James Madison Papers

Address to Captain Patrick Henry and the Gentlemen Independents of Hanover, 9 May 1775

Address to Captain Patrick Henry and the
Gentlemen Independents of Hanover

MS not located. Text from the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg, Purdie), 19 May 1775, supplement. Patrick Henry apparently sent the original manuscript, possibly in JM’s hand, to Alexander Purdie, who most likely destroyed it after setting the type. Peter Force in his American Archives, 4th ser., II, 539–40, followed the Gazette’s version although, probably inadvertently, he substituted “county magazine” for “country magazine.” On the other hand, William Cabell Rives in his History of the Life and Times of James Madison, I, 95, stated that he reproduced the address from a copy of it in JM’s hand. The Rives version alters that of the Gazette by using the word “opportunity” instead of “occasion,” and “in which” instead of “where.” No copy of the address in JM’s hand is known to the present editors. Among his papers in the Library of Congress is a copy of the four resolutions which accompanied the address, but the penmanship is not JM’s. The evidence that he drafted the address and the resolutions is inconclusive at best.

[9 May 1775]

The committee for Orange county, met on Tuesday the 9th of May, taking into their consideration the removal of the powder from the publick magazine, and the compensation obtained by the independent company of Hanover; and observing also, that the receipt given by Capt. Patrick Henry, to his Majesty’s Receiver General, refers the final disposal of the money to the next Colony Convention, came into the following resolutions:

1. That the Governour’s removal of the powder lodged in the magazine, and set apart for the defence of the country, was fraudulent, unnecessary, and extremely provoking to the people of this colony.

2. That the resentment shewn by the Hanover volunteers, and the reprisal they have made on the King’s property, highly merit the approbation of the publick, and the thanks of this committee.

3. That if any attempt should be made at the ensuing Convention to have the money returned to his Majesty’s Receiver General, our delegates be, and they are hereby instructed, to exert all their influence in opposing such attempt, and in having the money laid out in gunpowder for the use of the colony.

4. That the following address be presented to Capt. Patrick Henry, and the Gentlemen independents of Hanover.


We, the committee for the county of Orange,1 having been fully informed of your seasonable and spirited proceedings in procuring a compensation for the powder fraudulently taken from the country magazine, by command of Lord Dunmore, and which it evidently appears his Lordship, notwithstanding his assurances, had no intention to restore, entreat you to accept their cordial thanks for this testimony of your zeal for the honour and interest of your country. We take this occasion also to give it as our opinion, that the blow struck in the Massachusetts government is a hostile attack on this and every other colony, and a sufficient warrant to use violence and reprisal, in all cases where it may be expedient for our security and welfare.

James Madison, chairman, James Taylor, Thomas Barbour, Zachariah Burnley, Rowland Thomas, James Madison, jun. William Moore, James Walker, Lawrence Taliaferro, Henry Scott, Thomas Bill.2

1The Orange County Committee of Safety, organized on 22 December 1774, had JM’s father as its chairman, Francis Taylor as its clerk, and JM as one of its members. Prior to 9 May 1775 the committee’s only known activities were to oblige Francis Moore, Jr., to make a public apology for violating the Association by gambling, and to burn some “execrable” Tory pamphlets found in the possession of Reverend John Wingate (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Dixon and Hunter], 28 January, 11 March, and 15 April 1775).

JM apparently was one of the men of Orange County who carried the committee’s address and resolutions to Patrick Henry. At any rate the latter, who was then at Port Royal, Va., on his way to the meeting of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, consented to take with him JM’s letter of 9 May to Bradford. Henry took his seat in Congress on 18 May.

In the Lloyd W. Smith Collection of the Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, N.J., is the following acknowledgment by Patrick Henry of the Orange County Committee’s address and resolutions:

Port Royal may 11th. 1775


I think myself & the Volunteers of Hanover peculiarly happy to find, that the Reprizal we have made for the purpose of compensating the Colony for the Loss of the Powder from the Magazine, has met with the Approbation of your Committee. Give me leave to assure you Sir, that nothing called us forth upon that Occasion, but Zeal for the public Good.

I can discover nothing improper for the public Eye in the several Votes & Resolutions sent me. The Gentm. who are now so kind as to escort me, wish it (together with similar Votes of three other Cotys recd. today,) to be printed.

Be pleased to present my best Compliments to the Committee & believe me to be Sir yr. mo. obedt. sert.

P. Henry Jr.

James Madison Esqr.

2Thomas Barbour (1735–1825) was justice of the peace for some forty-five years, a burgess from 1769 to 1775, a member of the General Conventions of 1774 and 1775, sheriff in 1776 and 1777, and county lieutenant, 1784–1786 and 1789–1791. Replacing William Moore as major of militia in 1778, he served for three years with this rank, and the next three as lieutenant colonel. When JM declined to be county lieutenant in 1784, Barbour assumed that office. His plantation, Bloomingdale, neighbored Montpelier on the west. He and his sons, James and Philip Pendleton Barbour, were close friends of the Madisons (W[illiam] W. Scott, A History of Orange County, Virginia [Richmond, 1907], pp. 70–71, 183, 214). Zachariah Burnley (ca. 1730–1800) succeeded James Madison, Sr., as county lieutenant. He also served the county as justice of the peace, burgess, sheriff, and delegate in the General Assembly, 1780–1781. Thereafter he appears to have withdrawn from public life (Emma Dicken, comp., Our Burnley Ancestors and Allied Families [New York, 1946], pp. 44–46; William G. and Mary Newton Stanard, comps., The Colonial Virginia Register [Albany, 1902], pp. 173–75, 177, 191, 194, 196). Rowland Thomas (ca. 1725–ca. 1800) was a justice of the peace for eighteen years and sheriff for six years before moving to Spotsylvania County around 1787. Later he moved to Kentucky (Orange County Order Book, No. 6; Minute Books, Nos. 1 and 2, microfilm in Virginia State Library). William Moore (1740–1802) was a state assemblyman during the Revolution, and sheriff of Orange County from 1784 to 1789. He was usually known as “Major Moore” because of his rank in the militia when he resigned his commission in 1778. A lifelong friend of the Madisons, he was apparently a half brother of JM’s mother (D. N. Davidson, comp., “Several Famous Families of Orange County, Virginia” [mimeographed; Orange, Va., 1934]). James Walker (ca. 1729–ca. 1785) was a justice of the peace for thirteen years, a burgess in 1761–1767, 1769–1771, and 1775, sheriff in 1771–1772, a delegate to the Virginia Convention of March 1775, and a state senator in 1777–1778 (Orange County Order Book, No. 6; Minute Book, No. 1, passim). Lawrence Taliaferro (1734–1798) of Rose Hill was commissioned a justice of the peace and a militia captain in 1768. He remained in militia service and commanded the “Culpeper Minute-Men” at the Battle of Great Bridge on 9 December 1775. In 1778 he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Orange County militia (Orange County Order Book, No. 7, p. 514; Lineage Book of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, LXVI [1923], 155). “Henry Scott” was apparently a printer’s error for Johnny Scott (ca. 1738–1805), justice of the peace for twenty-four years, a militia captain and commissary from 1775 to 1778, and a delegate to the General Assembly from 1781 to 1783 (Orange County Minute Books, Nos. 1–3, passim). “Thomas Bill” was a printer’s error for Thomas Bell (ca. 1739–1796), justice of the peace from 1769 to 1792 (ibid.).

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