To James Madison, Sr.
Williamsburg June 27–1776
I this day disposed of the Bill of Exchange I brought down to Col. Zane1 at 42%. and filled up the Blank for the sum with £.180. I take this earliest opportunity of acquainting you with it that no inconvenience may arise from your making any engagements inconsistent with the sale I have made. I was unwilling to take so low a price for the Bill but thought it the best that could be done at this time. If the Exchange sd. rise hereafter it will be very uncertain whether our remoteness from the market wd. not have disabled us from taking advantage of it.2
It is impossible for me to say when the Convention will adjourn, but am pretty certain it will not be so soon as was expected when I wrote by Troilus.3 It is said that 7 Ships, some very large, have within a few days past come to the aid of Dunmore Whether they be transports or Ships of War is not yet determined.4 This is all the News we have at present.
I am dear sir, Yrs. affectely,
James Madison jr.
1. Isaac Zane, Jr. (d. 1795), a Pennsylvania-born merchant, distiller, and miller of Frederick and Shenandoah counties, Va. His public service included membership in the House of Burgesses from 1773 to 1775, in the general conventions of March, July, and December 1775 and of May 1776, and in the House of Delegates from 1776 to 1795. He was also a colonel of militia. In his will he bequeathed ten guineas to Jefferson and another ten to either JM or his father (Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, VI [1924–25], 272).
2. A bill of exchange was ordinarily drawn against a merchant with whom the drawer had a financial balance in his favor. Being negotiable, the bill might pass from hand to hand for months before ultimately reaching the drawee. Although in a colony like Virginia, where specie was rare, these bills were legal currency (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 , VI, 85), they had no fixed value and were usually accepted by a creditor at a heavy discount. This fluctuation might reflect, for example, a drop in tobacco prices and hence a decline in the credit of the signer of the bill of exchange or of the merchant against whom it was drawn.
3. No doubt a slave, and probably the one who had brought horses to Williamsburg from Montpelier about a week earlier (JM to James Madison, Sr., [1–15 June 1776]). JM’s letter, conveyed to his father by Troilus, has not been found.
4. See JM to James Madison, Sr., [1–15 June 1776], n. 6. The figure “7” agrees with the number of anchor cables cut by the British fleet in its hurry, on 10 July, to get beyond the range of the patriot guns. Four of these ships were the “Fowey,” “Dunmore,” “Otter,” and “Roebuck” (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , I, 461–62).