James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 19 September 1780

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Philada. Sepr. 19[t]h. 1780

Dear Sir

I was in hopes when I wrote my last that I should be able by this post to congratulate you on the arrival of the french fleet from the W. Indies But so far is this from being the case, that it comes from authority which seems to have a just claim to our faith that Admiral Rodney is actually at the Hook with 12. Sail of the line & 4 frigates. It is still said however that a french fleet is somewhere on the coast. The arrival of Rodney is certainly an evidence that it had quited the Islands and was suspected to be coming hither. It is also given out at New York that a reinforcement of 4000 troops will arrive next mont[h] from England. Another part of our reports is that 5 or 6000 troops will embark at N. York on the 25th. inst. for Virga. or S. Carolina: but it is not to be supposed that such a measure will be hazarded in the present ticklish state of things. 22 Sail of the Quebeck fleet are carried prizes into N. England.1

I am Dr Sir with sincere respect Yr. Obt friend & Servt.

J. Madison Jnr.

P.S. The mortality in this place exceeds any thing ever remembered. The only person of note that occurs at present is the Lady of President Reid who fell a victim to it yesterday morning.2

1With the exception of what JM notes in his last sentence, the news in this paragraph is identical with that in his letter on the same day to Joseph Jones (q.v.). On 17 August 1780, in a letter to Governor William Livingston of New Jersey, George Washington remarked: “I have just recd. advice from Newport that the greater part of the fleet of Victuallers and Merchant men bound from England to Quebec had been taken by the Eastern privateers. Sixteen of the prizes had arrived in the different ports” (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 , XIX, 388). A report of this success had probably reached Philadelphia before Washington’s letter of 9 September to the president of Congress, casually mentioning it, was presented to that body three days later (ibid., XX, 21; Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 819). In any event, Pendleton could have read about the capture in the Virginia Gazette (Richmond, Dixon and Nicolson) of 13 and 20 September 1780. From these accounts it appears that the prizes had been taken in July and that the privateers were the “Brutus,” “Essex,” “Jack,” “America,” and “Stark.”

2Esther DeBerdt Reed (1747–1780), wife of President Joseph Reed (1741–1785) of Pennsylvania, died in Philadelphia on 18 September, a victim of “the flux” which was epidemic there during the first three weeks of that month (William B. Reed, ed., Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed [2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1847], II, 269 n.; Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XLI [1917], 308–9).

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