James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Edmund Pendleton, 3 October 1780

To Edmund Pendleton

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Phila. Octr. 3d. 1780

Dear Sir

I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 25 ulo. yesterday and am sorry it is not yet in my power to gratify your hopes with any prospect of a successful issue to this campaign. The reports of the approach or arrival of a French fleet continue to be circulated, and to prove groundless. If any foreign operations are undertaken on the continent it will probably be against the Floridas by the Spaniards. A Spanish Gentleman1 who resides in this City has received information from the Governor of Cuba that an armament would pass from the Havannah to Pensacola towards the end of last month, and that 10 or 12 ships of the line and as many thousand troops would soon be in readiness for an expedition against St Augustine.2 It would be much more for the credit of that nation as well as for the common good, if instead of wasting their time & resources in these separate and unimportant enter-prizes, they would join heartily with the French in attacking the Enemy where success would produce the desired effect.3

The inclosed papers contain all the particulars which have been received concerning the apostacy & plot of Arnold.4 A variety of his iniquitous jobs prior to this chef d’oevres of his villainy, carried on under cover of his military author[ity,] have been detected among his papers, and involve a number of persons both within & without the Enemies lines.5 The embarkation lately going on at N York, and given out to be destined for Virginia or Rhode Island, was pretty certainly a part of the plot against West Point; although the first representation of it has not yet been officially c[o]ntradicted.6 With sincere regard,

I am D Sir Yr Obt & humble servt.

J. Madison Junr.

1Probably Don Francisco Rendón, successor of Don Juan de Miralles as agent of Spain to the United States government.

2A false rumor was current in Philadelphia that a Spanish force numbering twenty thousand troops had sailed from Havana against British-held St. Augustine or Pensacola (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, 398, n. 3; Pendleton to JM, 25 September 1780, n. 2). Bernardo de Gálvez, Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured Pensacola in May 1781.

3See Jameson to JM, 23 August 1780, n. 2; Samuel Flagg Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (New York, 1935), p. 103.

4The missing inclosures were probably Philadelphia newspapers. The Pennsylvania Packet of 3 October contained a full account of Benedict Arnold’s treachery and much correspondence concerning it. The Virginia Gazette (Richmond, Dixon and Nicolson) first mentioned it on 11 October, or nearly three weeks after the fateful meeting at Stony Point, N.Y., between Arnold and British Major John Andre to arrange for the surrender to the enemy of the patriots’ key stronghold of West Point, commanded by Arnold. Congress first learned of his treason in a letter of 25 September from General Nathanael Greene (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVIII, 868, 876).

5Examples of action taken against Mrs. Arnold (Margaret Shippen of Philadelphia) and other persons suspected of treasonably assisting Arnold will be found in 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, 85, 89, 90, 92, 97, 131; Colonial Records of Pennsylvania (16 vols.; Harrisburg, 1851–53), XII, 496, 520.

6JM’s conjecture finds support in General Henry Clinton’s letter of 11 October 1780 to Lord George Germain. In this, Clinton speaks of “an expedition to the Chesapeake” as a “feint” to “mask … a movement up the North River,” assisted by Arnold’s treachery and Admiral Rodney’s ships (William B. Willcox, ed., The American Rebellion, pp. 462–64).

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