James Madison Papers

From James Madison to John Page[?], 8 May 1780

To John Page[?]

RC (University of Chicago Library). Docketed: “James Madison, Philadelph[ia,] May 8th 1780” in a hand which resembles that of John Page.

Philadelphia May 8th. 1780

Dear Sir

By yesterday’s post I had the pleasure of receiving your favor of the 27th. Ulto.1 The price of Dunlap’s paper2 I understand will be 204 Drs. per annum besides the gratification to the Post which will be not much less. But if there were less objection against the expence, the uncertainty of the conveyance is such that I scarcely think it would be worth your while to become a subscriber. Should that still be your wish however your instructions shall be immediately executed.

Our public affairs still continue in a very confused and critical state owing to the distress of public credit. Nor can they be well put into a better one till the new arrangement of finance and the requisition of specific supplies are complied with by the States. It appears that this is likely to be done with great decision and energy in the Eastern States. And if Virginia fulfils the expectation3 and hopes of the public, I flatter myself that however objectionable past[?] measures may be thought we shall in future stand on firmer ground than we have ever done. The terms on which the new money is to be emitted will certainly give it a more substantial and intrinsic value than the old ever had, and the experienced folly of tampering with public credit, will it is to be hoped prevent any mischief to it from that source. Our great danger at present arises from the dilatory proceedings of the States and the real difficulty of drawing forth those resources which the new System is to operate upon. The Treasury and the Army both require immediate relief; and every thing must be in a state of stagnation, to say the lea[s]t, till the contributions of Money & Stores arrive. It is not to be expected that Congress can do any thing further of themselves. The only real power they ever had of supporting the war was that of emitting money on the faith of their Constituents. Their vote for stopping the press was a voluntary relinquishment of that.4 They are now totally dependent on the supplies from the States. They can not execute a single measure but as the means are first put into their hands. It is absolutely necessary that the States should attend to this change of circumstances and regulate their conduct accordingly. Any further reliance on the separate5 resources of Congress will infallibly end in disappointment & ruin.

A Vessel from the West Indies brings information that Mr Gerard & Mr Jay had arrived at Cales [Cadiz?] in 22 days from their leaving Martinique. The English fleet at St. Lucia consists of 22 Ships of the line and a few frigates. They had collected their force at that place in order to make an attempt on Grenada & St. Vincents. But the french reinforcement has stopped that enterprize. The Marquis de Bouillé has also strengthened those places with 800 troops sent to one and 600 to the other.6

The Enemy at N. York have received late despatches from Europe. But a profound silence is as yet observe[d] with regard to the news in them. An Opinion prevails there that Paul Jones is on the Coast with a small squadron They say in their papers that the Galatea has been chased by it and that a 74 & some other ships are going out in search of it.7 The Marquis de la Fayette is arrived at Boston and probably will be here in a few days. His return was not expected and is considered as an omen not unfavorable.8

I suppose you must have heard of the death of your friend Don Juan de Miralles. We were this morning on the invitation of [the] Minister of France, at the celebration of the service for the repose of his Soul. He died at Head Quarters whither he attended the Minister on a visit to the Genl & the Army. Every mark of sincere regret is visible in all those who were acquainted with him. The lying genius of Rivington has converted his death into that of the Chevalr. de la Luzerne who he says was obliged to fly to the Army for protection against the vengeance of the people.9 With very sincere esteem & regard I am Dr Sir [Yr.] Obt. & humble Servt

James Madison Jnr.10

1Not found. A letter from John Page to JM, dated 27 April 1780, is mentioned in a list of correspondence probably compiled by Peter Force and now in the Madison Miscellany collection of the Library of Congress. The present editors have not discovered any other communication to JM on that date. For this reason, as well as for that given in the headnote, they believe that JM’s addressee was John Page of Rosewell, Gloucester County, Va. The two men had served together at Williamsburg—Page as lieutenant governor and both men as members of the council of the state of Virginia. When Don Juan de Miralles, mentioned in the final paragraph of this letter, visited Williamsburg in the spring of 1778, he met Governor Patrick Henry and other state officials, probably including Page (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Purdie], 29 May 1778).

2The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser, published in Philadelphia by John Dunlap, had changed from a triweekly to a semiweekly newspaper on 8 April 1780 (Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 [2 vols.; Worcester, Mass., 1947], II, 942). “Dunlap’s” was apparently JM’s favorite news sheet.

3Immediately following this word, JM crossed out a line of script so heavily that it cannot now be read.

4Here JM refers to Congress’ decision of 18 March 1780 to stop printing more paper money (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVI, 264).

5This word is written above a deleted “independent.”

6Conrad Alexandre Gérard (1729–1790), lately French minister to the United States, and John Jay, appointed U.S. minister to Spain on 27 September 1779, took passage for France on the U.S. frigate “Confederacy” about one month later. Dismasted and left rudderless by a gale on 7 November, the ship limped into the port of St. Pierre, Martinique, on 18 December. From there Gérard and Jay were taken to Spain in a French frigate, arriving at Cadiz on 22 January 1780 (Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution, II, 405–7; James L. Howard, Seth Harding, Mariner, pp. 105–18). François Claude Amour, Marquis de Bouillé (1739–1800), was the governor general of the French West Indies. A letter from him to the president of Congress, and a further dispatch from Martinique, were laid before Congress on 1 and 8 May, respectively (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVI, 401; XVII, 415).

7The thirty-two-gun frigate “Alliance,” in which Congress expected Captain John Paul Jones to bring military supplies from France, arrived at Nantucket, Mass., 16 August 1780 under the nominal command of First Lieutenant James Degge (Charles O. Paullin, ed., Out-Letters of Board of Admiralty, II, 260). Jones finally arrived back in the United States from France on 18 February 1781, and then as captain of “Ariel,” a twenty-gun sloop lent to America by France (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 175; Samuel E. Morison, John Paul Jones, p. 309). The twenty-eight-gun frigate “Galatea” was a unit of the British fleet centered at New York (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1931–44). description ends , XVIII, 393–94).

8Lafayette, returning to the patriot army from France, reached Boston on 27 April, visited Washington at his Morristown, N.J., headquarters from 10 to 14 May, and arrived in Philadelphia on 15 May (Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette and the Close of the American Revolution [Chicago, 1942], pp. 77–83).

9Miralles (b. ca. 1717), Spain’s unofficial agent in the United States, died at Morristown, 28 April, while visiting Washington in company with Anne César, Chevalier de La Luzerne (1741–1791), French minister to the United States from 1779 to 1784. JM and La Luzerne were friends. JM’s attendance at the requiem mass in the Catholic chapel in Philadelphia was probably a new experience for him, as it was for other members of Congress (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 131). Tory editors like James Rivington of the Royal Gazette (New York) tried to use Miralles’ and La Luzerne’s Catholicism, and the attendance by Continental Congress delegates at the mass, to injure the patriot cause by stirring up the anti-Catholic prejudices of many Americans. See also Virginia Gazette (Richmond, Dixon and Nicolson), 4 October 1780.

10The Peter Force list, mentioned at the beginning of n. 1, above, refers to a four-page letter from John Page to JM, dated 30 September 1780. The contents of this document and its location are unknown.

Index Entries