James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Joseph Jones, 28 November 1780

To Joseph Jones

RC (LC: Madison Papers).

Philada. Novr. 28th. 1780

Dr. Sir

Yrs. of the 18th. came yesterday. I am glad to find the legislature persist in their resolution to recruit their line of the army for the war, though without deciding on the expediency of the mode under their consideration, would it not be as well to liberate and make soldiers at once of the blacks themselves as to make them instruments for enlisting white Soldiers? It wd. certainly be more consonant to the principles of liberty which ought never to be lost sight of in a contest for liberty, and with white officers & a majority of white soldrs. no imaginable danger could be feared from themselves, as there certainly could be none from the effect of the example on those who should remain in bondage: experience having shown that a freedman immediately loses all attachment & sympathy with his former fellow slaves.1

I informed you in my last that I had engaged Pleasants’ house for you. Pemberton would come to no agreement on the subject.2 I have received the £2000 your share of the draught on Meade & Compy. and the residue of the draught has all been paid. I will endeavor to send you the Journals by the first opportunity. They are too heavy to go by post. I wrote to you too [two] days ago by Col. Grayson on the subject of the Mis——pi. Mr. Walker set out a few days ago, accompanied by Mr. Kinlock, who is soon to be in a very near relation to him. The Books of Accts are on the way.3 We have enclosed to the Govr. a copy of an Act of the Legislature of Connecticut ceding some of their territorial claim to the United States, which he will no doubt communicate to the Assembly. They reserve the jurisdiction to them selves, and clog the cession with some other conditions which greatly depreciate it, and are the more extraordinary as their title to the land is so controvertible a one.4

The evacuation of Portsmouth was received with much satisfaction, but a story from Baltimore that it was a manoeuvre & ended in the Enemy’s running up Nansemond and entrapping our army below although exceedingly improbable has thrown us into an uneasy suspence.5 By accounts from the W. Indies there has been in the Windwd. Islands one of the most violent & desolating hurricates ever known. The British Islands have been laid almost entirely waste, and most of their shipping with their crews lost. Such an event with the interception of the destined supply of provision by the Combined fleets in Europe, cannot fail to bring on great distress if not a general famine. The French islands have also suffered severely.6

The Association of the Merchants for fixing the depreciation seems likely to prove a salutary measure. it reduced it from 90 & 100 to 75 at once which is its present current rate; although it is observed that many of the retailers elude the force of it by raising the price in hard money.7

I am Dr Sir Yr. Affect F

J. Madison Junr.

1See Jones to JM, 18 and 24 November 1780. This appears to be JM’s earliest extant statement about Negro slavery. By inclosing in brackets this paragraph, the last two sentences of the next one, and the final paragraph, JM meant to designate them for publication.

3All the matters in this paragraph to this point were touched upon by Jones in his 9 October and 18 November letters to JM (q.v.). “Kinlock” was Francis Kinloch (1755–1826), a delegate in Congress from South Carolina. On 22 February 1781 he married John Walker’s daughter Mildred (H. D. Bull, “Kinloch of South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, XLVI [1945], 65–67).

4The Virginia delegates’ letter to Jefferson, inclosing a copy of Connecticut’s land-cession proposal, has not been found; nor is any reference made to the matter in the journal of the October session of the House of Delegates. In October 1780 the legislature of Connecticut offered to cede to the United States all of its ungranted territory lying west of the so-called Susquehanna Company Purchase within the bounds of Pennsylvania, as defined by the Connecticut charter. Tacitly included in the offer was a transfer by Connecticut of its acrimonious boundary dispute with Pennsylvania to the United States. This circumstance and also the fact that the issue could hardly be isolated from the much larger problems of western land cessions and the Vermont lands probably explain why Connecticut’s offer was not formally laid before Congress until 31 January 1781 (above, Motion regarding the Western Lands, 6 September 1780, editorial note; Resolutions respecting Vermont Lands, 16 September 1780, editorial note; Journals of the Continental Congress, XIX, 99–100).

5See Jameson to JM, 4 November, n. 3, and 18 November 1780, n. 10.

6See JM to Pendleton, 7 November 1780, n. 7. Hurricanes devastated many of the islands between 3 and 16 October. For contemporary descriptions of the destruction, see Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia), 5, 6, and 23 December 1780, and J. Dodsley’s Annual Register … for 1780, pp. 292–98.

7See JM to Jones, 21 November 1780. On that day a group of Philadelphia businessmen under the chairmanship of John Bayard, speaker of the Assembly, resolved to maintain 75 to 1 as the commercial exchange rate between continental currency and hard money and to brand as a “disaffected and dangerous person” anyone who insisted on a higher premium for specie (Pennsylvania Packet, 21 November and 11 December 1780). Some critics, however, believed that, but for the protests of the delegates to Congress and of the Pennsylvania Assembly, these same merchants would at once have “Doubled the Specie prices of their Articles” (Pennsylvania Journal [Philadelphia], 22 November 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, 473).

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