Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 13 February 1783

From James Madison

Philada. Feby. 13th. 1783.

Dear Sir

The Chevr. de la Luzerne having just given me notice that he shall send an Express to the Romulus in ½ an hour I sieze the opportunity of inclosing a copy of the British Kings speech which presages a speedy establishment of peace. What effect this circumstance may have on your mission is at present uncertain. For myself I cannot think that any thing short of a final and authentic ratification ought to be listened to in that view. But I am told that it is the opinion of Mr. Morris that no vessel will sail from any American port whilst the critical uncertainty continues. Whether any and what changes may be produced in the orders to the Romulus will be known from the Commander. Adieu.

J. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed by Madison with his name and the date sent. Enclosure: See below.

The British Kings speech: George III’s speech on the opening of Parliament, 5 Dec. 1782, stated that he had pointed all his “views and measures” to “an entire and cordial reconciliation” with the “colonies” and that he had gone so far as to offer “to declare them free and independent states, by an article to be inserted in the treaty of peace. Provisional articles are agreed upon, to take effect whenever terms of peace shall be finally settled with the court of France” (Hansard, Parl. Hist., xxiii, 205–6). Copies of the King’s speech reached Congress on 13 Feb. 1783 (see Elias Boudinot to Nathanael Greene, 13 Feb., Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 49; Madison, “Notes of Debate,” JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxv, 898). Confirmation of the news that a provisional treaty had been signed (an event which had in fact taken place in Paris, 30 Nov. 1782) was “hourly” expected, but Capt. Joshua Barney of the Washington, who had been granted a passport by the express order of George III on 10 Dec., did not reach America until a month after copies of the King’s speech circulated here; hence the grave uncertainty attending TJ’s mission. (The passport is printed in Wharton, Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev., vi, 137, note.) Meanwhile, on 20 Jan. 1783, provisional articles of peace between Great Britain and France had been signed in Paris, and a declaration of the cessation of hostilities had been signed by the British and American commissioners (same, p. 223–4). This news reached Congress on 24 Mch. “by a French Cutter from Cadiz despatched by Ct. d’Estaing to notify the event to all vessels at sea, and engaged by the zeal of the Marquis de la Fayette to convey it to Congress. This confirmation of peace produced the greater joy, as the preceding delay, the cautions of Mr. Laurens’s letter of the 24 of Decr. and the general suspicions of Ld. Shelburne’s sincerity had rendered an immediate and general peace extremely problematical in the minds of many” (Madison’s “Notes of Debate,” JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxv, 940; Laurens’ letter from Paris, 24 Dec. 1782, printed in Wharton, vi, 164–5, was apparently received just prior to the news confirming the treaty; see also Lafayette to Robert R. Livingston, Cadiz, 5 Feb. 1783, same, p. 238–40). Not until 24 Mch., then, could TJ be relieved of the last vestige of doubt as to whether he would still have to proceed to France. Congress officially released him from his appointment on 1 Apr.; see the resolution printed under that date and also Livingston to TJ, 4 Apr. 1783.

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