James Madison Papers

Election to Board of Admiralty, [22 March] 1780

Election to Board of Admiralty

Printed text (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVI, 277).

[22 March 1780]

Resolved, That a member be elected for the Board of Admiralty, in the room of Mr. [James]1 Forbes, who by reason of sickness cannot attend.

Congress proceeded to an election, and the ballots being taken, Mr. [James] Madison was elected.2

1All brackets are in printed text. Forbes (b. ca. 1731) of Charles City County, Md., died on 25 March 1780 after serving in Congress for a little over two years.

2JM’s service on the Board of Admiralty, created by Congress on 28 October 1779 in the stead of its Marine Committee, extended from 22 March until 6 June 1780, when, at his own request, he was excused from further attendance (Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [34 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1904–37], XVI, 277; XVII, 490). During this period, his colleagues on the Board were the chairman, Francis Lewis, a New York merchant, and William Ellery, a delegate to Congress from Rhode Island. As the Board’s junior member, young in years and inexperienced in maritime affairs, JM probably contributed little to shaping the correspondence, reports, and motions emanating from the Board. While he was a member, it dispatched at least forty letters (Charles Oscar Paullin, ed., Out-Letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty [2 vols.; New York, 1914], II, 168–208), and brought sundry reports and resolutions before Congress. The originals of these latter documents are among the Papers of the Continental Congress in the National Archives. Many of them are in the hand of the Board’s secretary, John Brown. No one of them, either on the score of its handwriting or content, can be attributed with assurance to JM. For this reason, the present volume includes merely samples of the matters submitted to Congress by the Board and of its outgoing letters during JM’s membership on it. These samples will at least illustrate the Board’s activities which were of concern to JM in the spring of 1780.

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