James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Jones, 2 October 1780

From Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

2d. Octr. 1780

Dear Sr.

I thank you for your favour of the 19th. ult. and the inclosures. It was really a mortifying circumstance to find the French Fleet converted into twelve British Ships of the line and four Frigates from which nothing can effectually relieve us but the arrival of a superior number of French Battle Ships and unless these come I fear many of our people not only here but in other States will entertain unfavourable opinions of the ability at least, if not the inclination of our ally to give us effective support.1 The alteration of ye. resolutions I left are not I think mater[i]al excepting the one postponed not to be taken up which I am certain will be made a Condition by Virga. in any Cession she may make as there are jealousies entertained of certain Individuals greatly interested in that question.2 Congress cannot in honor or Justice delay their determination on the Virmont dispute. Had the Territorial claims of N. Y. & N. Hampshire been settled in the first instance the State of Vermont would not at this Day have been known—delay has given them a name and made them formidable. such excrescencies should be taken off on their first appearance as then the work is easy and less Dangerous than when they have grown to a head. We know not what may be the consequences if Congress shall countenance by precedent the dismembering of States because the people blown up into discontents by designing ambitious Men shall ask or demand it. fix the boundaries of these States and let the people who live within their respective limits know they are their Citizens and must submit to their Government.3 I was one of a Com: to whom the Generals long Letter on very important matters was referred[.]4 we had come to some resolutions before I left Congress but no Report made. pray inform me what has been done and whether any recommendation has gone to the States to fill up their Battalions immediately and lay up Magazines in time.5 I was also of a Com: to arrange or reform the civil departments of Congress and it was in contemplation to place at the head of the Foreign affairs the Admiralty and Treasury some respectable persons to conduct the Business and be responsible. has any thing been done in these matters[?] they are important and should not be forgotten. we shall never have these great departments well managed untill something of this kind is done. I cannot forget Mr. L——ls very candid confession respecting Dr. Franklins complaint of want of information of our affairs.6 Is there a Report made respecting the Medical Departmt. And is there any hope of geting that branch reformed[?] If any removals are to take place and persons shall be wanting to fill the higher offices of that Department, there are two Gentlemen mentioned to me who from their long and fait[h]full Services deserve the attention of Congress[.] I mean Dr. Craig and Dr. Cochran.7 Col. Mason wrote to us abt. Mr. Harrison in Case a Consull should be wanting for Spain[.] I have since received a Letter from Col. Meade upon the Same Subject and have assured him should any such appointment take place Mr. Harrison should be recommended but that there was no reason to expect this wod. soon be the case.8 this reminds me of the report respecting the Mississippi. what has been done with it?9 Has Dr. Lee made his appearance and does he attempt to revive the old disputes?10 would not the publication of extracts of the several Acts of the States that have adopted the Scheme of Finance specifying the Funds established for support & redemption of the money be of use, as the money is to circulate through all the States; all the States should be properly and fully informed of the solidity of the Funds; much very much depends on our supporting the Credit of the new money.11

The Assembly adjourned to the 3d. Monday of this month instead of the first their usual time of meeting. had I known it I might have staid a week or two longer with you.12 I have heard nothing of Mr. Henry and cannot inform you when he intends to Congress.13 I found Mrs. Jones and my little Boy in bad health when I got Home. she has been so ever since July and still in a low state[.] he is something better though not quite well. I sha[ll] prevail on her for her Health sake if nothing else to visit the North next Spring if I do so myself of which I shall soon inform you and give you the trouble of securing either Mr. Pembertons or Mr. Pleasants House as she will not take the small pox by inoculation and by living in the Country she may avoid it.14

We have a Report that the French Fleet is arrived at Newport. I hope for a confirmation of it by the Post Tomorrow. Make my Compliments to Genl. Scott and the other Gentlemen of the Family of my acquaintance, also to the good Lady of the House15 and be assured I am

D. Sir. Yr. Friend & Servt.

Jos: Jones

2The report of the committee appointed on 9 September (above, Motion regarding the Western Lands, 6 September 1780, n. 2) was submitted to Congress on 15 September and debated for the first time three days later (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 828, 836). In his letter of 19 September (q.v.), JM acquainted Jones with the results of this discussion. Following further debate on the report, a vote was taken on 10 October—that is, eight days after Jones wrote the present letter (ibid., XVIII, 915–16; and JM to Jones, 17 October 1780 and n. 2). Since the vote resulted in a tie, the report was tabled for later consideration.

4Punctuation is supplied in brackets in six cases in this letter to clarify the meaning.

5On 8 September Congress substituted Theodorick Bland for Jones on this committee, and added two more members to it four days later. It was instructed not only to make recommendations upon Washington’s “long letter” of 20 August but also upon several other dispatches from him of a later date. On 14, 15, and 21 September the committee reported plans to secure beef for the army and to fill the troop quotas of the states by December, and on 3 October it submitted its important recommendations for the reorganization of the regular army of the United States (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 812, 817, 825–30, 836, 843–44, 893–97). In the meantime, on 8, 11, and 20 September, following the recommendations of another committee, Congress had called upon Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina to “furnish magazines of forage, flour, and salted provisions,” to complete their troop quotas, and to hasten them to the southern army (ibid., XVIII, 812–13, 818–19, 842–43).

6On 29 August 1780 Jones had seconded Robert R. Livingston’s motion to create a committee “to report a plan for the revision and new arrangement of the civil executive departments.” Congress named both men to the committee, together with James Lovell (Mr. L——l) and two others (ibid., XVII, 791). Lovell (1737–1814), who since 25 May 1777 had been a member of the harassed Committee for Foreign Affairs (ibid., VIII, 385), was, on 15 May 1780, named chairman of a committee to “report a proper arrangement for the department of foreign affairs” (ibid., XVII, 428). Lovell’s “candid confession” is not on record but its probable equivalent is in his letters to Benjamin Franklin of 4 May and to John Jay of 11 July 1780 (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, 124–25, 259). Congress, following the recommendations of the Committee on the Civil Executive Departments, agreed on 7 February 1781 to create a superintendent of finance, a secretary of marine, and a secretary at war. These offices were filled, respectively, on 20 February by Robert Morris, on 27 February by Alexander McDougall, and on 30 October 1781 by General Benjamin Lincoln. McDougall declined the naval office, however, and its duties were committed to the superintendent of finance (Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 57, 125–28, 180, 203, 333–34; XX, 724–25; XXI, 1087). By adopting on 10 January 1781 the recommendations of the Committee on a Department of Foreign Affairs, Congress agreed to put a secretary at its head, but it delayed until 10 August before choosing Robert R. Livingston for that position (ibid., XIX, 43–44; XXI, 851–52).

7On 30 September 1780 Congress agreed to a plan for drastically reorganizing the medical department of the army. Six days later Congress re-elected Dr. William Shippen, Jr. (1736–1808), of Philadelphia as director general of this department; Dr. John Cochran (1730–1807) of the same city as chief physician and surgeon of the army; and Washington’s friend from Virginia, Dr. James Craik (1730–1814), as one of three chief hospital physicians. In early September, Washington had written to Jones and other members of Congress recommending Cochran and Craik to its favorable attention (ibid., XVIII, 876–88, 908; 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 , XX, 18–19).

8Richard Harrison (see Mason to JM, 2 August 1780, n. 2). Colonel Richard Kidder Meade was an aide-de-camp of Washington.

9On 4 October 1780 Congress instructed John Jay, U.S. minister to Spain, to insist, among other things, upon “the right of the United States of America to the free navigation of the river Mississippi into and from the sea” (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 900). This accorded with the instructions of the Virginia legislature to its delegates in Congress (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 , X, 537–38; Jones to JM, 19 September 1780, n. 4).

10When Arthur Lee (1740–1792) arrived in Philadelphia about 15 October 1780, he at once revived “the old disputes” by requesting Congress to vindicate his conduct while a commissioner of the United States at Paris (1776–1779) against the charges of his associates, Benjamin Franklin and especially Silas Deane. On 19 October Congress named JM the chairman of a committee to consider and report upon Lee’s behavior in France (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 951–54; JM to Jones, 17 October 1780).

11There is no evidence that JM tried to persuade Congress to adopt this suggestion.

13James Henry, after leaving Congress on 6 July 1780 as a Virginia delegate, did not return before he resigned the office in the following November (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, lxiv; Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held At the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg.Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1781 are brought together in one volume, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1780, p. 31).

14Mrs. Joseph Jones (ca. 1730–1822) was the former Mary Taliaferro. Jones may have been her second husband (King George County Court Records, Will Book, No. 3, p. 222, in Virginia State Library; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., X [1901], 51). In 1780 James (1724–1809) and John Pemberton (1729–1795), the estate of the late Israel Pemberton (1715–1779), and Israel’s son-in-law, Samuel Pleasants (1737–1807), each owned one or more houses in Philadelphia or its surrounding countryside. For this reason the particular accommodation for which JM was negotiating in Jones’s behalf cannot be identified with certainty. On 21 November, however, JM informed Jones that he had engaged for the use of Jones, beginning in January, a house owned by Pleasants. This probably was Traveskan, situated two miles south of the city.

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