. 2; IV, 173–74.

2In his draft copy, immediately following “remaining in,” JM deleted “circulation,” substituted “the hands of individuals,” and omitted “in Virga.” The question relates to the old continental currency, which by the act of 18 March 1780 was to be withdrawn at a ratio of 40 to 1 by state emissions of new paper currency. The query was prompted by Samuel Osgood’s motion and the ensuing debate, as described in JM to Randolph, 3 December 1782 (q.v.).

3The antecedent of “it” is the “old Contl: bills” mentioned in query No. 1. For the status of the currency in Virginia, see Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 16 August, and n. 4; JM to Randolph, 20 August 1782, n. 17. A Virginia law of 5 January 1782 stipulated 1,000 to 1 as the legal ratio of depreciation between the continental bills and specie (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 , III, 162, n. 4; IV, 362, and n. 43).

4See n. 3, above. JM interlineated “to it” and “its.” A statute enacted by the Virginia General Assembly on 5 January 1782 abolished the state emissions of paper money as legal tender immediately, except for the payment of taxes for 1781 and for the purchase of public-land warrants prior to 1 October 1782. For the latter use, the old continental currency would also be accepted. By 1 October 1782 all state emissions of paper money were to be delivered to the treasurer for destruction. In their stead the former owners would receive, at a ratio of 1 for 1,000 face value, loan-office certificates, convertible to specie on or before 1 December 1790 (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 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). On 3 December, in reviving this statute, the General Assembly extended until 1 June 1783 the time for exchanging the state emissions for loan certificates and for accepting the old continental bills in payment of land warrants. By a joint resolution on 27–28 December 1782, the legislature also directed the treasurer to exchange the continental currency at the ratio of 500 to 1 for interest-bearing certificates maturing in six years (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. 50–51, 84, 90; 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, 133).

5In his draft copy JM omitted “of the new Contl. emissions.” The ordinance of Congress of 18 March 1780 stipulated that 4/10ths of the new paper currency, which was to retire the old continental currency, should be for the use of Congress and the remainder for the use of the issuing state. See 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 , II, 49, n. 2. For illustrations of Virginia’s difficulties in complying with this ordinance, see ibid., III, 90, n. 6; 109, n. 6; 178–79; 182, n. 20; 336, nn. 3, 4; 347–48; IV, 140, and n. 3; 173–74; 175, n. 2; Harrison to Virginia Delegates, 16 August, and n. 4; Notes on Debates, 26 November 1782, and n. 8. The total of the 1-for-40 money issued by Virginia prior to 3 December 1782 is indeterminable, but it must have been considerable. On 19 January 1789, for example, the state commissioner for settling accounts with the United States reported finding £85,936 11s. of such money, still awaiting destruction, among the “papers in his office” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 549). See n. 10, below.

6A Virginia statute of 12 July 1780 (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 , May 1780, p. 84; 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, 248) provided that the emissions of 1-for-40 money should, in compliance with the congressional ordinance of 18 March of that year, “be redeemable in specie” by 31 December 1786, but the amount so redeemed by the date of the questionnaire must have been minimal, to say the least.

7Although the statute cited in n. 6, above, was enacted with the hope that the “new Contl. emissions” would circulate at par with specie, the market ratio reflected their great depreciation from the moment of issuance. The Board of Auditors, in reviewing JM’s expense accounts, took this fact into account (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 , II, 79, n. 4; 98, n. 8; 253, n. 6; III, 39, n. 5; 162, n. 2; 263, n. 3), and a Virginia statute of 5 January 1782 (n. 3, above) established a scale of depreciation.

8The statute cited in n. 3, above, provided that the scale of depreciation between “the current money of this state or of the United States” and specie should rise from 65 to 1 as of July 1780 to 1,000 to 1 as of December 1781 (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, 471, 473), with the exception provided by the joint resolution of 27–28 December 1782 (n. 4, above).

9Beyond this point to the end of the questionnaire, each repeated query (designated by a brace) and the answer thereto is in the hand of Foster Webb, Jr. See third paragraph of ed. n.

10See n. 3. On 5 December 1782, in response to a request of the day before from Governor Harrison for a statement of public expenditures and debts, both funded and unfunded, the auditors excused themselves from complying on the grounds of too few clerks, the numerous “importunities of Gentlemen to have the business of their constituents finished before the rising of the Assembly,” and incomplete records, owing to lack of opportunity to count “large sums of paper money deposited in the Treasury sometime ago for the purpose of being funded” (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, 392; MS in Virginia State Library).

By 1797, when the records of the auditor’s office were at length completed, the total of the money funded amounted to £7,620 28s. 11d. Of this, a surprising portion, probably 50 per cent of the whole (contrary to Webb’s belief in 1783), had been covered by certificates issued in 1782 (Registrar of Certificates for Money Funded, 1782–1797, MS vol., 64 pp., in Virginia State Library). This total had increased but little since 20 November 1789, when the state auditor reported the amount as £7,183 2s. 3d. (American State Papers, Class III [Finance], I [Washington, 1832], 31).

11In his draft copy JM wrote “value” rather than “rate.”

12See n. 4, above.

13See n. 10, above; also 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, 405.

14In his draft copy, JM omitted “in the Auditor’s office.”

15Webb indicated by a brace that his answer to query No. 12 covered Nos. 13 and 14 also.

17A Virginia statute of 28 December 1782 provided that on 1 May 1783 there would fall due poll and certain excise taxes and license fees, payable in specie or commutables, and the land tax, of which 50 per cent must be discharged in specie, with 40 per cent commutable in deerskins, flour, hemp, or tobacco, and 10 per cent in Virginia or continental bills of credit (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. 90; 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, 112–29). A summary of the law is in the Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends of 1 February 1783.

18The law to which JM referred had been enacted on 5 January 1782. It directed the justices of the peace in each county to appoint three resident and “reputable freeholders” as “commissioners for ascertaining the value of all lands,” except their own, which would be assessed by “two justices to be appointed by the respective courts.” In terms of specie, the assessments were to be adjusted to the “several kinds of land” and to the designated acreage of each type which every owner possessed (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 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, 501–17). The date used by Webb is that on which a new act was passed, but though amendatory, it was irrelevant, for it left untouched the provisions for assessing lands (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 85; 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, 66–71).

19Since penalties for noncompliance with the assessment provisions of the law were enforceable only within the county courts, the destruction of records for this period in certain counties, probably delinquent, renders it impossible to identify all eight of them. Among them were almost certainly Caroline, Charles City, Culpeper, Frederick, and Monongalia, and possibly Botetourt (Virginia State Library Bulletin, VII [Jan. 1914], 20–28).

20For the statute of 28 December 1782, intended to mitigate the inequities of the law of 5 January 1782, see Randolph to JM, 22 November 1782, n. 10. The amendatory statute also named two examiners to inspect “the returns made of the valuations of the present year.” After ascertaining “the average price per acre of all the lands” in a given district and comparing that price with that of “average or standard” land, they were directed, “by a just per centage, to apply the difference to the account of every individual within the district, and add to or deduct from the same accordingly.” County-by-county results were to be determined by 1 May 1783, on which day the relevant list was to be delivered to the county tax commissioners, who would deliver the list on 15 May to the sheriff in his capacity as tax collector (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, 140–45). See also Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 212–13.

21For the Virginia statute of 1 July 1782 providing for an enumeration of the inhabitants of the state, see 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, 360, n. 28. Jefferson estimated that in 1782 the population of Virginia comprised 296,852 “free inhabitants,” among whom, however, would be free persons of color (ibid., IV, 419, n. 5).

22Jefferson’s estimate of the number of slaves was 270,762 (ibid.).

23Although adopted by the House of Delegates and Senate on 6 and 8 June, respectively, “An act to ascertain the losses and injuries sustained from the depredations of the enemy within this commonwealth” awaited the signature of the speaker of the House of Delegates on 1 or 2 July 1782 before becoming a law (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 63, 65, 85, 86). The statute directed the justices of each county court, “or so many of their own body as to them shall seem most proper,” to report to the executive before the opening of the next session of the General Assembly a classified list “with the proofs,” of “losses and injuries, both public and private,” inflicted within their respective counties by “the enemy in their several invasions” (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, 27). The statute was passed to make effective a joint resolution of 25–28 May 1782 authorizing the Governor in Council to appoint a board of eight commissioners to consolidate the separate lists (Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782 description begins Minute Book, House of Delegates, May 1782, MS in Virginia State Library. description ends , pp. 53, 55; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 132; 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, 285, and n. 90).

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